Albert Einstein on How We are Our Own Best (and Worst) Companions

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

“Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.” 

Albert Einstein

Great spirits vs. Mediocre minds. Progress vs. Tradition. Us vs. Them.

In romantic stories of pivotal breakthroughs, the visionary is the hero. The entrenched powers are the villians, slowing inevitable progress.

Here’s an example:

Ignaz Semmelweis discovered the power of hand-washing and antiseptic in hospitals in 1846. Death rates plummeted in his wing. But the other doctors did not want to admit that they were killing people via dirty hands. So he was fired and his findings were suppressed. It wasn’t until 40 years later that someone else learned of his discovery and implemented it. Countless people died in the interim, because of the ego of status quo.

It’s easy to look at examples like this and tsk-tsk. But what if WE are the mediocre minds? What if it’s US who are suppressing new and better ideas because we don’t want the trouble of changing?

Luckily, we are also the “great spirits.” We are the inventors, scientists, and explorers of our lives.

And we face this battle daily. One side of us wishes to soar to new heights, while the other tethers us to the ground.

We are creatures of habit and routine. The most ancient parts of our brains seek only safety and predictability. We love to already have the answer.

Meanwhile, we crave improvement and novelty. We want to grow and expand. We want to stretch beyond – rewiring synapses and reprogramming circuits.

And this tug-of-war churns under the surface of us all. The great battle that moves us to action or stays our hand. Each side convinced it is right and best.

Luckily, we can also climb the ladder to the viewing pavilion and look down at this struggle. And from this higher perspective we can make more informed decisions. We can recognize when one side is irrational.

And even though we may get internal push-back, we can choose from a place of sober presence. We can set aside fear and euphoric zeal. We can choose what we know to be right, even though it may feel foreign or risky.

With practice, we grow more comfortable on the viewing pavillion. We gain confidence as director and general. We learn to parent ourselves with ruthless love and unshaking courage.

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.

This is the ideal starting position for me. As a relative beginner with no teacher this is helping me enormously in developing good technique and not falling into bad habits. I no longer feel (A) That it's a struggle to learn a new piece and (B) That I am alone in my endeavors. My advice is to try The Woodshed program. It is fantastic and will not only bring up your playing but his explanations of musical concepts as you go along put things into perspective.

-John Andersson

Allen: Just wanted you to know I have thoroughly enjoyed The Woodshed program. I'm in Level 1C and love how every part works together. It has improved my "general" playing already.

-Lydia Chance

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