Mark TWain Guitar Practice
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Mark Twain on Comfort and Self-Approval in Practice


“A man cannot be comfortable without his own self-approval.”

Mark Twain


One of the reasons we play music is to have a better life. We want to study and grow. We relish meaningful work.

But even though we’re in it for the right reasons, it can sometimes feel like we’ve “gotten behind”.

One of Eckhart Tolle’s definitions of ‘stress’ is thinking, “I should be doing something else.” Here, stress stems from thinking what we’re currently doing is wrong, or not enough.

If we set expectations to practice two hours a day, and only get in one hour, we’ve failed. When it takes “longer than it should” to learn something, we don’t feel successful.

And when we label our work “failure”, it doesn’t feel good.

Twain observes that we need to approve of ourselves to be truly comfortable.

This short, pithy phrase can be a powerful tool when we feel dishearted or frustrated with our music. We can explore where we “don’t approve” of ourselves. And when we find it, we can check for unrealistic expectations.

We can lower the bar to success, and enjoy more of it. We can define success as simply picking up the instrument and playing one note or chord.

When we do, we build more momentum and enthusiasm. And these lead to better focus, faster learning, and a more rewarding musical life.

We play music for fun. Setting attainable goals helps keep it that way.


“A man cannot be comfortable without his own self-approval.”

Mark Twain




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 work with teachers, 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 sore after playing.  I was frequently frustrated, and couldn’t see the way forward.  Then I studied with two stellar teachers –  one focused on the technical, and one on the musical.  In time, I came to discover a fundamental set of formulas and movements. These unlocked my playing, and brought new life and enjoyment to my practice. Now I help other guitarists find more comfort and flow in their music, so they play more beautifully.


Hi, Allen! I am so excited to have gotten started on your program! I just upgraded to a yearly membership. Thank you very much! You do such great work!


-Linda Hansen

I have to say after over 12 months of one-on-one training with a teacher before joining The Woodshed, this is the first time that I feel I’m making technical progress.


-Nusret Aydemir


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