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

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.


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

I am truly enjoying the growth and challenge that the Woodshed material provides.  I look forward to working hard and learning much in the years ahead.  Thanks for all the effort and care that you have taken in providing these lessons and resources!


-Mark Whitsett


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