Is GTD More Relaxed and Loose than I think

smithdoug

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The right practice at the right time

Musicians with perfect pitch (a proxy for "musical talent") have a particular anatomical asymmetry of the planum temporale within the cortex of the brain, as shown by in vivo magnetic resonance imaging. Most professional musicians do not have perfect pitch. But a few do. (Mozart is said to have had perfect pitch. ) And apparently no amount of practice can produce the kind of anatomical asymmetry in the brain that facilitates perfect pitch. At least not later in life. There's speculation that the right kind of practice at the right time--early in life, when the brain is most plastic--might lead to these kinds of changes.

The brain remains malleable throughout life and it's that malleability (or plasticity) which enables us to learn. But the brain is far more plastic in early life; before puberty. Enough of the right kind of practice can make almost any of us a master of almost anything. But there are still those who go well beyond mastery. It's widely thought that, at the least, they must have had sufficient early experience to develop the neural structures that enable for truly exceptional performance later on. And one can not rule out a genetic component.

Again, that's not to say that someone without the most propitious early developmental experiences (or genetics) can't achieve very high levels, even mastery. But they may not be able to reach the pinacle. Athletics, at the highest levels, magnifies very, very fine differences; differences too small to measure in a laboratory.

I coached world-elite athletes in an earlier life. Give me a twelve-year-old, any "normal" twelve-year-old, and I'm confident I could train him or her to become an Olympic-level athlete. But I can't necessarily say they would be the very best in the world in a highly competitive sport.

My own empirical observation, from being around two athletes each of whom dominated world competition in his own era, is that they brought a special focus to their training--and attention to detail--that the others did not. It's not so much practice as the "right" practice.

The right practice and training and mental attitude can get you awfully damn far, and well ahead of most. But it's also possible there may be one or two or a few who by virtue of better neurology, as a result of better early developmental experiences and/or genetics, will always be a bit ahead.

Sorry to be so late to this conversation. I was impressed by what Zatara had written elsewhere and was compelled to plumb around and see what else he had to say.
 

BigStory

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Well, this has been a very cool discussion to follow, and I just wanted to add a thought that occurred to me early on.

I think the comparison between music and GTD is kind of apt, because music involves the discovery of a kind of "truth" about reality. Some notes harmonize, others don't. A person has to love music to take the trouble to figure this stuff out on thier own. Sure you can be taught, but the love is still the driver.

What in the world possessed DA to spend 20 years coaching people in personal productivity, and through those experiences be able to discern certain truths about it that are fundamental and "harmonius." It couldn't have been just a paycheck (even a big one) at the end of the day. He had to be finding some kind of delight in doing it. Listening, thinking, pondering it to get to the heart of it.

I think that perhaps if anything leads some people to be "geniuses" as opposed to only mastering a skill, it might be that kind of delight. Where that comes from I don't know. I know that you enjoy the things you do well, more than other things. But what kept DA at it, even when he wasn't very good at it? It had to be more than just a will to practice. It had to be a certain kind of pleasure.

Just my thoughts,
Thanks for the work all of you put into this thread.

Gordon
 

andersons

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smithdoug said:
Musicians with perfect pitch (a proxy for "musical talent") have a particular anatomical asymmetry of the planum temporale within the cortex of the brain, as shown by in vivo magnetic resonance imaging. Most professional musicians do not have perfect pitch. But a few do. (Mozart is said to have had perfect pitch. ) And apparently no amount of practice can produce the kind of anatomical asymmetry in the brain that facilitates perfect pitch. At least not later in life. There's speculation that the right kind of practice at the right time--early in life, when the brain is most plastic--might lead to these kinds of changes.
It's funny to read about perfect pitch because I was just recruited to participate in a perfect pitch experiment today. (Ugh.) This is my understanding of the literature.

A few years ago, I heard Elizabeth West Marvin of the Eastman School of Music lecture on the ways Eastman had developed to help students with pitch overcome that disability and instead develop the much more musically useful skill of relative pitch. There's no correlation of perfect pitch with musical skill or "genius." It is now believed in the conservatories that perfect pitch, known as absolute pitch (AP), is a detriment to musical performance.

