Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Learning Curves

I’ve recently obtained a copy of “Rock Band” for my beautiful and reliable and ever so un-necessary luxury item, the Playstation 3, and have been struck by how quickly and slowly different people take to the same thing and how persistent they are in their efforts.

The game is a simple colour matching rhythm game that taps into the base-line fantasy of being some kind of demi-god of rock and roll on a stage in front of baying fans, giving you a selection of plastic instruments to play to make the experience feel more tactile. I am currently favouring drums, because I’ve always wanted to be good at the drums and this is making me actually believe it’s possible. The thing I’ve noticed is that everyone that plays the game takes a different amount of time to get good at it. It’s not always dependant on actual musical ability or rhythm, but I believe something more about the people themselves.

The whole thing reminds me of when I was learning to drive. I tend to take to things quite quickly and pride myself on being a fast learner, and so I was under the impression that I would be able to get in a car and drive straight away; after all, I’d played plenty of Grand Theft Auto games, so therefore I must have been an advanced driver already. I very quickly got very despondent when I realized I couldn’t separate the functionality of my hands from my feet whilst keeping an eye on traffic at the same time. I didn’t actually crash, but I hit the curb at sixty more than once and visibly winced every time a car came towards me on the other side of the road in the opposite direction.

Other friends of mine learnt to drive very quickly. Even the moronic chimps that inhabited all of my least favourite classes seemed to be able to grasp the nuances of the automobile whereas I was still having a miniature nervous breakdown every time I got to a roundabout. It has become clear that different people learn different things at different speeds but I think it’s more than just learning, I think it’s taking time to adapt as well and the persistence with which one carries on trying. I saw one of my friends who was visiting attempt a drum track thinking it looked easy, which it does, and then fall to pieces in the first few seconds without really putting any consolidation effort into it. If he had put more effort into it, he might have at least learnt a bit more, and the attitude with which we enter certain tasks is undoubtedly going to affect what we get out of them.

It took me a long time to adapt to working life, as I’ve mentioned before, but I’m mostly there now. I know people who are still trying to adapt and I know people that adapted the second that they left university and it’s all down to the natural diversity of the human experience. Whereas my learning and adaptation can take a long meandering route at times, it’ll climb steep inclines at other times, and everyone else is the same.

What I’m trying to say is that it’s important to stay positive. A positive attitude will take you further along a learning curve than a defeatist one, so just be prepared to clench your teeth in first gear for a while and you will get there.

Additional Notes:

I famously don’t like loud noises, which is a bit of a bar to entry to the world of rock and roll, particularly drumming. I’ve already taped some sponge onto the end of the sticks to make it a little more bearable.

It’s curious that I’ve chosen to talk about drumming and driving here. Somebody once told me that drummers make very good drivers and learn how to drive remarkably quickly because they’re used to separating their hands and feet and operating pedals in different ways to achieve different results. The key appears to be to stop thinking. I have experienced a lack of thinking a couple of times whilst driving, where I have suddenly woken up from some sort of day dream to realise I have no recollection of the previous ten minutes.

Another classic trait of David Hing the learner driver was that I couldn’t find the biting point of the clutch, and so stalled on a regular basis. This in itself isn’t unusual, but it lead to me trying to avoid stalling at all costs, which of course meant avoiding actually stopping the car at all costs. My mother and all cars in the immediate area got increasingly scared as I would continue edging very slowly forwards at junctions or red traffic lights. As it happens, I still sometimes involuntarily clench my teeth when launching into first gear for fear of stalling.

Finally, driving isn’t the only thing I didn’t take to straight away. When I was very young, I assumed that I could sail a boat by myself; I’d been taken out in a boat by my father plenty of times and I knew the theory of it (and that should sound familiar considering my attitudes towards my first time in a car) but somehow, it just didn’t take. I very quickly found myself crying in the bottom of the boat spinning around in circles. The really sad thing is, from this, and my experiences with driving, if I ever earned enough money to learn to fly, I’d probably still assume that I could fly straight away; I’ve seen Star Wars plenty of times so I must be an expert pilot…..

No comments: