Old notes 11

September 24th, 2021

To perform (and to live) is to exist in a state of constant flux.

This has certain repercussions:

Change. Brings newness. Be flexible and open to new possibilities. Do not hold on to the present wave; let it go so you can catch the next.

Unpredictability. Means continual surprises. Accept them and be prepared to improvise, all part of the general messiness of life.

Complexity. If your task has a high degree of complexity, simplify, reduce it to its basic elements, and internalize them.

Growth. In a dynamic world, there are only three states of being—you can grow, stay the same, or die. Growing seems to be the preferable option.

Volatility. Maintain your equilibrium in a world of constant flux. Continually make small adjustments to preserve your balance.

Mobility. To remain lean and agile, eliminate extra baggage. Keep only what you need and throw away the rest.

Timing. Pace and control your actions by underpinning them to a rhythmic pulse. Rhythm is the organizing principle which gives structure to time. It is the ultimate control mechanism.


—January 9, 2006

Old notes 10

September 21st, 2021

From an early draft of the AOV.




The conventional definition: a high degree of skill and mastery in performing.

The AOV definition: A state of no limitations. Where you’re able to achieve any goal, create any outcome, with minimum effort and with maximum effect.


Is not absence of effort; everything we do involves effort.

It’s the sensation of an absence of effort, of just allowing things to happen without having to apply conscious effort.

Like driving. When you drive, there’s no conscious effort involved. Everything has been automated through years of doing.

Or someone throws a ball at you and you reach out and catch it, without thinking.

To paraphrase the Old Master:

“The Virtuoso does not do, and yet everything is done.”


– October 27, 2009

Old notes 9

September 20th, 2021

The Intro to an early draft of the AOV:




The ultimate goal in life is to achieve effortlessness—in work, and in play.

The concept central to this philosophy is to create conditions for things to happen naturally, of their own accord, rather than forcing them to happen.

My favorite story is one I heard as a child.

The sun and the wind were arguing who was stronger.

The wind said. “Look at that man down there. I will blow the shirt off his back with my mighty power.”

He huffed and puffed, but the man feeling the cold wind on his back only held the shirt closer to his body. The wind soon gave up.

The sun smiled and without a word, started to shine on the man. The man, feeling the heat on his back, soon took the shirt off his back without a struggle.

Persuasion rather than coercion.

Creating conditions rather than force.

Forcing is inefficient and clumsy.

It may work to a point, but it only produces minimal outcomes.

Because when you force, you create resistance. This resistance ends up being a drag on you and you’re less likely to get what you want.

But when you create good conditions, you’re letting nature do your work for you. Once you have the conditions in place, no additional effort is needed, nature will do the rest.

If you want a stream to flow faster, clear the obstructions in its path and it will flow freely downhill.

If you want to move faster, remove the obstructions in your body, and you’ll be able to move faster too.

That’s the basic philosophy of this book.

Create ideal conditions in your body, and let your innate virtuosity do the rest.

The principles contained in this book are universal principles.

Whether it’s the martial arts, playing guitar, or sports, we’re working with the same basic equipment—the human body—working under the same physical constraints in our environment, and towards the same goals of achieving speed, power, and precision.

In other words, these principles hold the keys to everything we do.

They’re not the most exciting things to work on, but they’re critical to creating the conditions for our natural virtuosity to emerge and thrive effortlessly.


– October 27, 2009

Old notes 8

June 25th, 2021

(An early draft of the AOV)

How to achieve effortless virtuosity by following a few simple steps.

——— 1 ———

First, create loose conditions in the body.

Loosen up your body; don’t force it in any way.

Allow the body to loosen into a state of pure relaxation.

Looseness is the first and most critical component of virtuosity.

——— 2 ———

Second, move lightly.

Even in the hardest of tasks, move lightly.

Think of a dancer, the grace and smoothness in her movements, no awkwardness or clumsiness, just a smooth fluid flow.

Especially in high stress situations, keep yourself loose and move lightly.

If you do this, you’ll be able to attain the light effortless touch of virtuosity.

——— 3 ———

Third, move in small movements.

To do this, focus your movements at the points of action.

If you’re plucking strings, this would be your fingertips.

Think of wiggling your fingertips.

Your movements should be so small, to the onlooker; it would appear almost as if you’re not moving.

——— 4 ———

Fourth, move fluidly.

Like a dancer gliding from one step to the next.

Your movements blended into one continuous action—preparing, executing, rebounding—all one continuous move.

Think circular motion in your movements.


Avoid stopping and starting.

From chord to chord, think of the movements as one motion.

From positioning to plucking to rebounding, move in one motion.

——— 5 ———

Fifth, control and time your actions with rhythm.

Do this by underpinning your actions to a light rhythmic pulse.

Do it unconsciously.

Like walking—when you walk, you do it naturally without being aware of rhythm.

And yet there’s rhythm in all your steps.

