Today I want to talk about something that wasn't very obvious to me when learning new things. In fact I still forget it from time to time which is what prompted me to write this. Especially when learning something new or trying to master something - I find it best to approach these things with a plan.
There was an article published recently discussing the habits of violinists. This study encompassed not only elite violinists but what we would all call normal. One of the findings was:
We can start by disproving the assumption that the elite players dedicate more hours to music. The time diaries revealed that both groups spent, on average, the same number of hours on music per week (around 50).
This is very important as it disproves that people are better at things simply because they put more time into things. Granted that might separate the #1 and the #2 player but that is not what separates the rest of us. The next finding proves that having a plan was the key to success for these violin players:
The difference was in how they spent this time. The elite players were spending almost three times more hours than the average players on deliberate practice — the uncomfortable, methodical work of stretching your ability.
Deliberate practice is what separates the elite players from the average players. That to me is the key in all of this. I have found myself doing something but not getting better and its only when I step back and form a plan do I feel like improve.
I grew up playing Street Fighter not only in the arcades but also on the consoles and entering tournaments to helping run Evo at one point in my life. I used to just play to have fun and found myself getting slowly better but not really able to compete with the big boys so to speak.
It wasn't until I met John Choi and he clearly explained to me that most people don't play with a game plan. They just go through the motions. It sounds so simple but this was definitely my problem as a player. I didn't have a plan what so ever.
Simple things like what do I want to do in the beginning of the round. What do I want to do when I have my opponent in the corner. When I'm in the corner, etc. I had good reactions and played enough to recognize a lot of situations but overall I had no plan. I played mostly by reacting to what the other player was doing instead of having them react to me.
Another player that I really respect for having a plan is Viscant. His reactions are pretty bad and his execution is even worse - yet he won Evo2k11. Here you can watch him analyze his winning match and talk through what his game plan was. It's absolutely fascinating and proves that having a plan trumps a lot of things.
I've been getting more and more into photography here lately. For a variety of reasons in all honesty. Having a kid will definitely do that but on top of that I enjoy the whole process. Taking the time to compose a shot, deleting the ones that didn't work, editing an image, etc.
I felt like I haven't been improving here lately though and it was starting to frustrate me. Photographing an active 3 year old is not an easy thing. He's constantly in motion - even when he sleeps. This has made planning for the shot a lot harder. Which has resulted in numerous bad shots for one reason or another.
It was here that I reminded myself that I should have a plan. I've been basically 'spraying and praying' hoping the photos I take of him will come out. So here lately I've been approaching it completely different.
While I continue to work on composition I've actually been trying to have a small goal for each time we go out with the camera. Whether it be something as simple as shooting all in black & white or only one focal length or what not. One day I shot everything only in ISO 1600. Granted most photos weren't keepers but it really helped me understand ISO in a way that I wasn't grasping before.
Video Game Design
Same with work or in my case video game design. It's easy to say, "this boss battle is going to be awesome" and end the sentence like that. However this is leaving things to hopefully come together instead of planning on it coming together. Hope is not a strategy.
For instance if I was going to work on a boss battle - this is how I would approach it. I find it best to usually focus on 3 things when it comes to boss battles. I start brainstorming things such as the arena - is it going to split in half, fly through the air, etc. Or maybe it's about the music if the boss battle - does it change the less health she has? Does the music react to what the player is doing somehow? Or maybe what makes this boss special is at the end of the battle - you can go inside his mouth and get the much needed key for the door.
Having a simple plan and keeping with it has really helped me when it comes to design. Its easy to veer off course without realizing it. Going back and looking at the 3 things I wanted to accomplish really helps.
It's also good to not have a plan
With all of that being said - I find it's also helpful to just 'play' and not have a plan. When it comes to Street Fighter - it can be healthy to just take a break from everything being so serious and mess around with characters you don't normally play. Same with photography - it's ok to loosen up and go have fun with Instagram filters. Or even design - take a break and try to design something you don't normally work on. It's good to stretch out and have fun. Just remember that when you do want to sit down and focus - that you have a plan on what you want to accomplish.