The Natural Learning Process as an eAthlete (Pt. 3)

Natural Learning Process of an eAthlete
Reading Time: 7 minutes

In our previous post on The Natural Learning Process as an eAthlete (Pt 2), we introduced Self 2 as the do-er and Self 1 as the teller. We gave a common example of the two selves interacting within a tournament, and described the concept of being “in the zone”.  For The Natural Learning Process as an eAthlete (Pt 3), we will look at what is needed to achieve that “in the zone” mentality. By the time you finish reading this post you will have the tools necessary to build consistency around playing at your peak.

The intention of the this post and the last two is to help you rediscover The Natural Learning Process as an eAthlete. It’s very easy these days to become mentally cluttered while trying to improve. There is a ton of perceived pressure that comes from social media that clashes with our desires and goals. The Natural Learning Process empowers us to focus all of our attention into our performance.

By reminding us of what we are capable of doing and have done, we can effectively get out of our own way. We find the ability to communicate with the portion of our brain that has a true impact on the outcome of each and every game. To do this, we have to learn how to speak with Self 2 more than we do with Self 1.

Quieting Self 1

Natural Learning Process of an eAthlete

In order to reach “in the zone” or peak performance, we first have to work on quieting Self 1. The very concept of being at your peak performance is when everything just flows. Almost with a level of spontaneity. You’re in a childlike state of mind, an unthinking-thinking. While in this mode its as if everything has disappeared around you, and nothing but the task at hand matters.

Attempt to speak about this mode while in it, and it will disappear as fast as it arrived.  Self 1 wants to speak about it. Wants to take credit for it, and wants to judge it. Self 1 would have you believe that playing at your peak coincides with your results. Meaning winning equals being at your peak. Let’s take a second and reflect on this idea.

Is winning playing at your peak? It would seem that way. Since it feels as though you can’t win unless you’re at your peak. However, this thinking doesn’t take your opponents into consideration. So if I beat my opponent because my opponent was playing exceptionally poor. Does that mean I was at my peak?

This is important to consider to help identify what playing at your peak is, and what it feels like. It doesn’t always result in a win, or a series of wins. However, it does result in your best performance in that given time, or the most mental clarity for that given time. Mental clarity being critical for maintaining peak performance.

So how can we quiet Self 1?

Letting Go of Judgement

Natural Learning Process of an eAthlete

The first step we can take to quiet Self 1 is to learn to let go of judgement. Judgement is Self 1’s favorite form of language. It’s much easier than instruction, and it satisfies an emotional need. No matter what type of exchange you have in any game, you can be sure that Self 1 and judgement are waiting to jump.

Lose an engagement: (insert your own colorful language below)

“That was a bad play”

“Why would I do that”

Judgmental statements like those give Self 1 an opportunity to have a say in what happened. If it was negative, then Self 1 can start criticizing and dictating. It’s quite amazing to see what the judgmental mind can do. First it may judge the event itself. “That was a bad game.”. After it may start to generalize  and say things like “I’m just playing poorly today.”. From there a few more games may turn into “I’m just bad at this game.”. Eventually leading to “I’m just not good and never will be.” The judgmental mind can eventually even judge itself!

The major concern with judgmental statements is that they serve as a distraction. They distract from important information that Self 2 needs for improvement. For example, where were my eyes at the moment of engagement? What was I thinking about? How was my posture? None of those questions have any judgement associated with them, and the answer to those questions may help me improve in the next engagement.

Example

I’ll use myself as an example. I typically don’t play a ton of FPS(First Person Shooter) games. My aim isn’t necessarily top notch. However, something I noticed in losing gun fights is that my wrist is in the wrong position. I seem to naturally slide my wrist into this resting position and often times don’t realize it. After a few bad gun fights I decided to take note of things other than the outcome. It didn’t take me very long to realize that my poor aim was due to the starting position of my wrist, and the over correction that followed. Now that I have made the adjustment, and my wrist can be in the ready position more often, I find that I have drastically improved my aim. Self 2, the do-er, now has the information required to consistently perform. If I relied solely on Self 1 to make those adjustments it could be tied to the emotional outcome of each engagement, which would lead to inconsistent results. If I spent all of my time judging each of those engagements as ‘bad’ engagements, I could never zoom out and identify the core issue. I may even end up telling myself “Well I don’t really play shooters, so……”

Judgement Is Subjective

Natural Learning Process of an eAthlete

A good way to let go of judgement is to realize that it is largely subjective. At least more subjective than you may have realized. Consider the example I just gave. Those ‘bad’ gun fights, were actually good for my opponent. The presence of both perspectives makes judgement less concrete, and thus easier to let go of. Instead of being a bad engagement, it just simply was an engagement. An engagement that should be looked at to understand why the outcome was the outcome. Then be able to make corrections to better improve the next outcome.

