Exponential Learning and Peak Performance

BY Per Bristow

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.

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