Exponential Learning and Peak Performance

I feel a little uncomfortable using my own son as an example today. However, this is incredibly important so I hope you and he will forgive me. You’ll see how this ties into being able to learn and develop effectively – yes, exponentially - whether it is singing or something else. This is crucial if we want to become more confident and able to perform under pressure. Ultimately, it really is about training ourselves to achieve great things – including healing and learning effectively – to create success and happiness in our lives.

My youngest kid loves to play baseball. His baseball season just started and at 11 he is the youngest kid playing with 12, 13 and soon to be 14 year olds. Nevertheless, he was selected to be the starting pitcher for the very first game of the season. (For you who don’t know baseball, the “pitcher” is the person who throws the ball that the batter of the opposing team tries to hit. If the pitcher misses the target 4 times – known as throwing a “ball” - the batter automatically walks to first base. If the pitcher throws 3 strikes the batter is out. )

Now, what I’d like you to do is imagine this as if it was your performance. Maybe your performance is a singing performance. The moment has come. All eyes are on you. You want to show them you’re good. What do you need to do to succeed?

So what do you think my son does?

First throw is a ball = a miss.
Second attempt: Another ball
Third attempt: Ball
Fourth: Ball

Yup, 4 misses in a row and the first batter walks to first base.

So now, imagine this is you. You’re standing there alone. You have no one to talk to. Everyone is watching and everything is going wrong.

What would you do?

Have you ever felt frustration set in when things aren’t going well in life? Have you ever felt confidence crumble when you don’t do well? How would you feel and what would you do as a parent when your 11 year old is failing amongst 13 year olds?

Now, I’ve seen a lot of kid’s games. I am an eternal student of human behavior, and being a coach in the areas of human performance I am fascinated by these situations.

So before I share what happens to my son, let me tell you about another kid. Let’s call him John. We see John often. He has great athletic ability. He experiences situations when things aren’t going well very often. And what happens is always very predictable.

Let’s take when John stepped up to bat in this game as an example.

On his first attempt he swings and misses the ball. He shakes his head and stomps his foot in frustration and disbelief. Second pitch and this time John doesn’t swing. He let’s it go, believing it’s going to be a ball. However, the umpire calls it a strike.

John flails his arms in utter disbelief towards the umpire. Keeps shaking his head as he gets in stance for the third attempt. Third attempt and he swings for the fences and misses the ball by a mile. A minor tantrum ensues as he slams his bat into the ground, rushes to the dugout and violently throws his helmet into the fence.

For the rest of the game he never hits even once. With every miss, he gets more and more miserable and his life spirals out of control.

Here’s a kid who has never learned how to find inner strength when things aren’t going well. He makes such a big deal out of a “miss” that his exceptional fear of missing produces more misses. As long as this pattern continues, he will never succeed at anything in life. You cannot succeed at anything unless you learn how to learn from challenges and obstacles. Anyone can be good on a good day. Being resourceful and finding inner strength when things don’t go well is an advanced developed skill.

Not surprisingly John's dad is known for his own tantrums, and for casting blame on others such as umpires when things don’t go well.

As you can imagine by now, my son reacts very differently. Yes, we can be frustrated, sad and angry. There is nothing wrong with experiencing these emotions. The question is what we do when we experience them.

So what does he do? The second batter get’s ready and my son throws... Strike one. Strike two. Strike three. Three strikes in a row, and from there on has a great game.

Real success comes from learning to be resourceful and finding solutions when things don't go well. Real success in not about avoiding to fall down. It is about being able to bounce back up when you fall down.

Now, my son has already earned a reputation for being able to handle so-called pressure situations exceptionally well. Numerous times has he come trough when it is needed the most.

What I wish is that people would understand that this is a developed skill. Being confident is a developed skill. Being able to perform at your peak when it matters the most is a developed skill. Being able to learn effectively is a developed skill. I wish John some day learns that his failures are very predictable because that is the way he has trained.

In the next post I will address specific ways to train for success and why this ties into exponential learning, but let’s start with the most fundamental.

In our family and in my coaching there is no such thing as "missing". It is spelled l-e-a-r-n-i-n-g.

There is no such thing as failing. It is spelled l-e-a-r-n-i-n-g.

Unfortunately, people who have only engaged in singing training using traditional scales have never truly experienced this. Many have still after decades of training never learned to access the muscles that create seamless range because they have always been taught to avoid the “break”. They have always believed that missing a note is something that must be avoided, and therefore the training inadvertently creates restrictions and fear-based “control seeking”, rather than releasing the true freedom that mesmerizes an audience.

In part 2 we’ll continue with this. In the meantime I encourage you to ponder this. Do you become better or worse when things aren’t going well? Do you become stronger or weaker? What is success and what is failure? What do you do when you become sad, frustrated or angry? What could make you experience greater success in your singing?

I feel a little uncomfortable using my own son as an example today. However, this is incredibly important so I hope you and he will forgive me. You’ll see how this ties into being able to learn and develop effectively – yes, exponentially – whether it is singing or something else.  This is crucial if we want to become more confident and able to perform under pressure. Ultimately, it really is about training ourselves to achieve great things – including healing and learning effectively – to create success and happiness in our lives.

  • BARBARA MATSON says:

    My oh my I could have really used this last week. To know that confidence is a learned and practiced skill. I would have gone ahead and sung dispite the glitch I was feeling on my high notes. I’m now practicing away those self doubts with perseverence.

  • Martha Weatheell says:

    Having just had one of those “success” moments I feel compelled to talk about it. This past Sunday I sang my first solo in church. My dear friend who is the pianist there has been helping me prepare for that moment. I have been working on this song for a couple of months and was singing with a karaoke version I found on the Internet.

    I followed my friends advice and invited my neighbors over to hear me rehearse in front of them. Then my friend and I went early the Sunday before I was to perform and I rehearsed in the space I would be singing before anyone arrived.

    When my performance Sunday arrived I asked God to be there with me and to keep me calm. He didn’t let me down. I did not want to be nervous and so whenever I felt the least bit of nervous that morning I simply told myself to be calm.

    I had invited friends of mine to come and hear me perform and they showed up. I had the opportunity to speak to them prior to the service and my performance. I felt confident and self-assured.

    When I got up to perform I could not have asked for more! I came in on the exact right moment and never missed a beat!

    So thank you Per for all you do to help us achieve the blessing I had on Sunday.

  • Maria N. says:

    Thanks, Per, for posting this. It’s an extremely good issue to ponder. I play ping-pong, and I get most frustrated when I give a point away, so to speak. When I work with a coach, he focuses me…so when I miss a shot, I focus on the next shot, and if I miss that one, I focus on the next one. He leaves me no time to get angry or frustrated. The same goes for singing. If, for example, I forget words when I’m performing, it’s usually because I’m not focused; so instead of allowing myself to get embarrassed, I re-focus on what I’m trying to say with the song. In terms of life’s challenges in general, that’s a tougher nut to crack, because the choices aren’t always so clear cut or apparent. Sometimes you lack a point of focus. I’ll be interested in what others have to say and what your next post presents!

  • Kathleen says:

    Very good words. Useful for all areas of life….Thank you!

  • carol says:

    teach me how to really sing, so I get a message across!!

  • Jean Gordon says:

    Hi Per
    Thank you for this enlightening and marvelous issue! I hope your son realizes what a great teacher and example he has in you! I hope he keeps remembering you are his role model, and goes through life being calm so that in any situation he can come out on top! Keep on being a great dad, coach, and teacher!

    Love,
    Jean

  • AMANDA MOORE says:

    I AM GRATEFUL FOR ALL THIS GREAT ADVICE. THANK YOU PER AND ALL THE OTHER PPL SHARING THEIR EXPERIENCES. IT IS VERY HELPFUL.

  • Leo Smith says:

    Hey Per,

    Great article so far. I’m always amazed at how much you offer besides simple technical work. So few teachers touch on this stuff, and yet the mentality aspect is CRUCIAL TO EVERYTHING!!

    I was definitely “John,” growing up. If only I had met a teacher like you back then!

  • Ellis Phillips says:

    Thank you, Per; for what you do and how you do it. I like your approach to the whole person, not just the mechanics of singing. I am 70 years old and have been singing Southern Gospel music all my life in solos, duets, quartets and choirs. My latest venture was for 7 years with a quartet called Evidence. My “failure” and disappointment came from within the group when three of them decided that it was time for me to leave the group, and that was it. That hurt me very much, but I decided to continue to sing and using your program, better my singing. I am doing more of my solo work now and I am using your technics and education re: strength, power, range, and relaxation. Thank you very much. I am very much at home with my audience because of the subject matter of my songs, (Jesus). If you want, I would very much like to share a couple of my cd’s with you even though I know you are very busy. Just let me know if that is something you would like.