I am one who was diagnosed with perfect pitch. And it didn't seem to help my piano skill at all. Just got me stuck in an experiment booth. With my amount of practice, I'm no better than my piano-playing friends without perfect pitch. It always seemed to interfere with my musical goals, so I tried to suppress pitch naming as much as possible. And there are a lot of out-of-tune instruments out there, including my own antique piano. If I don't suppress the pitch naming, I'd go insane.

Non-musicians can't name pitches, of course, but they can often reproduce them accurately even after a long delay. After hearing a tune, they were asked to sing it about a week later, and reproduced exactly the same pitches much more frequently than would be expected by chance. Without being able to name those pitches, non-musicians could often sing them by memory. My spouse does this all the time with no musical training at all -- right on pitch (over and over and over, to my chagrin).

I don't think the AP imaging findings tell us much. The brains of those with the ability to name pitches have smaller right planum temporales. The left is the same size as the non-AP group. So the asymmetry comes from the right side being smaller. Smaller -- that is odd, and the speculative conclusion of the study is shaky, relating a correlation in adults to causation by a genetic influence that "pruned" the right planum temporale. There is no evidence in that study for that speculation, no evidence for when and how the right planum temporale became smaller than normal.

In fact, many, many more recent imaging studies have shown large cortical reorganization in response to training; this was previously believed improbable. For example, in adult monkeys trained in a finger-tapping task, there was reorganization of the somatotropic finger areas in motor cortex, in just a short amount of training.

Cortical reorganization has been repeatedly associated with training and detraining. For example, right-handed violin players have increased cortical representation of the left string-playing hand/fingers, but not for the right hand which simply holds the bow. The brain areas controlling the left fingers are larger and more finely tuned (less overlapping).

At the time of the perfect pitch studies, just a few years ago, it was not believed that that much cortical reorganization can occur in adulthood, but many studies now provide converging evidence that it can. Weinberger, for example, has shown plasticity in auditory cortex receptive fields in rats (or guinea pigs or such) in response to auditory tones they had learned. Their brains reorganized, and they got better at identifying tones.

So the brain continually changes in response to training, both functionally and anatomically. (For humans and animals. Anything with a brain.) Musicians with AP have an ability to name pitches, which is associated with a smaller right planum temporale than normal, but this AP ability has been developed only with intense early musical training (
 
Z

Zatara

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Two very important points

andersons said:
And yes, I'm amazed at the attention to detail. I read that they are also paying more and more attention to recovery, CNS recovery in particular. And world-class musicians also are very careful to rest; they sleep significantly longer than musicians with less skill.
Thanks to you and smithdouglas for reminding us of these two very important aspects of practice.
 

moises

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How Do You Get to Carnegie Hall?

I remember reading about the overriding importance of practice in determining musical expertise years ago in the popular press. I haven't read the actual studies but I assume their conclusions are well-supported and valid.

Given that the difference between virtuosos and amateurs is time spent practicing, and given that the number of people who desire to be virtuosos exceeds the number of people who are virtuosos, we can take a step back and ask another question: why do some people who want to be virtuosos practice much more than other people who want to be virtuosos?

As a parent of a nine-year-old child, as a part-time teacher, and as a full-time boss, this is a very important question for me. The answer to the question why some people work harder to get what they want than others is best answered with words like "drive" and "motivation." If two people want the same thing, we can say that one has more drive or is more motivated than the other.

But that answer appears to beg the question. What more do we mean by drive than "spends a lot of time practicing"? So the question remains, what differentiates the more devoted practicers from the less devoted practicers?

If talent is determined by practice time, and drive determines practice time, what determines drive? Social science has increased our knowledge by dissolving talent into practice time. Can it tell us where drive comes from?
 

kewms

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moises said:
If talent is determined by practice time, and drive determines practice time, what determines drive? Social science has increased our knowledge by dissolving talent into practice time. Can it tell us where drive comes from?
Some of it is external motivation. There's a fair amount of evidence that people meet whatever standards are expected of them. If you tell someone they have great potential but need to work hard to really achieve, you'll get better results than telling them either (a) they have no talent and are hopeless or (b) they have great talent and shouldn't need to work. (These results are regardless of what tests actually say about the person's potential.)

