Paul Virilio on Risking Failure in Trying New Things

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

“The invention of the ship was also the invention of the shipwreck.”

Paul Virilio

When we set out to make any change or addition to our lives, the odds are against us. Our habits and patterns are a powerful force striving to keep everything the same. Our innate systems want only the safety of the known.

This is one of the reasons that any great endeavor brings with it the risk of failure. We struggle not only with the task itself. We also swim upstream against our own homeostasis. We may try to sabotage our success in the hopes of preventing pain or embarrassment.

And we know this.

We know that new habits are an uphill journey. And this is why we usually put them off for “later.”

Even in our guitar practice, we may avoid forming habits we believe would benefit us. We may continue the way we’ve practiced in the past, just because it’s comfortable.

Perhaps we’ve wanted to start a practice journal. Or we would like to improve our right-hand technique. Or reading music, memorizing a piece, mastering nerves playing for others… There are myriad areas for exploration.

We often have these in the back of our minds for years, and still we resist starting. It’s work to start something new. There are so many things we don’t know. We’re almost guaranteed to misstep somewhere.

But the upside is worth the risk. It’s worth the effort. Even as we bridge the foggy hinterland this side of competence, it’s worth it.

We may well fail. We may have false starts or become distracted. Ships may sink. But this doesn’t mean we should abandon sailing.


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.

Your GCS site and The Woodshed community are really super! I am glad I finally joined in, and smacking myself for waiting so long. Thanks again!


~ Carol Morin

-Carol Morin

Hi Allen, I am a Dutch guy who plays classical guitar (solo and together with a flute player). Unfortunately I have been suffering from focal dystonia since begin 2016. Of course I tried physical therapy which didn't help… But I tried some of your [technique] lessons (I had teachers before but I was never taught your techniques) and to my big surprise the nasty feeling in the back of my right hand which pulls my index finger upward was gone! So now I practice your lessons. Anyway, I am very happy to have found you on the internet. Thanks very much!


~ Arnoud Reinders

-Arnoud Reinders

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