upside of failure, downside of success, and how to keep improving no matter what

The Upside of Failure, the Downside of Success, and How to Keep Improving No Matter What

Nobody likes to make mistakes. And outright failure feels even worse. Like someone has shoved their fist inside our chest, Mortal Kombat-style, and twisted everything up inside. So when we have the opportunity to spare our kids, students, or colleagues this pain that we know only too well, it’s kind of a no-brainer, right? Whether it’s correcting their homework to make sure they get A’s, or telling them exactly what fingering to use to solve a tricky shift, it’s tempting to leverage...


What Comes First the Notes or the Music? A Chicken/Egg Problem for the Practice Room.

What Comes First - the Notes or the Music? A Chicken/Egg Problem in the Practice Room.

Once upon a time, my teacher put a few strips of colored tape on the fingerboard of my little 1/16th sized violin. A well-intentioned move, but one which led to some mother-son conflict in the ensuing week of practice. My mom noticed that I kept putting my finger slightly off the line of tape. My mom got increasingly frustrated, insisting that I put my finger ON THE TAPE. But, stubborn little kid I was, apparently I didn’t budge, saying that it wasn’t the right place. So, my mom asked my...


Why Do We Have to Remain Still When Doing Mental Imagery?

Dynamic Imagery: A More Effective Way to Do Mental Rehearsal?

When you think of mental imagery or visualization, do you think of a quiet, relaxed, meditative activity? Or something more akin to playing air guitar? Most studies of mental imagery go to great lengths to ensure that participants remain very still while engaging in visualization. That way, it’s easier to link any performance enhancements to the use of imagery, and not muscle movement. This may be important for conducting good research, but when it comes to using imagery outside the lab,...


How Do Experts Get Even Better? 5 Differences Between the Practice of Expert and Intermediate Athletes.

How Do Experts Get Even Better? 5 Lessons From the Practice of Expert and Intermediate Athletes.

When I was in graduate school, my next door neighbor was a well-known concert artist. Occasionally, I’d hear them practicing through the wall. It was interesting to see how they practiced – what they spent time on, how they approached trouble spots, etc. At the time, I thought my problem was that I didn’t practice enough. And while that was part of it, I’d also never heard of “deliberate practice.” I had no idea what productive practice looked like. And the notion that practicing...


degrees of freedom problem

The Degrees of Freedom Problem (and Why a Good Teacher Is Worth Their Weight in Gold)

At first glance, throwing a crumpled up ball of paper into a trash can seems like a pretty simple task. Hold with fingers, and flick forward with wrist and elbow. How hard can that be? But when you get serious about developing your trashketball skills, it becomes apparent that the throw is not so simple. Unlike, say, a trashketball-playing robot with fixed joints that is perfectly calibrated to make a basket by moving in exactly the same way every time, our joints and limbs are flexible and can...