  • I use a process called talknshare. When a feeling comes up for you, simply admit it. It then goes agway and you are free to be yourself. Often there are many feelings to be admitted and released. Sounds incredibly simple and obvious yet we don’t do it.

  • Vichelle says:

    A very good message & encouraging. Teaches us not to give up but keep on learning without fail. When circumstances comes to our life, we need to be calm to handle the situation rather than getting angry & frustrated. It is not only affect ourselves, but it affects the people around us.

    So keep calm & keep learning.

  • dan says:

    Authors say that “writing is easy. All you do is sit down at a keyboard and open a vein.”

    I say singing is easy: all you do is stand up in front of a group of people, hack away at your ribs with a machete until your heart is exposed, then rip it out, and while it’s still beating, offer it to your audience.

    I have yet to sing solo in front of an audience (just a few impromptu quartets and church choirs). But if I made a big mistake, I think I would cringe until I turned inside out. But then I’ll remember what you said about learning and try to chalk it up to experience and continue on.

  • marcia says:

    Some people are natural born singers….born with the gift of singing. Per Bristow, as soon as I’m able, I would like to purchase these incredible singing tools wich may just put me on the path to sing like I was honestly meant to sing. Thanks Per Bristow, terrific post!

  • Max Beason says:

    Per, thank you for your wonderful insight of human nature!
    Your letters are always a great encouragement. I have sung in high school groups and started singing solos as a high school junior. So, with many varied interuptions since am now singing in our church choir and occasionally a duet or solo. I still have much to study in your singing course I bought and am looking forward to learning better and new techniques. I doubt that I am the oldest student of yours, but at nearly 80 years of age I think I might be a contender.

  • Your article illustrating what “tantrums” are all about is very important and none of us are immune to some form of that behaviour at one time or another, even when we teach this material. Why? Because we are human. We need to be reminded of this regularly, especially when we are over-achievers who expect super-human performances from ourselves (or have great expectations placed on us by others). Thanks, Per, as always, great advice and the personal example makes it all the more powerful.

  • Cande Copeland says:

    I love your confidence writings. I condense and re-word to pass along to our Barbershop chorus getting ready to go to regional competition. This is a big deal for our members and I feel that my being able to pass along what I learn from this course (more than just improving my voice) has helped my little chorus a lot! Thanks, Per. Going to listen to the men’s BBS chorus you mentioned in another msg.

  • April says:

    Yes, you’re right! The confidence is a special skill, which can be learned and practiced all by oursleves. And disfortune is always on the way of life. What I should do is to face up with it bravely and to conquer it.

  • :Lenora says:

    Hi Per,
    I’m from a school counselor’s background and I totally agree with the way you spell failure…l e a r n i n g. I wish more teachers, parents and other caring people knew how to use this approach when dealing with children. Thanks for this article!

  • Kees Stikkers says:

    You are absolutely right. We can learn from every experience. Life is the ultimate school and we are pupils. All of us.

  • Oskar Einarsson says:

    Thanks Per for pointing out to me that self confidence and self support are learned skills and how challenging and exciting it is to keep letting go the restrictions and fear-based “control seeking” in my singing and other arias of my life. It has always been difficult for me to be spontaneous and its so great to feel that this has started to change! I like that you use this story of your boy´s challenging task to illustrate this because when I am scolding or supporting myself I always feel that I am addressing a little boy inside me 🙂

  • Beverly says:

    our church motto is “if we do our best, God will do the rest. When I start to sing, I “remind” the Lord that I have done my best and he will have to do the rest. I had a sore throat and cough for almost a week and when the time came to sing with the choir, my voice was right where it needed to be.

    I find that I learn much more from my failures where I can see what I need to change than I do from my successes, which can “just happen”.

  • Hugh Dickie says:

    I have always believed that what we feel on the inside is what we experience on the outside. This has become so true as I have worked with your course for the last year and a half and taken my tenor voice to a new level. My singing confidence has soared and my confidence in other areas has also increased big time.

    If each time something goes wrong, we pause for a moment and ask ourselves “how did I help create this”, and then find away to to change our actions, we can make ourselves and the world around us a much better place.