Let’s use tennis as an example. In tennis there are effectively 3 different people engaged in each play. The 2 players and the line judge. If one player makes a serve that the line judge deems “out”, that’s a point for the receiver. Although ‘bad’ for the server, it’s ‘good’ for the receiver. However, the line judge doesn’t care about bad or good. The line judge simply has to see the ball where it lands. This allows the line judge to be clear of mind, and able to make clear consistent calls. The same can be offered to a player who has served a ball outside of the line. Instead of slamming their racket and yelling at the judge, losing all track of their abilities. They need to simply just accept it, check their grip and move on. Once realizing that their grip was too tight, they can make the natural adjustment without putting pressure on themselves.

Communicating With Self 2

eSports Focus

Now that we have started the process of quieting Self 1, it’s important that we start to communicate with Self 2. There are a few ways to do this but for this post I am going to focus on one.

One of the best ways to communicate with Self 2 is to ask yourself for qualities. Meaning make a mental picture of the qualities you want to exhibit. If you want to be the player that remains calm in pressure situations, make a mental picture of that. If you want to feel as alert and focused as possible, then make a mental picture of that. The concept of creating mental images, an ideal result, will help guide you to achieve it.

Here’s an experiment that you can do to feel this in action. Before you start your next play session, watch a professional player. Don’t watch it with a judgmental mind and make self comparisons. Don’t even watch with the idea of trying to learn something to implement in your own game. Instead just quietly observe. Just let what they are doing sink in. Don’t over analyze or think too hard. Just simply observe from the beginning of the game till the end.

Now after that observation head into your own match. Continue to keep judgement detached and watch yourself play at a higher level. It can and will typically happen. Self 2 is absorbing the concept of quality, and then will attempt to reproduce it. I’m sure you’ve experienced these types of moments where you watch a tournament and then feel inspired to play. That is Self 1 wanting to emulate, Self 2 is what makes the difference in how you play.

Building Trust With Self 2

It is important to create a new type of communication between yourself and your abilities. This is one of the only ways to keep Self 1 at bay enough to consistently reach peak performance. Self 1 will always exist, your goal isn’t to remove Self 1. But it is to find a harmony between the two as we stated in our previous post.

To accomplish this you have to learn how to respect your own capabilities, and remind yourself of them often regardless of exterior results. Too often we can find ourselves conflating our self worth with our performance results. You will also have to ask yourself for non-judgmental approaches. Asking for form in how you sit or hold your controller. Asking for results in how you aim or move. Focusing on the aspects of performance that don’t revolve around judgement or outcomes. Practicing with precision, and then trusting yourself to execute. Allowing yourself the ability to put the work you have committed to into the game.

Knowing that you have made it this far, and that you have accomplished great feats in gaming. Understanding these concepts, communicating with Self 2, and allowing Self 2 to make the necessary corrections will help you get closer to peak performance. Fostering that consistency and finding your way into the zone more often.

Final Note

“Are you telling me that I can just go out there and play without thinking and I’ll do better?”

No. There will always be things that we need to learn, things we need to improve upon. What I am saying is to let those things happen. If you don’t know how to do something, then allow yourself to learn without internal criticism. If you know what you’re doing, then allow yourself to do it. Observe it, make note of it, and allow yourself to make the necessary changes to improve. Forcing it, or trying too hard will only result in an inconsistent performance.

 

 

 

The Natural Learning Process as an eAthlete (Pt. 2)

Reading Time: 5 minutes

In our previous post on The Natural Learning Process as an eAthlete (Pt. 1), we introduced the concept of Self 1 and Self 2. We explored the idea that Self 1 is made up of your ego and your active thinking mind. Where Self 1 comes from, and how it can be disrupting your performance. For The Natural Learning Process as an eAthlete (Pt.2) we will dig deeper into Self 2. Who Self 2 is, the power it possesses and how you can tap into it to improve as an eAthlete.

As you read through this blog post, I urge you to be open to the idea of the two selves. It is through acknowledging their existence and understanding them that you will achieve consistency and improved results. You just have to find your ability to trust something deep inside of you.

A Common Experience for an eAthlete

eSports, eAthlete

Lets imagine that you decide to play in a tournament. For all intents and purposes lets say you entered the tournament on a whim. You’ve been practicing, but the idea of being in the tournament didn’t cross your mind until the last minute.

First game is a little bit shaky, but who cares. You’re not expecting much out of this. You take the win and move on.

Second game is a breeze. You’re warmed up now, relaxed even, and you’re having a good time. You may even be surprised at how well you played. Prior to this you only checked the bracket to see when your next match was to be played. However, now you’re looking ahead in the bracket. “Okay, so If I win my next match then I have to play X. If I beat X then I get into the next bracket.”

