Brainjo Bite: How To End Frustration For Good

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All right. Welcome to another Brainjo Bite. So there is a saying in martial arts that a black belt is just a white belt who never quit. And that’s essentially another way of saying that becoming really good at something is directly correlated to the effort that we put in just like with music, the difference between a beginner and an expert isn’t determined by talent, but rather by having a tried and true learning path, and then being persistent, continuing to move forward, making step-by-step incremental progress and not giving up in the face of obstacles.

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And what is it that causes most people to give up in the face of obstacles? Frustration. And the difference between someone who persists and someone who gives up isn’t that it’s smooth sailing all the way for one and one obstacle after another for the other, the path is pretty much the same for all of us.

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Just like the path for learning to talk and learning to walk was pretty much the same for all of us, pretty much the same for every child and includes the exact same set of obstacles and challenges and struggles that must be overcome in the end though, virtually every child makes it through because they continue to persist. And it’s the same with learning to play music. We will all have to confront the same obstacles and challenges and struggles in order to acquire the necessary knowledge and skills. Yet two people can encounter the same exact obstacles face the exact same exact struggles. And whereas one will continue to persist on until that obstacles conquered. The other may give up in frustration. So what’s the difference in those two cases? What’s the difference in the case of the player who persists and the one who gives up in frustration and defeat, because outwardly again, everything is the same, same challenges and struggles is what’s happening in between the ears.

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That’s making all the difference. And specifically it’s about the stories. Each of those players is telling himself or herself about what’s happening. So the secret to continuing to persist, the reason one persists and the other doesn’t is they’re telling a better story. And in fact, if you tell the right stories, you’ll never get frustrated no matter what happens. And since frustration is such a huge impediment to success and learning to play music. In this episode, I’m going to share with you two different strategies or stories to tell, to prevent frustration from occurring. The first of those is to get rid of your expectations. And that’s because frustration happens when our expectations don’t match our reality period. That’s the only reason we get frustrated. The only reason we get frustrated is when we expect things to be a certain way, and our reality doesn’t match those expectations.

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Why do people get frustrated with the checkout line at the grocery store taking too long? Because they expect it shouldn’t take that long because they have a certain expectation of how long you should wait in a grocery store line of a certain size, right? Why do people get frustrated when they make mistakes? When playing an instrument because they expect they shouldn’t be making those mistakes, right? So then what’s the solution to never feeling frustrated, throwing out those expectations. And that’s because number one, they’re the source of all frustration. And number two, they don’t actually lead to anything productive or useful because here’s the thing, neither you, nor I, nor anyone else in this world can predict the future. Especially when it comes to acquiring a skill, as complex as learning to play music. There are countless variables involved here that influence how we progress in that learning some of those variables.

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We know about some we don’t and those variables interact in complex ways that we don’t understand. And certainly can’t predict, and our expectations are nothing more than predictions about the future, which I just said is something we can’t even do. So all we’re doing by having those expectations is virtually guaranteeing ourselves frustration. Now that doesn’t mean you can’t desire to be able to do certain things. That’s where our motivation to start learning to begin with comes from. So we want to be able to play an instrument or a certain style or a song, but what we don’t want to do is expect a certain result by a certain point in time. That also doesn’t mean you can’t have goals if you want. But what’s important is when you’re setting them to focus on things you have control over, rather than things you don’t have control over, rather than by saying I’m going to learn to play these three songs in this specific way, by the end of the month or some specific outcome like that.

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Because again, whether you end up learning those three songs is influenced by multiple variables. You have no control over. Yet if you were to set that as a goal and you don’t meet, it you’ll feel as if you have failed when the reality is it may simply have been impossible to reach. So instead of setting an outcome-based goal like that set a process or effort based goal, instead, such as I’m going to practice for 30 minutes every morning, because that’s something you have almost complete control over instead, you’re redirecting your focus to the only thing that matters, which is your effort and the quality of your practice. Those of you who are in the Breakthrough Banjo course and have come to the “No Picker Left Behind” sessions, know that at the beginning of those sessions, I always say to think of it like a trip to the gym and me as your personal trainer and your job just as it would be when you’re going to the gym is to put forth your best effort.

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Because again, our effort is something we have complete control over. And it’s the thing that is directly correlated to the results that we get. And I say this because I know from teaching thousands of people, that frustration always results from expecting to be able to do something that you can’t do. And the irony is that as soon as you get frustrated, it makes doing that thing even more challenging. So it degrades the quality of your practice. But if you focus only instead on putting forth your best effort, then you’re no longer concerned with what you can or can’t do. All right. So that’s strategy, number one, getting rid of expectations. The second strategy is to think like a scientist.

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So what do I mean by that? I mean, view each practice session as an experiment and your job, like a scientist, is to collect data. And mistakes in that sense are just data, right? They’re just feedback and you, and you need feedback. And they’re actually the most valuable kind of feedback of all, because that’s how we know we’re running up against the limits of our current abilities.

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One of the core concepts in the field of learning and expertise is the zone of desirable difficulty. What that means is that the most effective learning or the most effective practice happens when we’re operating right at the edge of our abilities, which means that whatever it is we’re working on, isn’t too easy that it doesn’t provide any challenge. And so no stimulation. And it’s also not so hard that it’s totally out of reach. And the only way we can find that boundary is by making mistakes by pushing ourselves until we’ve gone too far, and then backing up into that, into that zone of desirable difficulty or that Goldilocks range and working right at the edge of our limits.

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It’s how we signal the brain to grow and change in order to support learning something new. And it’s very much analogous to exercise and resistance training in particular, where the goal there is to build muscle and the way to send muscles. The strongest signal that they need to grow is by lifting weights that are right at the edge of their capabilities. So lifting a feather 50 times won’t do anything nor will trying to lift an elephant. Right? We want to find the thing that we can lift only so many times before we fail, because that’s how we send our body. The signal that the status quo is inadequate. And so it needs to devote some resources to increasing that particular capability. And what happens also when muscles grow is that our capability increases. So now more weight is needed to keep us in the range of desirable difficulty.

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And that’s the same thing when we’re trying to stimulate the brain to grow in order to acquire a new skill, we want to find the limits of where it’s at right now, and then signaling that those limits are insufficient and it needs to add further capabilities so that we can do the thing that we’re practicing. All right. So those are the two strategies for eliminating frustration once. And for all number one, getting rid of expectations. Number two, thinking like a scientist as with anything. If those are things you’ve never really done before, then it’s going to take a little bit of effort to start doing it consistently. And what I would suggest, especially if you’ve ever found yourself getting frustrated when you practice or when you play is just to start noticing when this happens. And then when it does stop and ask yourself what expectation you have in your mind that you’re not meeting and then kindly discard that expectation and redirect your focus on putting forth your best effort.

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All right, that’s it. For this episode, if you enjoy these Brainjo , then you’ll likely enjoy the book, the Laws of Brainjo, and I will put a link in the description.

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All right, thanks so much for watching. And I will see you in the next Brainjo Bite. Thanks so much for listening to this episode of Brainjo Bite, to make sure you catch future episodes. Be sure to subscribe to the podcast on your podcast player and consider leaving a rating interview in iTunes, which helps other folks to find it as well, to learn more about music courses based on the Brainjo Method of instruction, head over to Brainjo.academy.