    Congratulation Per as you change the world, one person at a time.

  • Hi Per, you have such a gift for expressing complex issues in a direct, kind and clear fashion. I have been singing professionally for almost 30 yrs in Europe, China and the USA and working with many singers in Master Classes. Your advice is superb. Thank you for your generosity in constantly sharing your gifts.

  • Elizabeth says:

    Thank you so much for this article. It reveals a life skill

  • Josée says:

    Recently, I read this answer from Edison to a guy that asked him if he did not feel discouraged after so many failures in his researches:” failures?no,I’ve learned hundreds of ways of not doing them!”

  • Mikejack says:

    Thanks Per,great analogy. I sang at a wedding, halfway through, the mike and audio system went silent. I felt like I would have evaporated, but I pressed on and completed. Surprisingly I got a lot of compliments later that evening. A quote once said “Every Set-back is, A set-up, to Come-back” Some people say there is no difference between “Finish” and “Complete”, but there is, I chose the right song so I was able to complete, if I had chosen the wrong song I would have been “Finished”

  • Laura says:

    Thank you Per. What perfect timing to read this. I shall take this and experiment with it in every area of my life. My motto shall be, ” Everything is given as an opportunity to learn and grow.” God bless you.

  • Zora says:

    yep….I think it’s safe to say that throwing a fit over anything usually doesn’t solve the problem. All it does is indulge the ego. And…make the issue even more complicated. A mistake is a “miss-take”….meaning, we are meant to keep on trying again. I guess that’s why in the movie business they call it “take one; take two…” etc….I just always remember that the great masters and teachers and mentors of this world agree that they’ve all failed so many times they couldn’t count them, before finding that sweet spot of sure knowledge and mastery. 🙂

  • jayasree says:

    It is interesting and inspiring as I cannot sing with freedom. I have been receiving your emails s but do not know how to take the next step of getting the videos . If you please send the free video through email then I might try to follow the instructions and try to sing. I am a music teacher but I know so little about music that I feel so frustrated some times.

  • Sonda says:

    Thanks Per, for being such a great Coach! Great article I look forward to each one, they are all full of insight and help.

  • Don Teske says:

    I would get so frustrated with my self that I couldn’t do a thing.
    My throat would burn my jaw would hurt my voice would crack..
    I would tell my self that I might as well give it up,but I loved music so much that this thought didn’t fly I joined a Barbershop chorus several years a go to see if this would help
    me get over being scared,but every time the directer would come by to listen while we were singing I’d freeze up and couldn’t sing a note. Even today I can’t sing in a quartet,I go flat .I’m getting better in the chorus though.I do realize that
    being confident and being able to learn is a developed skill
    It’s a l-e-a-r-n-i-n-g process. Thank you very much Per.

  • Steve says:

    A good reminder of principles and inner strength that have been around for a long time and captured perfectly in Rudyard Kipling’s “If”. Look forward to the next installment!

  • Richard says:

    What perfect timing to receive such a positive message towards feelings of disappointment, frustration, sadness and getting angry. Nothing is wrong with experiencing these emotions. What did I do when I found myself in an upsetting band situation. I did not apply the L-e-a-r-n-i-n-g skill. I replayed the video of disappointment, frustration, sadness and anger for several months stifling any chances of growing musically and improving vocally. “L-e-a-r-n-i-n-g”, a life’s skill acquired years ago, but was too upset to apply. Turning negative energy to positive takes discipline and a friendly nudge from Per. Thanks Per

  • David Jones says:

    At the level I sing at, it is necessary to perform almost flawlessly. A baseball batter only has to bat good 30% of the time and he’s lauded as a 300 hitter. That won’t do in professional performing. Practice, practice practice is my key. And I always strive for the BEST I can be, not just playing the job. You never know who’s listening.

  • Natan says:

    Natan

    It is a great point to be successful in life.
    Many times when things go bad we want this situation to pass quickly but the question is what do we learn from that ? and what did I do to succumb it?.
    I have a son who takes swimming since he was a child, and during this time he has been very successful, winning Important competitions at a very high level but during the last year his results are changing like they used to be and during this We talk to him many times about what he is L-e-a-r-n-i-n-g, and It takes time to develop this skill but being able to learn effectively will be the most powerful and strong skill to succeed in life.
    Thank you for this excellent article. I am 110% sure failing is = L-E-A-R-N-I-N-G.