Third game is really tight. You made a lot of mistakes that you know you shouldn’t be making. There were so many missed opportunities, and you allowed your opponents to control some of the match. You won, but just barely.

Now here are you are. Going against X to make it into the next bracket. You’re analyzing the match ahead of time. Telling yourself that you just need to win this one. Not to make the same mistakes you made last time. Although you want to win, you’re telling yourself not to lose. Before you even know it, the match is over. You’ve lost. How is this possible? You told yourself not to make the same mistakes. Played as safe as you possibly could, and even tried something you saw someone else do in the same situations.

So, Who is Self 2?

If Self 1 is the teller as described in our previous post. Then Self 2 is the do-erSelf 2 is the powerful entity inside of you that is able to learn, understand, and execute series of actions without you having to give any additional instruction. For example, logging into your game, selecting your character, movement, action buttons. All of those things now learned are executed without hesitation.

Navigating to this website and clicking this blog. Reading the words and comprehending them. All actions performed by Self 2. Our lives would not be what they are without this tremendous internal processing system. Every action we take would require some form of instruction. However because of the natural learning process, and Self 2’s ability to retain information, we can do amazing feats without thought.

If we use the example above, Self 2 is you in the first two matches. Calm and relaxed. Not expecting much. Just playing and allowing yourself to naturally adjust as needed. Even playing exceptional in the second match without having to try too hard. But by the third match, Self 1 starts to find it’s way back into the picture. Proud of what it believes is it’s work and the prospect of advancing in the tournament. It starts to wrestle control from Self 2. You start to make mistakes, play timidly and over all lose trust in your own ability. None of which was happening or important in the first two matches.

Playing Out Of Your Mind

the natural learning process of an eAthlete

Self 1 and Self 2 have to reach a level of harmony to achieve peak performance. This means that you have to stop the constant “ego-driven thinking” of Self 1 that interferes with Self 2’s natural capabilities. The only way to reach this harmony is when the mind is quiet and focused at the same time.

Have you ever played a game that you were so focused in that everything around you disappeared? When the game was over your mind is racing trying to remember exactly what it did. All the clutch and incredible plays. It’s almost like you blacked out and you’re trying to retrace your steps. Even though you acknowledged the incredible thing you did in the moment, it feels like you can’t see a mental image of it.

That is in essence the idea of playing out of your mind, or being in the zone. In previous posts we referred to it as a flow state. While you are in this state you’re not thinking about when or how to execute. You’re not thinking about the outcomes of your micro decisions and where they place you. Everything seems to happen properly without requiring any thought. There may be an awareness of the tactical situation or the effects of your actions,  but you just seem to know what you’re doing regardless of the outcome.

Listen to how D. T. Suzuki, a renowned Zen Master, describes the effects of the ego-mind on archery in his forward to Zen in the Art of Archery:

“As soon as we reflect, deliberate, and conceptualize, the original unconsciousness is lost and a thought interferes. . . . The arrow is off the string but does not fly straight to the target, nor does the target stand where it is. Calculation, which is miscalculation, sets in. . . .

Man is a thinking reed but his great works are done when he is not calculating and thinking. “Childlikeness” has to be restored . . .”

Wrap Up

Being able to tap into this Zone, or Flow State consistently is how we achieve consistent peak performance. It’s how the professionals manage to always be a step above everyone else. They can tap into this mode because of the harmony they achieve between Self 1 and Self 2 even if they aren’t aware of it. This is done through a lot of Self Trust, and allowing the Natural Learning Process as an eAthlete run it’s course.

In our next post we will rediscover the natural learning process. From quieting your Self 1 to communicating and eventually regaining trust with Self 2.

This video captures the idea of the two selves perfectly, here is Super Smash Bros. Melee professional Mango talking about a recent tournament win.

 

 

The Natural Learning Process as an eAthlete (Pt. 1)

Kid Natural Learning Process eSports
Reading Time: 5 minutes

When it comes to peak performance, the measurement of success for most is consistency. It’s one thing to win a major tournament and then disappear. It’s another to win several major tournaments and always be in the top 8. Likewise, after a sports team wins a championship, we almost fully expect them to win another. It’s well known that true adoration of players comes from their ability to maintain their level of performance. The second they slip, we are the first to be disappointed and sometimes down right angry. So how do they maintain such a peak performance? Luck? Skill? Or is it the Natural Learning Process they go through as an eAthlete?

 Why do all of them have such unique styles despite all being so optimal? How can you increase your skill and maintain it? The answers lie deep inside of us, in an almost primal fashion. Let’s help you rediscover your Natural Learning Process as an eAthlete. By breaking down the Natural Learning Process, we can identify opportunities in your performance and help you become a better eAthlete.

