Failure and Giving Up

//Failure and Giving Up

Failure and Giving Up

In this episode of The Classical Guitar Corner Podcast, Simon shares some personal stories about failure on the classical guitar and his own perseverance to keep moving forward. You definitely won’t want to miss this inspiring episode!

2018-03-06T00:26:49+00:0042 Comments


  1. Roger Ramirez March 5, 2018 at 2:10 pm - Reply

    I’m so proud to be a member of this site. Your story of failure and perseverance are an inspiration. Your commitment to this podcast and the struggles and happenstance of life are to be acknowledged. I acknowledge you sir! :)

    • Simon March 11, 2018 at 12:36 am - Reply

      Thank you Roger, we are lucky to have you with us.

  2. Martha Kreipke March 5, 2018 at 6:05 pm - Reply

    Simon – I think that your personal examples in this podcast demonstrate resilience in addition to perseverance. Both of these are create the foundation for success, but are different.

    Psychologists have defined resilience as that ineffable quality that allows some people to be knocked down in a situation and come back stronger than ever. Rather than letting failure overcome them and drain their resolve, they find a way to keep going and try again.

    Psychologists have identified some of the factors that make someone resilient, among them a positive attitude, optimism, the ability to regulate emotions, and the ability to see failure as a form of helpful feedback. Even after misfortune, resilient people are blessed with such an outlook that they are able to change course and move ahead.

    Your positive attitude rubs off on all of us. Thank you.

    • Simon March 11, 2018 at 12:36 am - Reply

      Thank you Martha. I think some of my positivity comes from Evita, so I guess its a big circle!

  3. Linda Tsardakas March 5, 2018 at 8:32 pm - Reply

    Thank for sharing your stories with us Simon. Surely, there is no musician on earth who has not had a memory lapse or an otherwise bad experience on stage. It’s good to be reminded of that. There can so much positive energy when we commit ourselves to “persevere”. That’s a great motto!

  4. Drew Burgess March 6, 2018 at 12:42 am - Reply

    Hello Simon,

    Thank you for your candid stories. It is meaningful for all of us, as students of guitar and life, to recognize that with falling down a great teacher is present. It is staying down that is the problem when we fail. I think of noteworthy people who with difficult circumstances find hope, strength, and perseverance.

    I respect your commitment!

    • Simon March 11, 2018 at 12:34 am - Reply

      Thanks Drew.

  5. Judi March 6, 2018 at 3:23 am - Reply

    Wow! What courage it must have taken to start this podcast. To expose yourself emotionally, especially online when you don’t really know who you’re talking to, is very daunting. So congratulations and thank you. You certainly demonstrate a great deal of resilience and persistence. Thank you. Very insightful information.

    • Simon March 11, 2018 at 12:33 am - Reply

      Thanks Mum. :)

  6. Stuart Godfrey March 6, 2018 at 3:31 am - Reply

    As someone who’s spent their career in the arts as an illustrator I know that self confidence is very fragile and elusive. Learning to except failure and as you so eloquently said “celebrating failure” is extremely important in maintaining one’s self confidence and not letting yourself become unraveled and give up.
    We must fail in order to improve, its that simple.

    You can add motivational speaker to your résumé.

    Thank you!

    • Simon March 11, 2018 at 12:33 am - Reply

      Thank you for your kind words, Stuart. And, I really enjoyed your online portfolio!

  7. Lynda Wilson March 6, 2018 at 12:39 pm - Reply

    Your first story, Simon, gave me a real feeling of dejavu! When I was 16/17 my guitar teacher entered me for the Classical Guitar A class at the Glasgow Music Festival. I’d won the B class the previous year, so was feeling quite confident! I got half way through the piece -I think it was one of the movements from a Villa Lobos suite (not sure, because I’ve never played it since!) playing well, when I totally blanked! The judges were very kind, encouraged me to start again, which I did – and blanked again at the same spot! I had the score in front of me, but I was so panic-stricken I couldn’t read it! It looked like some foreign language! I took a deep breath and started again. but again, I blanked at the same spot, burst into tears and fled the stage!
    I’ve never performed since, except to accompany my guitar kids at school shows. I’m retired now, have erosive arthritis and no longer have the skill I once had, but joining CGC has given me the confidence to attend Summer School this year and try again! Thank you Simon!

