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.

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.

I practised your system for three days, and it solved the I-M alternation problem I had been struggling with since I undertook classical guitar three years ago.  Many thanks!

-Johnny Geudel

I just want to thank you for your lessons. You are helping us to understand how a piece is composed, the parts to analyze and how to do it. You are teaching a lot about how to read and play, and the most important part: PLAY with the music and ENJOY it.

-R. Martinez

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