Some of it may be innate. See the research on EQ, which measures things like willingness to accept delayed rewards. I'm not an expert, but I suspect that EQ, like IQ, has both nature and nurture components.

Katherine
 

andersons

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some cognitive factors

moises said:
. . .why do some people who want to be virtuosos practice much more than other people who want to be virtuosos? . . .
moises said:
Social science has increased our knowledge by dissolving talent into practice time. Can it tell us where drive comes from?

Not to the point where we have a comprehensive theory that can predict (to my knowledge), but yes to the point of identifying a bunch of known factors that affect drive. There are known factors at several levels: social, cognitive, and neurochemical. Katherine already mentioned some of the social factors; they are very important. The implications of the neurochemical factors are enormous, but the cognitive are easier to talk about.

From a cognitive perspective, it could be
1) incorrect beliefs - perceived lack of talent, not understanding the work required to achieve, wanting something for nothing
2) correct beliefs - the cost-benefit ratio is high and gets higher the better you get

A reality of life is that we always have to give something up (the cost) to get something (the benefit). Time and energy are both required costs of skill development, and both are strictly limited. We must make choices because of our limited resources available to obtain what we want.

I see motivation as that which overcomes resistance enough to affect behavior, as opposed to desire which is not necessarily strong enough to affect behavior. When a person says he wants something but is not willing to do what has been proven to be necessary to achieve it, I see that kind of “want” as desire, not motivation. It is admiration for the outcome, or perhaps jealousy for the acclaim. Certainly it would always be nice to get something for nothing. Someone can give you money, but he can’t give you achievement. It must be earned.

For many people, wanting to play the piano is like wanting to win the lottery. If I had a nickel for every person who told me, "I would give ANYTHING to play the piano like that." Umm -- no. It always turns out they aren't willing to do much, if anything. I sometimes say, "Well, find a good teacher, practice daily, and in 5,000 hours you'll be just as good as me." A friend then says to me, "I could practice a million hours and never be able to do that." Well, I don't feel any sense of special talent, but I do remember all the hours on the piano bench. I remember that I had to learn, and it was hard. I remember watching my mother's fingers and thinking, I could never do that. Yet now I can do what I previously thought was impossible. But my friend has a perceived lack of talent.

The lack-of-talent belief can also be an “out.” You know how David Allen says that some people don’t want to organize their commitments and see them all in writing because they don’t want to face the reality? Likewise, if I see practice as my only requirement for achievement, then I must take responsibility for my lack of achievement.

Another reason, though, could be ignorance of how much work it takes to achieve. I have many times admired achievement and vastly underestimated the work required. Even when I knew how much work piano playing required, I still severely underestimated how much work choir directing required. Knowledge fixes this particular problem; once I see a clear path to an outcome, or at least what I can do to get started, I'm on my way. The stages progress from "Wow, that's amazing" to "How do you do that?" to "Yikes, that's a lot of work" to "OK, I'll try it."

There is another reason, though, for stopping short of practicing to virtuoso level. A very good one -- the cost in time and energy. There’s a limit on how many hours you have and how much cellular energy you have available to get work done during your life. So you must make choices as to how to spend those limited resources. Virtuosity is a very expensive choice, as shown by the “power law of learning.”

There are diminishing returns to increased amounts of practice. The cost-benefit ratio keeps increasing. When an expert practices for an hour, performance improvement is tiny or miniscule. When a novice practices for an hour, performance improvement is massive. (It doesn’t subjectively feel that way because we tend to compare our performance with experts’ rather than our own previous performance.) Much more improvement takes place in the novice's hour of practice than in the expert's.

This relationship is known as the “learning curve” or the “power law of learning” because it is best fit by a power function (performance as a function of time spent). It’s ubiquitous in measurement of learning. Early improvement is rapid, but slows with increased practice. And slows and slows. The cost-benefit ratio goes up and up. The expert must practice more and more hours for less and less measurable improvement.

If you look at it this way, you could say it’s “crazy” to be willing to work to become a virtuoso because the cost is so high. You could say that it’s perfectly reasonable to reduce practice to maintenance levels when you reach the flat part of the learning curve.