    • Simon March 11, 2018 at 12:32 am - Reply

      Seems like these blackouts are a rite of passage! I am confident you will have an enjoyable experience at the Summer School and I am looking forward to meeting you!

  8. Bob Bagley March 8, 2018 at 4:21 pm - Reply

    Thanks, Simon,

    I appreciate your courage to share personal challenges with all of us. My musical journey has been one of the most challenging facets of my 73 years on the planet. The value of perseverance when things get tough just cannot be overstated. In retrospect, I think that you will find that this podcast will turn out to be one of the most valuable gifts that you could share with your students. Onward…..

    Bob Bagley

    • Simon March 11, 2018 at 12:30 am - Reply

      Thank you, Bob. Funny how things turn out like that. It felt like I was grabbing at straws for the topic and it ended up being something useful for people.

  9. Lissa March 8, 2018 at 10:16 pm - Reply

    Hi Simon,
    It is great to be reminded that challenges are gifts in disguise. I know that when I failed my first submission it raised my awareness and playing to a higher level. It’s important to remember I’m on a journey, to enjoy it and the music.
    Thanks so much for your candor. It’s very motivating.

    • Simon March 11, 2018 at 12:29 am - Reply

      Thank YOU for your perseverance, Lissa.

  10. Mark Campbell March 9, 2018 at 9:42 pm - Reply

    Thank you Simon for once again teaching by example. You continue to be a source of constant inspiration. Your tales of perseverance in the face of failure bring to mind one of the greatest such triumphs in American history – Abraham Lincoln’s road to the White House:
    Failed in business in 1831
    Defeated for Legislature in 1832
    Second failure in business 1833
    Suffered nervous breakdown in 1836
    Defeated for Speaker in 1838
    Defeated for Elector in 1840
    Defeated for Congress in 1843
    Defeated for Congress in 1848
    Defeated for Senate in 1855
    Defeated for Vice President in 1856
    Defeated for Senate in 1858
    Elected President in 1860

    • Dave Belcher March 10, 2018 at 2:27 pm - Reply

      What a helpful reminder, Mark! Thanks for sharing that. Failure is human and the example of Lincoln reminds us our great heroes and the giants of history (including our favorite musicians) are just as human and have also gone through great failures, just like us. The key is perseverance in the face of it: getting up, dusting ourselves off, and moving forward again.


      Dave B (CGC team)

    • Simon March 11, 2018 at 12:29 am - Reply

      Wow, I had no idea. Thanks for this.

  11. Donna Zitzelberger March 11, 2018 at 6:33 pm - Reply

    Gosh Simon – you are an amazing example of courage. Thank you for sharing your stories, and how you processed the struggles. I was so moved by the podcast AND the posts in the forum, that I got brave enough to share my own crash & burn. CGC Academy is a wonderfully supportive environment for learning all the aspects of classical guitar, including the ups/downs of performance. I am very grateful to have found CGC, and proud to be a member!

  12. ARMANDO BALTRA March 11, 2018 at 11:30 pm - Reply

    I can’t think of anything else to add.
    The previous CGC members have already, and so eloquently, expressed my own thoughts.
    I just want to thank you for a most impressive and candid outflow of personal experience and lessons learned along the way.
    You are truly a great role model.

  13. Alan March 12, 2018 at 2:15 am - Reply

    Hi Simon, very engaging and honest podcast thank you, perseverance and I would put patience in front of it are crucial words in pursuit of excellence in our chosen instrument, even though I genuinely love classical guitar and working towards my goals every day it seems everyday I ask myself why do I do it, all this work and dedication, is it worth it, no one else really cares, in fact no one else gives a hoot, play songs on acoustic guitar and bit singing and probably get more attention and infinitely easier, the work involved to learn tough pieces and play them well is huge, bottom line if you don’t have perseverance by the truckload you won’t survive, faint hearted us classical guitarists we definitely are not, I have been to hell and back in my studies but still I keep playing cause I know the darkest hour is before dawn, keep going and stick with the right people, the likes of you!!, patience and perseverance and great things happen

  14. Roger Hyam March 12, 2018 at 9:29 am - Reply

    One has to learn to enjoy failure!

