Marcus Aurelius on Fostering Focus

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

“Be tolerant with others and strict with yourself.”

Marcus Aurelius

Ideally, we only apply our ideals to ourselves. When we expect others to abide by our ideals, we are often disappointed.

As we study and learn our music, we create a system of ideals. We adhere to a set of beliefs and norms.

We subscribe to certain types of movements. And we avoid others.

We learn to play our music in certain ways and for certain reasons. And we come to prefer these.

But as we see and hear other players, we may see the opposite of our ideals. We may see high-level players doing things completely different than we do. Or different than our teachers tell us to.

Who is right?

It doesn’t matter.

These players have created their own set of ideals, and work to abide by them. They have the habits and movements they do because they have learned from the teachers they have. They have their own musical experience and history.

What matters is that we seek to understand and clarify our own habits. What matters is that we practice with intention and direction.

It’s been said that everyone is fighting battles we know nothing of.

The high-level player we attempt to copy may have serious hand issues. She may be struggling to change aspects of her own playing. We cannot know the whole story.

When we see other players, at any level, it’s tempting to judge them based on our own current knowledge and ideals. This is folly.

Do we know the principles behind what we see? If not, we will never successfully emulate the high-level player.

Or we may be right – someone else may well be better off if they did it our way. But this is not for us to say. If and when they want to change, they will, and not before.

It’s much more productive to direct our attention and focus to our own work. And allow others to do the same.

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 have to say, two practices later [after a video review] with the new position - the difference it's made in my playing is... unbelievable, really. It's like many months of improvement overnight.

Everything is so much more secure, left-hand stretches are easier, I feel like I'm getting way more volume for the same effort, the tone is noticeably better all along the neck, and the list goes on.

Thank you!

~ Alexander Mosolov


I came on board three months ago and I’m loving it more than ever. I have maintained my practice pattern. I’m sticking wholeheartedly with the program as written. That makes it easy to see what I NEED to work on rather than just playing the shiny places I’ve gone beyond…..I’ve learned to focus 100% on what I’m doing that very minute….I’m developing strength in my left hand...I spend time with the videos in the evenings and always find something more to help me. I’m not looking for info anywhere else. Everything I need is right here in The Woodshed. You say “Jump” and I say “How high.” I’m so grateful I found you. You speak in a language I understand.


~ Gloria Mader

-Gloria Mader

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