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Harriet Braiker on Excellence vs. Perfectionism


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


“Striving for excellence motivates you; striving for perfection is demoralizing.”

Harriet Braiker


Perfectionism is born of fear — fear of judgement or rejection, fear of being seen, fear of admitting that our best may not be as “perfect” as someone else’s.

But when we set our sights on excellence, we set fear aside. We heal from what Braiker called the “disease to please”.

Instead of trying to shortcut and hurry, we ask more creative questions. We explore more deeply just for the sake of it. We take our personal worth and identity out of it and make our work in service to something larger.

When we strive for excellence, we experience more meaning and connection in our work. While perfection is a short-term goal, excellence takes longer. It’s a path, not a destination. And as Joseph Campbell said, “When we’re on the path, we’re at the goal.”

In daily practice, this all translates to “relish”.

  • Relish the small details of each movement.
  • Pay closer attention to the sound quality.
  • Note the timing.
  • Explore the notion of grace, in both movement and attention.

The goal moves from “play these notes” to “be completely here”. We shift from “note players” to “musicians”. One small step today, then another tomorrow.








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 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 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

Since a year ago with my subscription to CGS it has been for me a pleasurable adventure and a discovery of all the facets of the classical guitar.
Your dedication and enthusiasm, as well as your talent, in the tuition is quite contagious (well, lets hope also for your talent) and has made it fun and useful in my progression. Also the weekly tip that you mail us and the Facebook group is excellent.


-Michel Donnet



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