John Maxwell teaching experience guitar

John C. Maxwell on How to Learn from Experience

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

“Experience isn’t the best teacher, evaluated experience is.”

John C Maxwell

We all have our “blind spots”. Even though we’re intelligent humans, we can still make the same mistake time and again.

There is a reason why Einstein’s definition of “insanity” has become cliché – it’s true.

And we all know this. So why do we so often fall into the trap? Why don’t we always learn from our experiences?

Perhaps the answer lies in ritual. Do we have a ritual to evaluate our experiences and grow from them? Or do we assume that we’ll absorb the lessons without trying?

It takes time and attention to evaluate an experience. It may be just a few seconds, but it still takes the effort and intention to spend those few seconds.

Over time this can become a habit. After any experience we’ll remember to run a quick evaluation. But for most of us now, it helps to add some extra structure and organization. For this, we can ask questions and answer them.

For example, after an especially rewarding guitar practice, we could ask:

What happened to make this time feel so rewarding?

What did I do differently than usual?

Was anything different in my environment? My energy levels? What and why?

And looking forward, what can I do to encourage this type of practice in the future?

For an especially difficult practice, we could ask similar questions. Even the most basic questions are beneficial: What worked? What didn’t?

The more we learn from our experience, the better experiences we’ll have. And to learn more, we can evaluate more. This can happen in the short term, such as after a single practice. And we can evaluate over a longer term, such as every two weeks or more.

This is one of the main benefits of taking lessons with a private teacher, or using a formal reflection system – we regularly evaluate.

These periodic reflections magnify our learning and lead to deeper understanding. And this brings more positive growth and progress. It spurs motivation and enjoyment. It keeps the mental gears lubed and the belts spinning.

“Experience isn’t the best teacher, evaluated experience is.”

John C Maxwell

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.

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

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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