The Natural Learning Process Through The Lens of an eAthlete

eSporst Practice Competition Training Learning

The Natural Learning Process is something that we are born with. It’s one of the many fascinating aspects of human existence. You can see it in infants. How they learn to walk, grip objects, and cry in times of need. No one teaches them to do those things, nor does anyone critique the act. It’s something that comes naturally.
It’s a lot like the first video game you ever played. Take yourself back to that experience. Remember the joy you felt when you overcame each obstacle. For most us our parents didn’t understand how to play the games, or how to help us. This meant we were free to figure it out. Win when we won, and lose when we lost. No critique, no tutorials, just trial and correction. Not trial and error. This form of progression is attributed to the Natural Learning Process.

The same can be said about our first step into competitive gaming. We all remember the moment where we went from playing casual to taking it seriously on a competitive level. Our ability and confidence to jump into that ranked setting, or tournament setting comes from our pre-established Natural Learning Process. That first time feeling is something a lot of players chase. Their “glory days” if you will. It happens because that first competitive step came naturally. It didn’t have any motivations other than showing off your skills and competing. You didn’t have to force it.
However, something in life changes as time goes by. Something that alters The Natural Learning Process that we inevitably bring into our lives as eAthletes.

Introducing Self 1 & Self 2

Yin Yang, Cofee, Self 1, Self 2, eAthlete

Imagine if you will that you have two different versions of yourself working in tandem while you are playing. We will call them Self 1 and Self 2. Take yourself back to a competitive game that you were losing in. Let’s say a ranked ladder match, or a tournament set. When you made a mistake, or your opponent got the better of you, what happened in your brain? What did you say to yourself, in your head or out loud. For example “%*^$ I need to hit my shots!” or “COME ON THAT WAS GARBAGE !”. For some it can even be directed towards themselves like “You need to play better, tighten up, stop being so stupid.”. That is an example of Self 1 in action.

Now think about a game that you were winning in. A game that you would describe yourself as “being in the zone” or “playing out of your mind”. Remember how focused but relaxed you were. There was no judgment, no fear, just execution. That is an example of Self 2 in action, without Self 1 trying to take over. A form of ‘flow state’ if you will.
Self 1 is a representation of your ego. It’s the intellectual side of the process that spends it’s time instructing Self 2 what to do. However, the issue is that Self 2 often doesn’t need instruction. Especially in the way Self 1 is giving it.

Think back to that infant walking. Imagine now if you are that infant’s parent, and you are teaching the walking in the same way Self 1 communicates with Self 2. “Okay now extend your right knee and gently place your foot on the floor. Now apply a small amount of pressure, not too much pressure. Then lift that foot, and start to extend your left knee. DON’T PUT TOO MUCH PRESSURE.”

A little ridiculous right, but how difficult would it be for the infant to walk properly, with instruction like that. The truth is, Self 2 is very good at learning and understanding things without the help of Self 1. For instance, you grabbing your phone, or computer. Navigating to this website and reading this blog didn’t require any assistance from Self 1. Knowing where the buttons on your controller are, or the keys on your keyboard are all because of Self 2. Not Self 1.

Where Does Self 1 Come From?

Classroom, Natural Learning Process eAthlete

Self 1 has it’s roots in reward and punishment. From the moment we start to understand praise, and fear, Self 1 comes into existence(Teachers, Parents, Bosses, Friends, etc). When we do extremely well in something, and we feel the emotional rewards of doing well, we want to replicate it as much as possible. So Self 1 will tell Self 2 “Okay, do it just like you did last time. But make sure you don’t do that one thing you did. You’re doing it wrong. We’re never going to get where we were before.”

Suddenly you have a conflict going on inside of you that is actually hindering performance. You didn’t need that instruction the first time you succeeded, why need it now? Self 1 as stated before is a form of your ego. It wants all the credit for everything Self 2 does, because reward is fed directly to Self 1. The same goes for punishment and fear. Fear of losing, fear of letting others and yourself down. It all stems from the same place, and can create that internal and subconscious dialogue.

A Simple Experiment for Self 1

If you want further proof of Self 1’s existence. Take something fairly complex that you perform in your game every day. Some tech skill, or specific play. Now try to demonstrate that tech skill to someone while explaining it. Can you do it? How many tries did it take? Or try to teach it someone and listen to the way you explain it. Think about it, you do it perfectly every game when you’re not talking about it, yet when you attempt to show or teach it, you struggle. That’s because Self 1 is telling you how to do it for your audience. As opposed to Self 2 just doing it because it knows when and how to execute.

Wrap Up

This post was intended to introduce the concept of the two selves that coexist inside of you. To show you how Self 1 is a trained behavior that can be disruptive to performance. Both Self 1 and Self 2 need to work in harmony to achieve peak performance.
In our next post we are going to dive into why quieting Self 1 is important to performance and improvement. How to regain trust in the power of Self 2, and how to utilize the Natural Learning Process to make you a better eAthlete.