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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.


Thanks to you (you are my only teacher) in only a few months I've gone from very basic beginner pieces to having just completed learning Bach's Gavottes 1&2 in good form and execution. As a non-classical electric guitarist who has always used a pick and never his fingers, this has been no small feat!


-Gregg Olson

I have to say after over 12 months of one-on-one training with a teacher before joining The Woodshed, this is the first time that I feel I’m making technical progress.


-Nusret Aydemir


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