This is why people might feel they have "hit a plateau" and then get discouraged from future work. The learning curve itself never really seems to plateau completely, but the slope really does flatten out. If you quit or reduce effort a little past the tangent point on the curve, you have optimized the cost-benefit ratio.
 

andersons

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Why you will not get to Carnegie Hall if you are more than 5 years old

Three reasons, mentioned previously:
1) ~10,000 hours (by age 20, they practice >25 hours per week)
2) > 10 years
3) starting early (~age 4 -- how else to accumulate that much training?)

 

kewms

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andersons said:
This relationship is known as the “learning curve” or the “power law of learning” because it is best fit by a power function (performance as a function of time spent). It’s ubiquitous in measurement of learning. Early improvement is rapid, but slows with increased practice. And slows and slows. The cost-benefit ratio goes up and up. The expert must practice more and more hours for less and less measurable improvement.
To what extent can you replace practicing "more" with practicing "better"? In athletics in particular, there are injury risks associated with overtraining, and often the activity itself carries an injury risk as well. To what extent can mental practice -- visualization, watching video, etc. -- reduce the amount of time devoted to physical practice? Or is that too dependent on individual training and coaching methods to generalize?

Katherine
 

TesTeq

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Some talent seems to be needed for art and mastery.

kewms said:
To what extent can you replace practicing "more" with practicing "better"?
Yes, "better" is very important but I still think that there is something more.

In the "XV International Frederick Chopin Piano Competition Warsaw" (http://www.konkurs.chopin.pl/index.php) in this year there were some exceptionally trained pianists from China, Japan and Korea. They were playing perfectly, no wrong note, perfect timing. They could play the music twice as fast with the same accuracy. But the winner was young Polish pianist Rafal Blechacz. Why? He simply feels the romantic soul of Chopin's music. He doesn't play notes. He plays stories, emotions, landscapes. Can it be acquired by practice?

You can learn the craft by practice but the real art and mastery requires talent.
 

MikeC

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Ah Talent. There are two secrets of success in this world. One is Time Mgt. And the other is Weight Shift. And I believe you are born with each. Or not.

You athletes understand weight shift.
I could practice golf 8 hours a day and I am not going to make the PGA tour. I don't have the talent. Read: weight shift.

My New Years resolution 2 years ago was to "become Anal." Didn't make it. Now it's "get structure and discipline." (a Morgenstern principle) This I can do. But it will be work.

Folks with the talent for Organization and Really Getting Things Done rarely become unorganized. They rarely let anything slip tru the cracks. (ie, my friend George who calls me at 11pm on February 2nd to ask a tax question--he's working on his tax return already.....I'm in BED! Thats a natural folks.)
mike
 

kewms

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MikeC said:
You athletes understand weight shift.
I could practice golf 8 hours a day and I am not going to make the PGA tour. I don't have the talent. Read: weight shift.
Weight shift can be taught. I've learned it as part of my martial arts practice.

FWIW, I was probably one of the least athletic members of my high school class. Now, [mumble] years later, I've got a heart rate of 65 and can toss people who outweigh me by a hundred pounds across the room. And this is with only 4-5 hours a week of consistent practice.

The moral of the story is, don't dismiss the impact of practice until you've actually tried it.

Katherine
 

MikeC

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The moral of the story is, don't dismiss the impact of practice until you've actually tried it.

Katherine[/QUOTE]

I agree! You practice practice practice....and Discover you have talent. That's why we take our kids to soccer, dance, karate, basketball....etc...to see what might "click."
 

jkgrossi

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furashgf said:
But I'm guessing there are people out there who don't spend $ and time trying to magically ensure everything stays in synch. They just do the steps (weekly review, organizing, etc.) and then rely on intution to fill the gaps. Is this true? It's the feeling I get from re-reading GTD.
I happen to be one such person...
 

moises

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Irrational Behavior

If one takes a cognitive approach, one must tease out different kinds of beliefs.

I might have a realistic goal with a clear understanding of the effort required to achieve it and a realistic chance of attaining that goal.