    I meditate and sometimes teach others. The process is one of continually noticing that one has become distracted then bringing the attention back to the breath. The key to the whole thing is having an attitude of compassion to oneself on realising one has “failed” by getting distracted. The best form of compassion is gentle humour. Laughing at not being able to do it but getting back on the bike and trying again. If you beat yourself up then your mind won’t want to come back and it will get harder and harder to continue.

    The notion of apraṇihita (aimlessness) comes in here. i.e. not being too attached to the end result but wholeheartedly enjoying the process.

  15. Chris Miller March 12, 2018 at 12:49 pm - Reply

    HI Simon,

    I think also that patience, and keeping a balanced, open mind set are also key to striving towards a goal. I was always told that if you don’t fail [some of the time, hopefully] your not trying. Perseverance as my old mum would put it is nothing but sheer bloody mindedness in the face of adversity. But I have found throughout my life that perseverance is not just hammering away at something all the time, but sometimes taking a step back to reflect and may be approaching the goal from a different direction, or just being more tolerant (forgiving) of yourself.

    It was a great podcast which came just at the right time for me.



  16. Michael O'Brien March 12, 2018 at 1:12 pm - Reply

    Hi Simon, and thanks for sharing those stories!

    Like many of us, I’m heartened to realize that I’m not alone!

    Here’s only one of my failure-stories, on piano, not guitar, but but that doesn’t matter.

    In my sophomore year of college I actually auditioned for — And Won! — a concerto contest. I was to play the second Shostakovitch Piano concerto with the Montgomery County, MD symphony. At the audition, I even had a band-aid on my finger which came half-way off and flapped around like a little plastic flag for most of my playing. The judge suggested I keep it in the act.

    Great. It was the band-aid, not my playing. I was sure of it.

    The concert was two months away and I was determined to overcome the gimmick with the plastic flag. So I practiced and practiced and practiced and, well, you can probably guess where this is going.

    The performance came, and uncontrollably nervous, worried, and basically a wreck, I flew out of the starting gate like a frightened race-horse, finished several long minutes before anyone in the orchestra, and finding myself breathlessly sitting and an exhausted piano with nothing to do — while the orchestra finished at a reasonable tempo.

    It was devastating. I couldn’t speak, couldn’t stand, couldn’t laugh, couldn’t cry, couldn’t face ANYBODY, not family, nor friends, nor audience, and certainly not the orchestra—or the conductor who at one point leaned over to me wondering how many furlongs separated us.

    I hid behind the dumpster in the back of the theater for half the night, while everyone else lampooned my moment in the spotlight.

    It took me years to recover, and decades to learn how my own best efforts sabotaged my performance.

    At 64 now, I’ve had many successes, even artist diplomas with distinctions, fellowships, and the lot, but it’s been a painfully rocky road. Maybe finally now I’m learning how to learn.

    Thanks to CGC for helping! Kudos!


  17. Kari March 12, 2018 at 1:34 pm - Reply

    Perseverance has been a good teacher in my life. It was dreadful (or shall I say dread-filled) to choose to move forward on a goal even when I failed at it before. Ultimately, I look back and realize so many valuable lessons I learned from trying.
    I really like this article that talks about moving through failure:
    Dr. Powis, thank you so much for sharing how you persevered through your setbacks. A real testimate to your character.

  18. Chris Winter March 12, 2018 at 2:22 pm - Reply

    Thank you for your humility in sharing these useful lessons Simon. I have always taught both my children to stop worrying about being intelligent enough or talented enough; not to compare themselves to everyone else and just keep on going, one step at at time, doing the things that they want to do. Now my son has a black belt in karate and a university degree and my daughter is doing her grade 7 clarinet. My son graduated last year and has been looking for a job for 6 months – so far without success, but that job could just be around the next corner. Maybe not, but I can guarantee that continuing to work at it, getting better with every application, every interview (however awful) will yield a lot better results in the long run than giving up. I will certainly get my son to listen to this podcast – even though he has absolutely no interest whatsoever in classical guitar!

  19. Anne March 12, 2018 at 9:00 pm - Reply

    Thank you, Simon, for sharing. You started a really wonderful and inspiring conversation!

