Bob Goff practice results

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

About Allen Mathews

Allen Mathews learned guitar as an adult, and has been a full-time guitar teacher for almost two decades to students age 4 to 96.  He has taught classical guitar at Reed College and Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon, and has been a guest lecturer and clinician at schools and universities throughout the U.S.  Allen is often praised for his creative teaching abilities, and his dedication to helping adults learn classical guitar.  He has a popular Youtube Channel offering regular classical guitar tutorials, and has gained fans worldwide for his weekly emails and articles at

I appreciate the organized, well thought out progression of each level, as well as a measurable means to determine when to proceed to the next level.  I had burned myself out by pushing too hard and playing beyond where I was comfortable.  This course is just what I needed, and I am happy to be back on the road to playing again.


Hi Allen,
Greetings from the UK. I would like to thank you for providing such an excellent resource. The effort and skill which has gone into creating this program is very evident. I started classical guitar a year or so ago with a teacher but was unable to commit to same time regular slots each week.

The Woodshed Program was exactly what I was looking for. I have found the site very intuitive and well structured and have taken your advice and started from the very beginning of the program whilst still practising some of the pieces I was already working on. It is clear that I will benefit greatly from these early technical studies. There were clearly weaknesses and gaps in my knowledge even though I am still at an early stage. Once again many thanks for the program and very best wishes.

-Rodger Paylor

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