Practicing a skill and the path of Mastery

I wrote a letter to my mentors DJ Fuji and Achilles recently. I started noticing a pattern of failure amongst the guys who are studying pickup. Despite their efforts, they are not improving, or improving very slowly.

I started to realize that when I first started this journey in game in 2007, I already had the social skills I needed. I built these skills through business. Presentation, attire, conversational skills. Although I was oblivious to girls, I was able to read basic social cues.

DJ Fuji, however, literally came from scratch. From my observations in field, the guys who are naturally timid or shy, have to pack in a large amount of “social experience” in a compressed frame of time. Because of this, simple mediocre effort on their part just doesn’t work. Simply going to a bootcamp for “entertainment” doesn’t get lasting results.

So as I am helping other guys now, I at one point became frustrated at the lack of progress these other guys were having. I was looking to build an academy of X-men, all with superpowers. Were we still X-men, each with our own unique abilities and heroic characteristics, or were we simply, average, frustrated chumps? (AFCs)

Xmen_compred to PUAs

In the book “Influencer“, I found some answers to how people develop genuine mastery of skills. The author discusses the idea of DELIBERATE PRACTICE. Here’s a section on this theory:

Let’s return to a point we made earlier. Not all practice is good practice. That’s why many of the tasks we perform at work and at home suffer from “arrested development.” With simple tasks such as typing, driving, golf, and tennis, we reach our highest level of proficiency after about 50 hours of practice; then our performance skills become automated. We’re able to execute them smoothly and with minimal effort, but further development stops. We assume we’ve reached our highest performance level and don’t think to learn new and better methods.

With some tasks, we stop short of our highest level of proficiency on purpose. The calculus we perform in our heads suggest that the added effort it’ll take to find and learn something new will probably yield a diminishing marginal return, so we stop learning. In instance, we learn how to make use of a word processor or web server by mastering the most common moves, but we never learn many of the additional features that would dramatically improve our ability.

This section rings true, because most people in their professions plateau pretty quickly. They get comfortable. In working with lawyers, contractors, real estate agents, even “trained” physical therapists and doctors, I find that 80% are just following the routine. For example, 10 out of 10 of they physical therapists told me to get surgery or to get braces when my repetitive stress injury kicked in while working at Google. These assholes didn’t know anything about what they were doing. The whole RSI community believed in pain killers and surgery.

The reality came after much research, and much thanks to the Trigger Point Therapy Workbook by Clair Davies. This guy saved my life, literally. In his own words:

I was sixty years old when, at the height of my success in a  business I’d pursued for almost four decades, I decided to dump it all and start at the bottom in a completely new field…

Piano rebuilding had been my trade and it has been a good one. My income had exceeded one hundred thousand dollars in some years; as a massage therapist, I knew I’d be lucky to make twenty thousand…. What was my motive for making such as wrenching change? In a word, the motive was pain. Through a difficult personal struggle with pain, I believed I had learned something worth sharing wit the world…

The misdiagnosis of pain is the most important issue… referred pain from trigger points mimics the symptoms of a very long list of common maladies; but physicians, in weighing all the possible causes for a given condition, have rarely even conceived of there being a myofascial source…

I saw the same pain patterns in the clinic that I had seen with my fellow students: lots of back trouble, plus a broad selection of another kind of pain you could think of…. they’d tried yoga, magnets, pain diets, acupuncture… many guessed they were just getting arthritis and so were habitually popping pills. They felt older than their years,handicapped by pain. They felt their careers in danger. Depression due to constant pain was a prevailing theme…

Another common theme… was numbness and pain in the hands and fingers. I began to get the impression that the computer keyboard was crippling the country…. while many clients feared they had carpal tunnel syndrome or had even been given the diagnosis, massage of trigger points in the forearms, shoulder, and neck always took the pain and numbness away. This outcome was usually a surprise to the client. It soon ceased to be a surprised to me. Good results were so consistent with “carpal tunnel” symptoms that I began to wonder whether true carpal tunnel syndrome really existed.

A long story short, the large medical community was indoctrinated with expensive, ineffective treatments to muscle pain. When in fact, the solution was a proper understanding of referring muscle fibers. That is, the pain in your hands may have originated from your scalenes (neck area). Once I understood this concept, I was able to fine-tune the source of the pain with massage by a tennis ball, and reduce 90% of my pain. Along with proper weight training, the pain has mostly gone away, only coming back if I am overworking at the keyboard.

