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Bob Goff on How Not to Be Distracted by Comparision

Tuesday Quotes are short explorations of music, life, and the daily endeavor of practicing classical guitar. Enjoy!


“We won’t be distracted by comparison if we are captivated with purpose.”

Bob Goff


When we say that we’ve learned a piece of music, or reached a given speed on something, we speak of “finish lines”. These small points in time are important, and they feel good. But they are just small stops on a life-long path.

The real journey is the daily practice. These are the small moments when we put our full attention onto the task at hand. We mind the details. We work at building grace, strength and consistency. Second by second, we force ourselves to focus and re-focus.

This is the hard work that leads to personal growth and satisfaction. Showing up and giving our full attention – these take mental fortitude and, at times, willpower.

Why do we do such work? Why would we spend our time on something so challenging?

Because it gives us a sense of purpose. Guitar is a whetstone on which to sharpen ourselves. Incremental progress adds meaning and fulfillment to our lives.

But there’s a trap.

We fall into the trap when we compare our current abilities to other people’s, or to an imaginary ideal. This comparison devalues what matters, and places value on what doesn’t.

Comparison points are like fiat currencies: they represent value, but have no intrinsic value themselves. Scale speed, the ability to play a given piece of music – these matter not at all. We can’t eat money. And the trophy tune won’t necessarily satisfy us either.

In reality, we sit alone in our practice space. We do the best we can to stay in the moment, with integrity and patience. This is where everything happens.

When we keep our eye on what matters (our own moment-by-moment attention), we gain the prize. We fulfill the purpose of our guitar practice. We step out of the mental chatter of comparison-thinking, and into the zone of meaningful work.



allen mathews classical guitar

Hi, I’m Allen Mathews. 

I started as a folk guitarist, then fell in love with classical guitar in my 20’s.  Despite a lot of practice and schooling, I still couldn’t get my music to flow well.  I struggled with excess tension.  My music sounded forced.  And my hands and body were often sore.  I got frustrated, and couldn’t see the way forward.  Then, over the next decade, I studied with two stellar teachers –  one focused on the technical, and one on the musical (he was a concert pianist).  In time, I came to discover a new set of formulas and movements. These brought new life and vitality to my practice. Now I help guitarists find more comfort and flow in their music, so they play more beautifullyClick here for a sample formula.


Allen Mathews was recommended to me as somebody who could help me expand my guitar vocabulary. Allen started me on a really fun cycle of lessons and practice. He is a very good and very enthusiastic teacher, and I feel that I'm on the road to learning. I couldn't be more pleased with my experience.


-Peter Buck, R.E.M.

As I said before, I think your site is outstanding. I have spent my life teaching adults difficult stuff that they really wanted to learn but didn't have the time to learn at the speed we teach university students. Thus I understand only too well how many hundreds of hours you must have spent perfecting your lessons to make my learning as quick and easy as possible.


-Mike Barron


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