John Maxwell teaching experience guitar
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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

About Allen Mathews

Allen Mathews learned guitar as an adult, and has been a full-time guitar teacher for almost two decades to students age 4 to 96.  He has taught classical guitar at Reed College and Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon, and has been a guest lecturer and clinician at schools and universities throughout the U.S.  Allen is often praised for his creative teaching abilities, and his dedication to helping adults learn classical guitar.  He has a popular Youtube Channel offering regular classical guitar tutorials, and has gained fans worldwide for his weekly emails and articles at ClassicalGuitarShed.com.


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