So, in that respect, I have no cognitive deficits.

I might still act irrationally, however. I might choose short-term pleasure and not achieve the much greater long-term rewards.

Some might argue that my irrational behavior is explained cognitively by my holding of such beliefs as: "I just can't stand the discomfort of writing, I deserve to surf the internet instead," and "Everyone will think this article I am writing is stupid, I should stop working on it."

Let us put the beliefs expressed in the prior paragraph to one side, for the moment. So I will remain agnostic as to whether those beliefs are the explanatory cause of irrational behavior.

I would suggest that motivation and drive to sacrifice short-term pleasures for the sake of long-term goods can be enhanced by following some general principles. And GTD is one particular species of these general principles. That is why so many of us are so enthralled with GTD, because it has enabled us to act more rationally; it has enabled us to keep our long-term interests in sight; it has enabled us to practice more and engage in seeking short-term pleasures less.

The general principles are:

1. I write down my goals.
Read andersons' description elsewhere of an experiment she carried out in one of her classes. At an elite college or university, very few of the students knew how to set goals for themselves. The importance of this has been emphasized by David Allen and every other motivational personality ad nauseum, yet very few people actually do it.

2. I write down my progress towards my goals.
GTD forces us to do this. My goal typically is a project written down in the form of the desired outcome: my book is published. I then create a project plan and check off the next actions as they are accomplished.

3. I make my work area as functional as I can.
David Allen always talks about fancy pens and fun toys and this always bothered me. But I now comprehend what he is getting at. Do what it takes to get the job done. If you need to change your file folders, do so. Your file system is key to getting your work done, if you have an office job. If it's hard to read and you have to do a lot of reading, that's bad. Get the kind of lighting you need so that reading is not a strain. If your desk is uncomfortable, get one that is comfortable. Make it as easy as you can to achieve your goals.

4. I tell others what my goals are.
If I tell my wife I will help my son with his school project this weekend, I am much more likely to get it done than if I silently tell myself to help my son with his school project this weekend. Points 1 and 4 are instances of the more general point that it helps to express my goals so that they are out of my head.

Now, what about my beliefs that "I just can't stand the discomfort of writing, I deserve to surf the internet instead," and "Everyone will think this article I am writing is stupid, I should stop working on it"? My guess is that if I held those beliefs before I actively performed 1-4 above, I will not hold those beliefs after. It's not clear to me that my irrational behavior has a cognitive explanation. The cure for my irrational behavior is not necessarily to eliminate my distorted beliefs, it is, rather, to engage in the behaviors outlined above in steps 1-4. By doing 1-4, I will likely extinguish my irrational behavior and increase the likelihood of achieving my goal.

So I can increase my drive and increase my motivation by doing 1-4. And GTD is a particular instance of 1-3.
 

eowyn

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Somebody once told me "What comes first - motiviation or action?" His answer was action.

I find that if I let myself do only a very small thing (such as put those two dishes away in the kitchen or open up the assignment on the computer) , all of a sudden I an be engrossed and enjoying the task (and all the kitchen benches are cleared or the report progresses signficantly).
 

andersons

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practicing better; video; mental practice

kewms said:
To what extent can you replace practicing "more" with practicing "better"? In athletics in particular, there are injury risks associated with overtraining, and often the activity itself carries an injury risk as well. To what extent can mental practice -- visualization, watching video, etc. -- reduce the amount of time devoted to physical practice? Or is that too dependent on individual training and coaching methods to generalize?
Practicing better: Experts develop highly structured practice methods. For example, good coaches periodize training goals for athletes. In music, there is a documented account of a pianist planning her different practice session strategies: analyzing a piece, isolating sections for technical mastery, practicing for memory, and practicing for emotional expression of the whole piece. Effective practice was systematically broken down into different goals and different sessions, scheduled over time to reach mastery by the time of the scheduled recording session. Compared to an amateur's practice, the expert's is more structured, purposeful, and planned.