My point in this story is that the mainstream, even doctors, are often mistaken. People who truly pursue a skill to mastery are rare. That’s why they are masters. They don’t settle for just the status quo.

Anyway, Influencer continues:

The same pattern of arresting our development applied over an entire career yields fairly unsatisfactory results. For example, most professionals progress until they reach an “acceptable” level, and then they plateau. Software engineers, for instance, usually reach their peak performance somewhere around five years after entering the workforce. Beyond this level of mediocrity, further improvements are not correlated to years of work in the field.

So what does create improvement? According to Dr. Anders Ericsson… improvement is related to not just practice, but to a particular kind of practice – something Ericsson called deliberate practice. Ericsson has found that no matter the field of expertise, when it comes to elite status, there is no correlation whatsoever between time in the profession and performance levels.

Demand full attention for brief intervals

Deliberate practice requires complete attention. Deliberate practice doesn’t allow for daydreaming, functioning on autopilot, or only partially putting one’s mind into the routine. It requires steely-eyed concentration as student watch exactly what there’ doing, what is working, what isn’t, and why.

This ability to concentrate is often viewed by students as their most difficult challenge, enough so that elite musicians and athletes argue that maintaining their concentration is usually the limiting factor to deliberate practice. Most can maintain a heightened level of concentration for only an hour straight, usually during the morning when their mindsare fresh. Across a wide range of disciplines, the total daily practice time of elite performers rarely exceeds five hours a day, and this only if students take naps and sleep longer than normal.

Provide immediate feedback against a clear standard

For example, serious chess players spend about four hours a day comparing their play to the published play of the world’s best players. They make their best move, and then compare it to the move the expert made. When their move is different from the master’s, they pause to determine what the expert saw and they missed. As a result of comparing themselves to the best, students improve their skills much faster than they would otherwise. This immediate feedback, coupled with complete concentration, accelerates learning.

Break Mastery into small goals.

Let’s add another dimension to deliberate practice…

as part of this focus on specific levels of achievement, top performers set their goals to improve behaviors or processes rather than outcomes.

Process over Outcome

For instance, top volleyball performers set process goals aimed at the set, the dig, the block, and so on. Mediocreperformers set outcome goals such as winning so many points or garnering applause.

In basketball, players who routinely hit 70 percent or more of their free throws tend to practice differently from those who hit 55 percent or less. How?

Better shooters set technique-oriented gaols such has, “keep the elbow in,” or, “follow through.” Players who shoot 55 percent and under tend to think more about results-oriented goals such as, “this time I’m going to make ten in a row”

All these 3 components go into the “deliberate practice” part of mastering a skill. Every master PUA I know and have witnessed in person learn via DELIBERATE PRACTICE. The biggest mistakes I see newbies make are:

  1. A failure to make a full commitment to learning the basic social skills and game.
  2. A failure to make specific, deliberate practice when “going out”. Having no clear goals of going out and what type of skill they are practicing,
  3. A failure to add value outside of pickup, being normal and generally a nice person to be around,
  4. A failure to ask for feedback when needed, and make the necessary changes to test different theories of what works for him.
  5. A wrong way of re-framing “failure” as a learning process and not taking rejections personally. Separating the emotional from the logical brain. In pursuing pickup as an art form, you are acknowledging that there is a methodical, scientific approach to this. Therefore, do not take ANY form of rejection personally. Ever.

Furthermore, the author discusses how to handle blowouts:

Failure / blow outs

This difference in focus is also borne out when players blow it. Researchers stopped players who missed two free throws in a row and asked them to explain their failure. Master shooters were able to cite the specific technique they got wrong. (“I  didn’t keep my elbow in.”) Poorer shooters offered vague explanations such as, “I lost concentration.”

To encourage people to attempt something they fear, you must provide rapid positive feedback that builds self-confidence. You achieve this by providing short-term, specific, easy, and low-stakes goals that specify the exact steps a person should take:

  • Take complex tasks and make them simple
  • Long tasks and make them short
  • Vague tasks and make them specific
  • High stakes tasks and make them risk free
  • Prepare for setbacks; Built In Resilience. This capacity to tell ourselves the right story about problems and setbacks is particularly important when we’re already betting against ourselves.

This clip from “failed pick up lines” may show you that rejection doesn’t matter:

The next time you’re learning pickup or going out to practice. Turn off the noise. Focus on what you’re there for, and take proper note to ensure process over outcome. Make sure you’re following a methodical way of testing the multi-schools of pick up theory, and finding out what WORKS for you. Once you taste this level of success, you’ll never want to go back.