    “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” Winston Churchill

  20. Caryl March 12, 2018 at 9:40 pm - Reply

    Thank you for sharing such a bittersweet story, or should I say stories, Simon. Your first story of the competition in Sydney when you forgot the Bach prelude – and particularly the part about climbing into your parents’ car and dissolving into tears – brought tears to my eyes. No doubt your parents were pained every bit as much as you, if not more, as nothing hurts for us more than our children’s pain. Years ago my daughter participated in Gold Competitions for piano. She always did reasonably well, but one little girl did what you did, Simon. She forgot her piece. She must have been about eight. She sat there on stage, trying to remember her piece, would start again, then stop ….. you could hear a pin drop in the room, which was filled with parents, friends, other gold cup competitors, and judges. We knew her parents, and we knew also that they were dying a thousand deaths during those three of four minutes. When the little girl finally gave up and left the stage – to tentative but heartfelt applause for her efforts, I wondered what the conversation would be in the car when they drove home.
    This reminds me and I hope all of us that in addition to our teachers, our friends, parents, children, and spouses (and this community!) play a role in our journeys and successes in our endeavors – in this case, our music. I expect, Simon, that your parents helped you find a place for this experience (as I hope the parents of that little girl did) and helped you recognize it as a useful learning experience that would serve you well in the future. In any event, you are a wonderful example for the rest of us. Thank you for these stories.

    And Anne – love the Churchill quote!


  21. dshugrue March 13, 2018 at 8:42 pm - Reply

    Easily my favorite CGC podcast of all. I’ve often wondered how anyone can “make it” in the world of classical guitar without some kind of financial backing. To hear that you struggled to pay for University is personally meaningful and powerful to me. Great respect to you!

  22. Franciscus Welman March 13, 2018 at 11:20 pm - Reply

    Hi Simon,
    Your story was wonderful and it reminded me of my own experience when I had to play piano at the end of the course at Mira Costa College I selected a simple piece by Erik Satie ‘GYMNOPEDIES NO1. The music has two parts and when I was playing for an audience I did not know if I had played the first part but I decided to play the second part. Only after I finest I realized that I had played the piece correctly.
    Several years ago I had neuralgic amyotrophy and could not longer play the piano since my right arm was paralyzed. At that time I bought the guitar to learn classical guitar music. I like the Solea No1 and No 2 that you composed. I have no complain about practicing although I have problems with quickly chancing cords that you do so eloquently.

  23. Franciscus Welman March 13, 2018 at 11:27 pm - Reply

    Hi Simon,
    Your story was wonderful and it reminded me of my own experience when I had to play piano at the end of the course at Mira Costa College I selected a simple piece by Erik Satie ‘GYMNOPEDIES NO1. The music has two parts and when I was playing for an audience I did not know if I had played the first part but I decided to play the second part. Only after I finest I realized that I had played the piece correctly.

  24. Richard Croad March 14, 2018 at 6:52 am - Reply

    Thank you Simon. Perhaps you might have titled your podcast “Failure and Not Giving Up”. I think experiencing failure during those formative years into young adulthood, is crucial for development. It allows us to learn to manage what to do next, and how to come back. The often quoted adages like “getting back on the horse”, and similar, all promote the idea of perseverance.

    Sometimes the fear of failure, or fear of disappointing someone else, is perversely, a motivation to keep going. I completed a PhD some 36 years ago, but nearly didn’t make the deadline after a significant period when I drifted research wise, couldn’t get things to work, and I went back to a full-time job. I didn’t feel my research was showing results, and I was probably somewhat burnt out . My supervising professor traveled some 1,600 km to encourage me to finish. That single visit was was enough, and my career has since been built on achieving that goal.

    Like many others who have outlined their experiences in the comments, I have learned that failure is not fatal. I blanked out big time in an university exam (in a subject that I eventually became expert), felt highly embarrassed as a young adult, when I suddenly couldn’t sing properly in a recital, and caused a sensation on the opening night of “My Fair Lady” (a stage show) when I was given the job of head Fly Man and caused one of the flys to become stuck in the roof cavity when all the opening night critics were out in the audience. I felt I had let down the entire cast and crew. However, with a good background in failure, it becomes easier to deal with the unexpected in the future.

    Thank you for your podcast. It has encouraged many others to share their experiences as well.

