Seth Godin on Hard Work vs. Long Work

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

“Hard work is frightening. We shy away from hard work because inherent in hard work is risk. Hard work is hard because you might fail. You can’t fail at long work, you merely show up.”

Seth Godin

Learning guitar is what Seth Godin would call “long work”. It’s something we do over time.

We may have enthusiastic sprints now and again. But for the most part, it’s an ongoing personal study.

At first, it may not seem that way. If we’re just beginning – for the first time, or starting back after a break – guitar can appear a daunting hill to climb.

Likewise, at the outset of a new piece of music or a new technique, the road can look hard. And like Godin said, “Hard work is frightening” because we sense the possibility of failure.

Luckily, the journey is the reward. It’s the daily encounter that counts. It’s the regular chance to meet small challenges, to grow and improve.

There’s a saying: Mt. Everest never looks any better than it does from the bottom looking up. In other words, the payoff to tackling the obstacles isn’t some external reward. The prize is the personal endeavor.

The long game of guitar allows us to hone and polish our minds and bodies. We get to strive.

Liane Cordes once wrote, “Continuous effort, not strength or intelligence, is the key to unlocking our potential.”

It doesn’t matter whether we’re in our first year playing guitar or our 70th. The work feels very much the same. It’s always a matter of focus and attention. We set ourselves challenges just beyond our current abilities. Then we work at them.

Some days we rise and meet the challenges, some days we don’t. Doesn’t matter. It’s long work. Sure, we want to triumph every day. We do our best. But that’s all secondary.

Success is simply showing up – sitting down, picking up the guitar, and pointing our attention to something specific.

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.

I also want to thank you for including more video lessons on the Bridges Guitar Series. I have learned to play Calatayud's Waltz. The most exciting thing about having done this is that I sight-read the entire piece as I was learning it. Six months ago looking at a sheet of music was like looking at Egyptian hieroglyphics. Learning to read notation is empowering and I appreciate the sensible way you are teaching us to learn to read music.


~ Steve Simpler

-Steve Simpler

I just upgraded. I have been thinking about it since day one, but wanted to see how it works out for me. I have to say, even though I did not put as much effort in as I expected to, I already hear and feel Improvements when playing compositions I learned some time ago, before joining The Woodshed.



~ Alexey Neyman

-Alexey Neyman

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