Serena Williams on Resiliency and Recovery
“A champion is defined not by their wins, but by how many times they recover when they fall.”
Serena Williams is a public tennis figure. She has a team of coaches, managers, and trainers. She has sponsors and a schedule.
And while she has up days and down days like everyone else, it would be difficult for her to quit tennis altogether.
But what about us, sitting alone in our living rooms with guitar in lap? Most likely we could stop practicing and no one would notice. No one much cares if we play our scales today or not.
Guitar practice, being a solo affair, can wither on the vine without fanfare. We risk no public embarrassment. We lose no face.
Learning guitar, we’re accountable only to ourselves. Our commitment is our own. Our successes and failures are largely our own (unless we choose to share them).
So our relationship to ourselves affects whether we continue to grow and improve on guitar, or quit. When life gets busy, when we become sick or injured and have to take a break from practice, what then?
Practice is easy when we’re excited. We coast along smoothly once we’ve built up momentum. Velocity propels us.
But the real challenge begins when things get hard.
One of the skills we learn as musicians is to restart after a break. It’s to get up after we fall. It’s to overcome inertia and push-start our practice from a stand-still.
This is something we will do over and over. It’s rarely easy. It’s a practice in itself. And this is one of the most important and crucial techniques we learn.
Once we’ve managed to touch the strings for a few days, however briefly, momentum returns. We once again feel pulled forward, instead of having to push.
If we wait for the pull (inspiration, attraction, motivation), it may not come. It rarely does of its own accord.
But when we pick up the guitar each day whether we feel like it or not, momentum builds. Within a few days, we begin to feel inspired and motivated. These feelings may not stay, but at least we know how to regenerate them when they wane.
Learning to play guitar is actually learning how to practice guitar. And a large part of that is simply showing up and doing the work–day after day, without question.
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.
Those videos on practicing the piece were just awesome, Allen! I've always thought that learning songs might be something completely different than practicing exercises, but the way you teach it makes it much easier than I thought. I'm positive that joining the Woodshed has been the best investment I've ever done for learning the classical guitar. Thank you so much for these lessons.
-Ulysses Alexandre Alves
First public performance ever! I am up to Level 1E in The Woodshed program. It is certainly mega helpful.
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