Mark Twain on Eating Frogs and Picking Up the Guitar
Tuesday Quotes are short explorations of music, life, and the daily endeavor of practicing classical guitar. Find more here. Enjoy!
“If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.”
Attributed to Mark Twain
Life is full of things we don’t want to do. Sometimes, we want to do something, but don’t feel like it in the moment. Like the lyric to the country song, “I wanna do right, but not right now.”
Either way, we find ourselves facing an internal conflict.
And we’ll need to manage these conflicts if we want to sustain a fruitful guitar practice over the long haul, We’ll need to find ways to keep doing what needs to be done. And we’ll need to maintain enough excitement and fulfillment to keep momentum.
Sir Ken Davidson is one of the world’s top voices in education. He has said that a constant, low-grade frustration is the key the long-term creativity.
This is not the tantrum-on-the-floor frustration that sees us crying and pulling our hair. Instead, it’s a sort of itchy feeling that nags us forward.
In any pursuit over time, momentum is a major concern. So it is vital to keep moving forward. And this means sometimes “eating frogs,” as Mark Twain reportedly called it.
Luckily, eating frogs gets easier over time. Or rather, we come to resist it less. We simply get on with it instead of whining and pouting. It becomes part of the game.
As we show up each day and do good work in our practice, we build a reputation with ourselves. We grow more confident.
We learn to trust that we can and will point our attention to the current problem. And that eventually we’ll overcome it–even if it’s scary or confusing. Even if our stomach clenches and sweat beads on our forehead.
This reputation we form with ourselves is like an internal culture. It becomes the way we do things.
And as management guru Peter Drucker noted, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”
But if we don’t keep going when times get hard, the strategies come to naught.
Luckily, each day starts anew. We can lean on the rudder and change course anytime we choose. We can build a new internal reputation. We can discover and mold new and better versions of ourselves, one practice at a time.
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.
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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
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