Rhythm is the ultimate control mechanism,

It enables you to pace your actions so that they unfold in a smooth logical progression.

As opposed to rushing through them.

Or letting them occur randomly.

——— 6 ———

And release tension at the end of actions.

All actions have two phases.

First, the tension phase, and then the release.

Like a sigh, or a breath.

As you draw in your breath, that’s the tension phase.

Then the expiration, that’s the release.

And here’s the critical part—timing.

Release at the moment of impact.

The moment of impact is the moment of release.

The instant you pluck that string, let go all tension.

——— 7 ———

The question is often asked; how do you produce power with lightness?

By capturing the power in the release.

Effortless power is based on three things: a loose body, super light movements, and the release.

Especially crucial in fast changing fluid conditions.

If you have to play a bunch of fast moving notes at fortissimo levels, capture the power in the release of each note.

To do this, let your fingertip come into contact with the string, allow it to give slightly, and then let go in a snapping action.

The energy released this way is powerful and effortless.

True power is produced not by forcing energy, but through releasing energy.


—February 1, 2011

Old notes 7

May 22nd, 2021



All learning is a journey from a state of unknowing to a state of knowing.

You move from one state to the other in a breakthrough moment.

In that instant, you gain a flash of insight into your task.

Everything becomes clear to you.

You know exactly how to effect your desired results.

Once you experience the breakthrough moment, you enter into a world of unlimited possibilities.

Your actions flow from one step to the next in a smooth seamless flow.

Whereas previously you had to think about every move you made, now they occur spontaneously and without conscious effort.

Whereas previously your mind was filled with anxiety about your task, now you move with confidence and clarity.

Your confidence enables you to navigate your way through the most complex tasks with effortless control.

You’re able to achieve any speed.

Generate any power you need.

Hit any target you want.


—Oct. 27, 2009

Old notes 6

May 16th, 2021

The Wabi Sabi Guitar


I have been reading up on wabi-sabi, or the Japanese art of imperfection.

It is interesting that the wabi-sabi philosophy emerged in Japan, one of the most structured and, if I may say so, perfection-driven societies in the world.

It would never have come from the jungles of Borneo, for instance, because it’s pretty much all wabi-sabi there.

I first became aware of wabi-sabi from one of those glossy flight magazines and the concept immediately caught on to me.

After all, I have been trying to teach the concept of embracing imperfections in our performances to my students for a while, and here’s a philosophy that seems to mirror that concept.

In a way, we have become a perfection-driven society too.

And we see it in the trappings of modern life—the perfection of a brand new automobile, a brand new appliance, a brand new iPod.

There’s a uniformity about all these products, a sameness. But that’s perfection. Perfection means that there is an ideal state which we must all aspire to.

All our manufactured products conform to that ideal. There must not be a single scratch, or one deviation from that ideal. And if there’s any ‘deviation,’ we cast the “defective” product aside and sell it in outlet stores as being “irregular.”

In this regard, perfection is the very antithesis of creativity.

Creativity presupposes that what we create is new and unique and original, but if there’s only one ideal state of perfection, we are doomed to recreating it every time we try to be perfect.

Perfection turns us all into rubber stamps!

The perfection around us has given a false sense of what life is all about.

Instead of striving to make each moment a unique experience and enjoying it in all its unexpectedness and yes, imperfections, we end up always comparing it to some idealized state.

The result is we all become neurotics. We become slaves to some figment of our imagination called ‘perfection.’

Every thing else is defective and not worthy!


—Jan 27, 2005

Old notes 5

May 14th, 2021

The Seeker


Driven by a certain restlessness and a need for fulfillment.

Lives to perfect his art.

No distinction between work or play—work is play and play is work.

Not concerned with ‘correctness’ or ‘wrongness.’ There are only easier and harder ways to do a task, and easier is usually better.

Sees no horizon, only the road ahead.

Needs no approval.

Speaks no evil, no accolades.

A doer, not a bystander.

Does not own a hundred tools; owns only one and knows it intimately.

Keeps an open heart.

Trusts intuition, understanding the subconscious mind is far wiser than the conscious mind.

Sees the limits of possibilities but also knows that great things happen on the edge.

Uninhibited—his way is the way of spontaneous abandon.

Does not live for the moment—how can you live in the moment when it is over the instant it arrives?

Instead, lives for the next moment, always ready for the next wave.

Moving to an inner rhythm—each motion, each gesture tethered to an internal pulse.

In a life of constant forward motion.


—Jan 5, 2007

Old notes 4

May 13th, 2021

Knowing when to stop or knowing your limits.

There’s a breaking point in everything.

Full of examples in daily life of the consequences of pushing beyond your limits and over doing.

Take driving a screw.

When you drive a screw, you must know when to stop.

Drive it beyond this point and you strip the wood. Don’t drive it enough and it doesn’t hold.

Know when to stop—push it just enough and no more.


—April 10, 2003