  • Gillian says:

    thank you so much for the lessons. I was worried that for my 5th grade year i wouldn’t make the talent show and i did thanks to you! Thank you for believing in everybody! 🙂

  • Philomena Nally says:

    Yes, failing = learning! I gave a concert last Friday and I felt very confidet! I sang for one and a half hours ( 15 min. interval). I could never have done this 2 years ago! Why? Because I would have lost it somewhere, and as a result felt unconfident about my performance. I could even tell by the audience they were enjoying it! Why? Becaues the never took their eyes off me, and my CD sale went very well!
    I did not judge anybody like I would have done in the past! The loved me and I loved them! W0W It’s so empowering!Thanks Per

  • Inanna Baskan says:

    I will buy your lessons,using Pay Pal. I can’t use a credit card. You would get your money, however.

  • Julie says:

    I was very close to somone who told to and helped me to learn from difficulties. When I have difficulties now I ask for help. I was accepted into a junior college “Applied Music” program, recently. My biggest issue seems to be “breath support.” An accompanist reminds me I am able to to sing the phrase am working on without sneaking a breath. I would still like to study under Per.

  • ronit horvitz says:

    I love your letters, you are inspiring me. Thank you.

  • Barbara says:

    accidently I came on this ‘singing with freedom-side’. I was a little curious. It is not my goal to become a great Singer or Performer. But to sing with freedom is a beautiful thing, because it has always to do with my heart. When things aren’t going well, -well,-well ,it is not funny. !
    What is success? When I can feel my heart telling me something.
    and failure? When I allow myself to trift away to far.
    When I become sad , I am a little bit happy, because than I can feel my heart.
    When I am frustrated or angry , after the first explotion I have to think about what causes this reaction.

  • First of all, Thank you Per (Coach) for taking the time to share your knowledge and thoughts with us. I needed this reminder today. Having a few financial difficulties, I found myself this week falling prey to the other than positive thoughts. My friends, pride me of how strong and positive I am considering my situation (s). I have a system I use when situations in life challenges me I share with those in my circle of life. However, this week I realized I was losing the battle to apply my techniques of being positive to my own life. So, your message put my positive thinking back to balance. I replaced the phrase problems of life with Mathematical Situations of Life – that are meant to challenge the things I have learned. For instance ( how can one claim to have peace in life if situation requiring one to use peace did not show up in our lives from time to time. In math the more you challenge your self the faster you start to calculate until eventually you are able to calculate in your head and not on paper. Same with life the more situations ( I view as home work of life) you solve involving patience the closer you get to mastering having patience in your life, patience then becomes Second Nature. So problems, as most view as negative situations, I am now able to view as positive. Think about it, solving a situation equals reaching a goal, obtaining knowledge, wisdom and growth in life. Thanks Per for sharing and helping me for a change and remember how I stay positive. 4/19/13

  • Mark says:

    Love the story, but it hearkens back to my own horrid memories of Little League baseball. Back then (early ’70’s), shame & ridicule from the coach, fellow teammates, and from the stands for missing swings, walking a player, or missing a throw or a catch was the norm. Hence the reason I elected not to sign my own sons up for any form of organized youth sports; and neither one (who are now 18 & 23) holds any regret for that decision.

  • […] have come to believe that you are the one who is supposed to do well in these situations. And yet, unlike John that I wrote about in the previous article, he tries to be a good role model and support his […]

  • Liz says:

    Thankyou for including me even though i haven’t signed up for anything (yet)

  • diana wang says:

    i want to improve myself by learning your singing method

  • Rosie Gant says:

    At 85 I just wanted to be able to sing and that singing will not be running out of breath, I know there must be a breathing technic (sp). Just to learn to sing for myself and for the one next to me. Rosie Gant

  • Jane Smith says:

    Thank you for developing such a thorough and accessible program. I am 67 and conducted choirs all my teaching life and only really sung myself while studying at Sydney Con as a student. Class room teaching seemed to damage my capacity to sing reliably and so I gave up basically particularly after a couple of very embarrassing public performances. I now believe this program may help me solve the problems that occurred through ignorance in my earlier years. I want to succeed and gain the freedom to sing and ultimately sing with deep musicality.

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