Chinese Curse – May You Live in Interesting Times

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

“May you live in interesting times.”

Old Chinese Curse

“Interesting”, in this ironic curse, is a euphemism for “hard” or “challenging”.

And indeed, we usually view difficulty as a curse. We avoid it. We try our best to prevent it.

But it’s often through hardship and trial that we gain the best returns.

Elite performers, in every field, seek out obstacles. They tackle the big problems. They climb the craggiest mountains.

And this is what makes them elite. This is the recipe to rise to such levels. We choose the paths with the greatest potential for growth.

But it’s not the task itself that polishes our abilities and strengthens our core. Instead, it’s who we must be and become to face such adversity.

Head to head with a hurdle, we must manage our thoughts, attention and energy. We must focus. We must try, in full awareness that we may fail. All the while dodging the quicksand of worry, fear and disbelief.

It’s tempting to dismiss superior performance as something other people do. We may not always realize that it’s possible for us, now, sitting in our chairs holding our guitars.

But this is where it happens. At any level, at any age, in any timeframe.

Working on the tricky bits in our pieces, training our hands, forcing recall of new notes. It’s in these moments we improve and progress.

Playing the “finished” piece is fun and rewarding. But even more so when we’ve worked for it. It’s the barriers broken that let us feel the pride of a job well done.

So one of our primary tasks as musicians is to keep practice interesting. To go straight for the edge of comfort. To find that balance of “hard but not too hard”, and stay there.

Allen Mathews

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 other stellar teachers – one focused on the technical movements, 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 beautifully.
Click here for a sample formula.

Allen, your website and teaching methods are excellent. You have an easy going yet encouraging way of inspiring people to learn and practice their art. And you are always accessible to your students to personally answer questions. I appreciate ... that personal touch. The course on reading rhythm and playing higher up the neck I found particularly helpful. God bless you and many thanks.

-Joe Bazan

These warm-up and stretching exercises are helping me a lot! Because I’m a software developer I have to stay 8 hours typing on a computer keyboard, so I use my hands a lot during the day. At night, when I have some time to practice the guitar my hands and arms are usually in pain because they have been working a lot during the day, but I’ve found that doing the warm-up/stretching exercises in The Woodshed releases me from this pain and I’m then able to practice after doing them.  

You are building a very interesting and working guitar course, because for what I’ve seen so far it really works!

-Ulysses Alexandre Alves

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