This is the sixth article in a series on How to get better at scratching by using the Learning Zone vs Performance Zone.
Here are the previous articles so you can get up to speed if you haven’t already read them:
- How to Get Better at Scratching – Learning Zone vs Performance Zone
- Scratching: Learning Zone Ideas
- Scratch Learning Zone: Deliberate Practice
- Scratch Learning Zone: Performance Zone Value
- How to Spend More Time in the Scratch Learning Zone
I recommend checking out the above articles in the series before you read any further, so you have the full context, and to get the very most from the knowledge below.
I am using the framework outlined in the previous four articles which is based on the TED talk “How to get better at the things you care about” by Eduardo Briceño.
We previously talked about how we can spend more time in the Learning Zone to help us improve our scratching, develop skills, maximise our growth and future performance.
Now that we know how we can spend more time in the Learning Zone, let’s take a look at the reasons why we spend so much time in the scratch performance zone, when doing so can actually hinder our growth, and ironically, over the long term, also our performance.
When we understand the reasons why, we can become more aware and start to see how we can make changes so that we spend time in the learning zone which leads to improvement.
Why do we spend so much time in the performance zone?
In his TED talk, Eduardo Briceño describes why we spend so much time in the performance zone:
- One reason that in our lives we spend so much time in the performance zone is that our environments often are, unnecessarily, high stakes. We create social risks for one another, even in schools which are supposed to be all about learning, and I’m not talking about standardized tests. I mean that every minute of every day, many students in elementary schools through colleges feel that if they make a mistake, others will think less of them. No wonder they’re always stressed out and not taking the risks necessary for learning. But they learn that mistakes are undesirable inadvertently when teachers or parents are eager to hear just correct answers and reject mistakes rather than welcome and examine them to learn from them, or when we look for narrow responses rather than encourage more exploratory thinking that we can all learn from.
- When all homework or student work has a number or a letter on it, and counts towards a final grade, rather than being used for practice, mistakes, feedback and revision, we send the message that school is a performance zone.
- The same is true in our workplaces. In the companies I consult with, I often see flawless execution cultures which leaders foster to encourage great work. But that leads employees to:
- stay within what they know and not try new things
- companies struggle to innovate and improve, and they fall behind.
How does this apply to scratching? Why do we spend so much time in the scratch performance zone?
Spending so much time in the performance zone looks like a ton of freestyling with very little learning and progress being made.
One of our School of Scratch students calls it “flip flopping around” – maybe you can relate, when you put on a beat and scratch as best you can without knowing what you are doing or why.
It is fun to start with and quickly becomes frustrating and boring as little progress is made and it can feel like the scratch equivalent of Groundhog Day.
Let’s look at the 3 reasons that Eduardo gave above and relate them to why you might end up stuck in the scratch performance zone.
1 – High stakes Environment
Is your scratch environment, whether you are alone or practicing with others, unnecessarily high stakes and is there social risk involved?
Do you consistently feel that if you make a mistake, others (or your own inner critic) will think less of you?
Do you feel bad or beat yourself up if you make a mistake?
Do you feel stressed out when you are practicing?
Do you find yourself not taking the risks necessary for learning?
Have you got to a point where you feel that mistakes are undesirable?
Are you or those you are practicing with eager to hear only perfect scratching and do you or they reject mistakes rather than welcome and examine them to learn from them?
Are you or others looking for narrow responses e.g. scratching that is super on time at all times, perfectly clean cuts performed in set timings, rather than encouraging more exploratory thinking that you and your peers can all learn from?
Examples can include:
- Putting conditions on your practice, e.g. “I must be able to perform this scratch at the end of this practice session so I can film it and put it on Instagram.”
- Filming practice for social media, to post and look good rather than showing the learning process, in effect turning the practice into a performance zone.
- Jamming with others where mistakes are not encouraged / are to be avoided at all costs.
2 – Are you constantly grading your scratching?
Are you grading your scratching unnecessarily?
Is most of your scratching or scratch practice being filmed or posted somewhere, to create an end result, rather than for the sake of pracitce, making mistakes, feedback and revision?
Has your scratch practice inadvertently become a performance zone where you are afraid to make mistakes?
3 – Are you in a flawless execution culture?
Have you ended up in a flawless execution culture of some kind?
Flawless execution culture examples can include social media, live jams, live streams or scratching with others in an environment that is mostly focused on performance rather than experimental learning where mistakes are encouraged.
Maybe you have an expectation in your practice that your scratching has to be perfect and mistakes are not allowed. Sometimes we are very hard on ourselves when we are alone and the “inner judge” kicks in.
Attempting flawless execution when practicing can lead to:
- Only performing the scratches you already know
- Not trying new things
- Struggling to innovate
- Struggling to improve / making little progress
- Falling behind others who were at a similar level to you
- Repetitive cuts
- Not cultivating your own unique style
Do any of these sound / feel familiar? If so you may have ended up stuck in the Performance zone. I’ll show you how you can start to break free and the end of this article.
Other reasons we spend so much time in the Performance Zone
Drawing on my own experience of scratching and teaching others, here are some more reasons we can end up spending so much time in the performance zone. Once you understand and are aware of when this is occurring, you can take steps to break free.
The performance zone can be incredibly fun to start with.
It can seem easier than putting in the effort required for deliberate practice, for example, doing scratch drills and repeating physical movements slowly and deliberately.
It can appear that the freedom of doing your own thing and freestyling / performing rather than the perceived restriction that step by step learning and practice requires is more appealing and fun.
When you are avoiding mistakes, we may feel initially better, temporarily, until we stop making progress and it is then we begin to feel stuck and frustrated and can hit a wall.
If you find yourself spending too much time in the Performance Zone and want to break free:
- Recognise that you are in that zone or that you have been spending a lot of time there.
- Start to move back into the learning zone, performing deliberate practice.
In the next article we will look at how we can create spaces for scratch learning and growth.
That wraps up this article on why we spend so much time in the Scratch Performance Zone.
Now you can start to take the ideas shown here and implement them to help you make continued progress.