Observation vs judgement

Observation vs judgement | www.flamencobites.com

I’m inspired to write this post today partly as a reminder to myself but also to anyone who may be challenging themselves with learning a new skill. Here we talk about everything in relation to flamenco but it could be in reference to anything you want to learn.

First a little background..

Today I had my second lesson with my new bata de cola (the blue one in the photo above). I had played with a (different) bata a little earlier this year but not very much to really count for anything that resembles experience. 

Today we also attempted to use the manton de manila and the bata together. 

Oooh the frustration and the horror.

I did not feel ready, I wanted more time to get to know my bata de cola better. I came out of class just thinking I had faffed around (technical term) for 2 hours and not really learnt anything apart from the fact that I realised even more that learning to coordinate two such demanding elements is going to be my everest. 

Then I came home and started working on the course materials we are sending out to our new students and I came across this sentence.

“Try not to make any judgements about what you are doing, just observe and notice how you change each time you practice.” 

I wrote this in the introduction to the first class. Don’t judge just observe. 

I was judging myself all over the place today and it didn’t do me any favours. I came home feeling crappy when I should have just tried to notice where I was struggling so I could come back to it the next time I practice. 

What would I have felt like if I just let myself observe my struggle? 

Here are two excerpts I’d like to share from Daniel Coyle’s “The Little Book of Talent”

Most of us instinctively avoid struggle, because it’s uncomfortable. It feels like failure. However, when it comes to developing your talent, struggle isn’t an option—it’s a biological necessity. This might sound strange, but it’s the way evolution has built us. The struggle and frustration you feel at the edges of your abilities—that uncomfortable burn of “almost, almost”—is the sensation of constructing new neural connections, a phenomenon that the UCLA psychologist Robert Bjork calls “desirable difficulty.” Your brain works just like your muscles: no pain, no gain.
— Excerpt From: Daniel Coyle. “The Little Book of Talent.”

By judging myself I chose to avoid my struggle. All I could see and feel was the anger of frustration of my perceived failure.

People who pay deeper attention to an error learn significantly more than those who ignore it
Develop the habit of attending to your errors right away. Don’t wince, don’t close your eyes; look straight at them and see what really happened, and ask yourself what you can do next to improve. Take mistakes seriously, but never personally.
— Excerpt From: Daniel Coyle. “The Little Book of Talent.”

"Take mistakes seriously, but never personally."

If I could put fireworks next to that sentence so you (and I) don't miss it I would.

Understanding how to learn is something of a mystery to most of us. We put immense pressure on ourselves, we might feel the stress and exasperation of our teachers or coaches (I drive José crazy multiple times a week), we might find it so overwhelming that we give up way to early. But if we can understand that learning a new skill is an exercise in patience and slow, steady determination then perhaps we won’t give up on ourselves so quickly.

I recommend reading Daniel Coyle’s book the ‘The Talent Code’ if you are interested in learning more about how to learn and practice.

To finish here is a little video I shot of me playing with my new bata de cola. This was today before class. Disclaimer: this is not good bata technique - this is second day technique. I’m going to try to track my progress (on video) with the bata and see how my skills change over the coming months. If you're interested I'll share my progress here.

I am not qualified to give any advice or tutorials for the bata but I will pass on José’s biggest piece of advice from the last two days.

When you are working with any element like the bata de cola, manton de manila, abanico or castañuelas (my other everest) you can not become angry at what ever it is you are trying to dance with. As soon as you become angry, you lose. 

Take some time this week to notice where you are with your practice and make a mental note. And remember it has no significance other than you are giving yourself more information to work with the next time you're in the studio.