There's more awareness in athletic coaching that practice strategies must be designed to avoid overtraining and injuries. I wish some of this knowledge would filter down to the university and high school levels where I see coaches overtraining their athletes to the point of nervous breakdown. In the university goal-setting assignment I described in another post, a number of students were on the swim team and were clearly being overtrained. It was very frustrating to read about. Every one of them reported that several weeks after the season -- after a few weeks of rest -- they measured their best times of the season. Good coaches know how to get their athletes to peak for competition, not for 3 weeks later. Even musicians can overtrain and experience burnout as well.

But there doesn't appear to be a substitute for practicing more. Training time is limited by the need for rest, recovery, and memory consolidation. If an individual can speed up recovery and practice more, however, I think that the increased training time will beat out even the most sophisticated practice strategy. But given that training is limited by the need for recovery, more effective practice becomes a necessity. Today's top performers are doing both -- looking for ways to train more effectively AND train more. For myself as a non-performer, though, I focus on practicing better rather than more because I then have more time for other things. :)

Video as feedback: Feedback is critical for learning. But a great deal of feedback is internal. The brain's comparison of the intention to the outcome is the major source of feedback for learning, and this comparison takes place online during practice. Any external feedback like video may augment this, but won't replace practice time.

The usefulness specifically of video feedback depends on the nature of the task, I think. Feedback should be effective when it maps the demands of the task to the way the brain represents the task. For example, video should help with conscious strategy of a sequence of movements over time, like "plays" that are planned in soccer, football, tennis, hockey, etc. Watching a play unfold in slow motion should help develop the conscious strategy of movement sequences. And of course it is widely used for this. Video should also help with ballet and figure skating where precise positioning of joints during the movement is required. (These should be some of the hardest skills to learn IMO because the motor system was not designed to control precise joint positions throughout a movement.) In these skills, the performer has to generate positions that look good to the judges, so it should be quite helpful to see what the judges see rather than guess based on proprioception.

Intuitively, I would doubt that video would help that much for a specific karate kick intended to hit a target (don't know much about karate, so I may be completely off the mark about its goals). It may help a little, but the karate kick is programmed in terms of kicker-centered coordinates. Video shows observer-centered coordinates. How helpful would it be for your brain to transform arbitrary observer-centered coordinates to self-centered ones for programming? I don't think the mapping would be that useful. If it does not matter what the kick looks like, but mainly where it lands, I would always focus on the target. The motor system is very good at programming movements to hit a target, but does best when you don't try to control how the joints move to get the limb to the target.

Mental practice: Mental practice can improve performance, but not as much as physical practice does. It is a skill that itself improves with practice. Even though there's less improvement for the time spent, as you point out, if you can improve a little with no risk of injury or overtraining, and less wear and tear on slow-healing joints, that's a good thing.

Visualization is supposed to be good for arousal regulation ("nerves"). I personally visualized my recital in every detail every night for 6 months, and that was my first performance that I felt was just as good as my practicing. "But I got it in practice" is an infamous cry every piano teacher hears, and probably every athletic coach feels as well.

A nice thing about mental practice is that you can control the outcome. You can visualize yourself executing perfectly. The motor system is very noisy with highly variable output; at higher skill levels especially, all you're doing in practice is trying to reduce the variability of movements, which is very hard.

For piano playing, I've found that mental practice shows me clearly which parts of a piece I don't know well enough. I have to know it very well to imagine it clearly. Wherever my imagination becomes vague and fuzzy, I know I need more practice there even if I can get it when I'm physically playing it.

One other thing I can think of about practicing effectively is simulating performance conditions in practice as much as possible. This is closely related to arousal -- the stress of competition creates different demands than a low-stress practice session. I always tell my piano students to put pressure on themselves during practice, but minimize pressure on themselves during performance. We tend to do just the opposite: when we practice, we feel it's OK to make mistakes, but when we compete or perform, we don't want to mess up. The increase in pressure cripples your brain during performance conditions.

Thomas Carr did an amusing but informative study of choking under pressure for novices learning to play golf. One group practiced without pressure. Another group practiced under pressure of being told that they were being videoed and watched by experts. Also, they were told they had been paired with an unknown teammate, that if both of them improved their previous score by 20%, they would both receive a money bonus, but if either one failed, neither would get the money. The pressured group did worse during practice than the unpressured group. But in a later high-pressure competition test, the pressured practicers outperformed the unpressured practicers.

