Dilemma – Which Way to Go? | Johnny’s Philosophical Road Trip (A Guitar Parable)

Exploring many options or following a rigid step-by-step path…

Here’s a short parable inspired by a dilemma that I’ve experienced while studying guitar (and still experience from time to time). It also seems to be common among my students.

Johnny B. started on a road trip.

After a little thought he planned out where he wanted to go. He got a map and charted the shortest and quickest route. Then he hit the road and hauled butt.

He decided on this trip that he didn’t want to take any detours or side trips. When he saw an interesting detour on the side of the road he mentally filed it away for later and continued on your way.

When he got tired he took as short of a break as absolutely necessary. Then he hit the road again with renewed focus on where he was going.

After completing his journey Johnny B. decided, being the philosophical type, to write down what the experience was like. They decided to list out the pros and cons of traveling in the manner that he did. It’s what he came up with:


  • He experienced a sense of progress as he traveled and could easily look back on where he’d been and how close he was getting to his destination.
  • He felt confident that he would get to his destination.
  • Because of this he realized that this helped him to persevere even when he felt tired.
  • At first staying focused and avoiding going off in different directions was difficult, but over time his “focus” muscle became stronger and it became easier as over time.


  • Traveling wasn’t always fun. At one point he even considered throwing in the towel because he didn’t feel he was enjoying the trip.
  • It was hard to stay focused. Even though it’s something that improved over time initially it  wasn’t easy. This was especially true in his culture of short attention spans and expectations of quick gratification.
  • It was also a bit difficult to decide where he wanted to go. It took some effort and introspection… not easy for Johnny since that’s not something he does often.
  • At one point he felt fear that the road he had planned out wouldn’t actually lead to where he want to go.
  • Even more surprising was that he felt a fear that he might fail. This is not something he’s had to deal with when he didn’t clearly set his sights on a specific destination.

So Johnny B., being not just a philosopher but also a natural born experimenter, decided to take another trip and do things a bit differently.

This time he had only a somewhat vague idea of where he was headed and started out in the direction that seemed like it would likely lead there.

As he went along he saw an interesting sign on the highway and decided to take the exit and follow it to see where it would lead. After exploring awhile he got back on the highway with his original intention. On the way to the highway he saw  another interesting detour… So he headed off in that direction for a bit to explore.

This process continued as he sometimes got back on the highway and made some traction in the original direction, and at other times explored additional detours.

After this trip he wrote down his findings in the same manner.


  • It’s fun to go off in new directions and try out different adventures.
  • He didn’t have to deal as much with the fear of failing.  Since it wasn’t clear where he was going it didn’t matter so much which path he took or if he actually arrived at all.
  • At times he had more energy and inspiration because of the excitement of exploring new territories.
  • It took less effort. When he began to feel bored with the “same ol’ road” it was easier to follow whatever caught his attention than to stay focused.

Ah, but as always there were…


  • He missed being able to see his progress by looking back on where he’d been and how far he’d come.
  • Constantly making decisions on which way to go ultimately took a lot of energy.
  • He began to feel frustrated and discouraged when it seemed that he wasn’t getting “anywhere”.
  • When he got discouraged he felt like turning around and going back home.

To be continued…

Before I write and release the part two of the story I want to hear from you.

Which was the best way to travel and which would you choose? Was this a reasonable representation describing a portion of the experience of learning guitar? Is there another way?

How would you minimize the cons and maximize the pros?

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Comments on Dilemma – Which Way to Go? | Johnny’s Philosophical Road Trip (A Guitar Parable)

  1. Tomas says:

    That’s good to know Steve. Makes sense. Do you have any ideas on what I could do to help with this?

  2. Steve says:

    Thanks Tomas, yep this is me…however my thing is i get rolling on the programs you developed the you throw in the Summer plan so i spend most of the day working on the monthly and dont get to the other courses. I am improving but still feel scattered…thank Steve A

  3. JoAnn says:

    Hi Tomas,
    Yes Yes this story speaks to me.
    That is why I wrote to you a few weeks ago…

    I set up my practice.
    Then I discover new things..like your guitar theory ..which I love…
    Then I love finger picking and strumming and your monthly practices..
    Then there are those songs I am trying to learn…..
    Help.. I seem to go down one path and then I have to back to the other path and I feel so disorganized in my practice plan…
    I don’t want to lose sight of why I started this ..love of playing and learning…

    I am not getting younger
    I will say this.. with a long way to go I have learned so much and have gotten so much better.
    I take care of 2 small grandchildren so I cannot watch your live training sessions but I always look forward to what new adventures you put out there.
    Any help would be most appreciated.
    Thanks ,,JoAnn

  4. Deleted User says:

    So Tomas, I feel like you have written my story here, you can just replace Johnny B with Paul S. I had been diligently following your program, and I was definitely seeing progress, but, I let a little success go to my head and went down another road. My passion is to play fingerstyle arrangements (mainly because I can’t sing to save my life) . So as I said, I let a little success go to my head, and headed in my own direction , and stopped follow your course. (I feel like the prodigal son). So I get frustrated, I was actually asking myself the other night if I was ever going to learn this. I’m very interested in how your road trip will end, because I’m confused what direction to follow. My gut tells me to go back to basics, but honestly I ain’t getting any younger here, and like a spoiled teenager, I sometimes want immediate results, even though I’m way, way, way , way past my teenage years and should know better.
    Unfortunately, because of my work schedule, I can’t view your live training sessions, but I look forward to your response to my comment.

    1. Tomas says:

      I understand… but I promise you’re not alone 🙂

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