Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Mental anguish

Have you taught yourself to ride a bicycle lately?  Tie your shoes?  Worked to improve your penmanship?

Nor have I. 

But I did receive an electronic drum set for Christmas, and it's much the same experience.  My brain (and I suspect yours as well), on trying to learn a new coordination, simply hurts.  There's a wall, a humming, a pressure, a blocking obstacle, an insidiously spawned anxiety attack there that is just this side of physical when I try to enforce a new coordination upon it.  I can only battle it for a few minutes before I have to get up and walk away.

I encounter this when I make a change to my golf swing, when I try to learn a new song on the guitar, or when I sit down to develop the logic and flow of a customer presentation.   There is an order to be investigated, there is a sequence to be memorized, and a tempo to be met.  It takes repeated practice for it to stick.

This is mental work.  Thinking is hard. But this goes beyond problem-solving and reasoning; here we're doing something physical, ingraining a coordination so we can ride without the training wheels, read and write without spelling each letter of each word, and in the case of drumming, run through a pattern of 1-y-and-a, 2-y-and-a without counting it out. 

I draw different insights than, say, Destin and his backward bike, but I bet the mental anguish was the same.  Watch his struggles here:

The breakthroughs, though, are worth the sacrifice.  After much effort, the passive coordination kicks in and you're able to simply do things, and it's on to the next challenge. 

Over the next week I'll be spending a lot of time in a hotel room in Las Vegas on business.  I'm not one for gambling, so after a long day of work and thinking and smiling and trying to remember people's names, I'm looking forward to getting back to my room with a pair of sticks and a practice pad to blow off steam with some coordination integration focused execution and speed on a two stroke roll, a para-diddle, and a five stroke roll:

By the way: the exceedingly slow, mechanical strikes he begins with are very important; they tell the muscles what to do.  Your brain automatically absorbs the slow and key coordinations through the full path of the drumstick.  I played along with this one and was almost able to keep up to the height of his speed.  I couldn't believe it.  And no, Yoda, I did not fail.

Getting a little fancier, here's a drummer who'd been at it for ten years before he really broke down the para diddle rudiment and then knocked it out of the park.  It only took him a few months of steady practice. 

Wish me luck.

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