The higher your skill level, the more important it seems to be not to try to control your movements as you perform. The skill exists in subconscious brain representations, and trying to control the steps of the skill reliably degrades the outcome in experts.
 

kewms

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Thank you. Such a detailed response was very helpful.

andersons said:
Intuitively, I would doubt that video would help that much for a specific karate kick intended to hit a target (don't know much about karate, so I may be completely off the mark about its goals). It may help a little, but the karate kick is programmed in terms of kicker-centered coordinates. Video shows observer-centered coordinates. How helpful would it be for your brain to transform arbitrary observer-centered coordinates to self-centered ones for programming? I don't think the mapping would be that useful. If it does not matter what the kick looks like, but mainly where it lands, I would always focus on the target. The motor system is very good at programming movements to hit a target, but does best when you don't try to control how the joints move to get the limb to the target.
I don't know much about karate either. Aikido (my art) is a bit different in that it's more about controlling the attacker's balance than landing a kick at a specific target. I've found video can help by letting me compare what I'm actually doing (as opposed to what I think I'm doing) to what the instructor is doing. Actually feeling the technique helps more, but is also more physically demanding. It's a tradeoff.

andersons said:
The higher your skill level, the more important it seems to be not to try to control your movements as you perform. The skill exists in subconscious brain representations, and trying to control the steps of the skill reliably degrades the outcome in experts.
Which raises interesting pedagogical questions about how to teach beginners. I'm most familiar with the debate in the aikido context, but I imagine it exists in other disciplines as well. One approach is to be very precise about hand position, foot position, stance, etc. The other approach is to simply model good technique, occasionally pointing out helpful technical details, and allow beginners to figure out for themselves how to move that way. The tradeoff seems to be between technical precision and interpretive freedom. Too much precision leads to rigidity, too much freedom leads to poor body mechanics.

Katherine
 

andersons

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kewms said:
Thank you. . .Which raises interesting pedagogical questions about how to teach beginners. . .One approach is to be very precise about hand position, foot position, stance, etc. The other approach is to simply model good technique, occasionally pointing out helpful technical details, and allow beginners to figure out for themselves how to move that way.
You're most welcome. I would probably favor a combination approach with emphasis on the latter at the beginning, mainly for motivation. I would imagine a practice session for beginners in which at the beginning they practice stance, hand position, etc. Then for the latter part they imitate the teacher. I would increase the technical training as their motivation and discipline allow.

A cool trick in instruction is to relate a movement to something the learner already knows how to do. For example, in juggling, one of the most common problems in learning is tossing the balls out in front of you rather than up. You can repeatedly tell learners to toss up, but of course they already know that and can't do it. After much practice, they will get it. But a quicker way is to use the avoidance motor patterns they already know. Put the learner in front of a wall and the motor system will automatically try to avoid the hands hitting the wall. The balls tosses will be constrained upward.

With piano, I try to encourage the curved hand and finger shape by holding a soft ball under the palm and telling them to keep their hands relaxed around the ball, touching it. Stuff like that. Works much better than barking "Curve those fingers!" for a half hour. :)

kewms said:
I was probably one of the least athletic members of my high school class. Now, [mumble] years later, I've got a heart rate of 65 and can toss people who outweigh me by a hundred pounds across the room. And this is with only 4-5 hours a week of consistent practice.
Now my question is, what made you devote a lot of practice to an athletic endeavor despite the discouragement of high school?

Thank goodness high school experience does not define one's whole life.
 

BigStory

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QUOTE: there were some exceptionally trained pianists from China, Japan and Korea. They were playing perfectly, no wrong note, perfect timing. ...But the winner ...simply feels the romantic soul of Chopin's music. He doesn't play notes. He plays stories, emotions, landscapes. END QUOTE

Do you think it is possible that the difference here is cultural, rather than skill or talent? Asian cultures are not normally very emotionally expressive and focus on what is "proper", in my experience. And Europe (I think) has a "Romantic" history" that may not have a a parallel in Asia. My knowledge is extremely limited, but it seems possible to me.

Regards,
Gordon
 
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