    Cheers… Richard

  25. Gerard March 15, 2018 at 1:07 pm - Reply

    Hey mate what a great message. Your podcast rings clear. I am in another hotel in another city with my travel guitar out of the case on a chair and my pieces of sheet music spread on the table. Your comments are so insightful. For me the guitar case is a wall. When the instrument is out and the sheet is spread and the practice diary is open to the page with a pencil on top. When i get up way early, I can pretty much fall into the practice.

    Great podcast. Thanks.

  26. Bonnie Stenstrom March 15, 2018 at 6:13 pm - Reply

    Hello Simon,
    Such a wonderful podcast to encourage us to move through adversity. If you stay on the train, you go somewhere but otherwise, you do not; that idea has helped me many times to continue to move towards a goal when the going got rough. I think we learn through our mistakes. They give us a chance to reflect on what’s happened, why and then encourage a re-direction of our ideas and energy. When I had my first performance of a simple guitar piece in public with an esteemed professor listening and prepared to comment, I made so many mistakes with my shaking hands, it was impossible to hear my offering as a “piece”. As I sat there, humiliated and embarrassed beyond belief, my brain said … “well, the sun will come up tomorrow regardless and you can sit there and let your sorry ego go on, or you can listen to this person and perhaps learn something useful”. He was gracious and kind and on I carried. The experience taught me a lot about how not to prepare for a public performance :).
    Your own persistence and determination is expemplary and illustrates a positive way to deal with setbacks, really in all walks of life.
    I and this guitar community are so happy you persevered!! Thank you for this reinforcement of why we need to forgive ourselves and celebrate our willingness to get out there and do it! You are a fine role model for us all.

  27. Trisha Scott March 17, 2018 at 9:19 pm - Reply

    I’m a retired violinist. There are so many stories. Many of those stories, my own and others, include a lot of failure and pain AND perseverance. Now, in my dotage, I fully understand that there will never be any great reward for playing any sort of instrument or painting any sort of painting or playing any Shakespear role, other than that peculiar satisfaction you get from following your own bliss/obsession to wherever it may take you. I know now that basing your identity on what you do is the bit that causes pain when a “failure” occurs. I suffered pain when I failed in violin performance but never as a guitarist/songwriter (back in the 70’s when I was a strummer for a short time) because I identified with being a violinist and the guitar was just something I did for fun. Now, I have taken up classical guitar as my new obsession and am simply playing to myself. I’m a fairly demanding audience. I’m having a blast. I hope that if I ever play for anyone else I won’t revert to form and base my very existence on the outcome. But no matter what, nothing is dragging me away from the guitar anytime soon.

    From your podcast, it is clear that you have found that fine balance between your life and your life as a guitarist as well as perseverance, that allows you the perspective needed to go far. To me, that is more than admirable. Thank you for all your good work here, we all appreciate it.

  28. Tom March 18, 2018 at 1:38 pm - Reply

    Great podcast Simone and some excellent comments as well. It really took a lot of hard work and discipline to get to where you are and its a privilege to have the chance to study through this site.

  29. Eddie Jefferson April 26, 2018 at 3:28 pm - Reply

    Simon, it is clear that you must have had a testing day. How inspirational this podcast is. As you say “perseverence” is part of everything that we all want to do well. I try to teach my 9 year old daughter the importance of perseverence.

    Thanks so much for sharing your experiences and it is an enormous help.

    At the beginning of your podcast your advice of keeping a guitar on a stand and sheet music already out on display is exactly how I do things at home. I am lucky to have a tiny corner in the dining room that my other half has kindly allowed me to use :-) but it is enough so I can just simply sit down and conveniently practice. Every little helps.

    Thanks for the excellent advice.


  30. W. Don Seaborg October 28, 2018 at 12:08 am - Reply


    I so appreciate your candor and openess. I just experienced a failure a week ago during a performance. Like you, I went blank during the performance and did not do well. I did eventually get back on track after ad libbing for a few seconds, but oh those few seconds seemed to move so slowly! So your experience certainly did resonate with me, and I thank you for being vulnerable enough to share. I do feel encouraged to “keep on keeping on”. Thank you!

  31. Fretnot January 10, 2019 at 7:08 pm - Reply

    Dear Simon,

    please don’t reneg in 2019! This was the perfect podcast to follow up on the 2019 guitar goals podcast.

    Great work and the honesty, humility, and understanding of what failure can be transformed into will make you a fantastic teacher and mentor.

    Best wishes, Fretnot

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