STOP AFTER WIN revisited
You can define "win" however you want — but you have to stop after you achieve it.
When I began applying metrics to my piano practice, I quickly realized that repeating something after achieving your pre-determined win condition nearly always fails.
If you set a goal…
And you achieve your goal…
And you immediately try to repeat what you just achieved…
It doesn’t work.
Why? My guess, at this point, is that you’ve transitioned from working to proving. You’ve gone from an integrated state, in which you are concentrating on a specific task in order to achieve a specific outcome, to a disintegrated state, in which you are recapping your win to satisfy your ego.
The integrated pianist knows that the passage is accessible.
The disintegrated pianist wants to double-check.
Double-checking always, always, always leads to failure loops. If you can’t trust yourself the first time, you can’t trust yourself at all — and so you find yourself forgetting notes you’d never forgotten before, fumbling fingerings that had not previously been fumbled, and so on.
And then you tell yourself “well, I guess I didn’t really achieve my goal after all!”
Except — you did. You did you did you did, and you have proof because you set yourself a specific outcome to work towards and then you set yourself a series of discrete, specific actions that led to the desired outcome.
Of course you’re going to want to prove that you can recreate that outcome — but proving is ego. It takes you out of the piece just enough to create uncertainty, and because of that makes it nearly impossible to re-achieve what you just accomplished by working from an integrated, focused state.
Everything you just learned will still be there the next time you work on the piece, and if something has degraded between practice sessions you can spend a little extra time working on it.
This brings me to the WORKAROUND, as it were, for this STOP AFTER WIN game.
“Play measures 70-78 evenly and accurately from memory five times consecutively” qualifies as a win condition.
(I like to notate it in my spreadsheet as 5xCx.)
When you set the goal of playing a specific number of measures five times consecutively — and you have to clarify what you’re trying to do five times consecutively, whether it’s “play even and accurate from memory” or “play with metronome at 220 without rushing” — you give yourself the opportunity to drill a specific element of a specific passage to a set number of consecutive repeats at a preset standard.
You set up a condition that you can win, even if your actual sequence of passes looks something like WIN WIN FAIL WIN WIN FAIL FAIL FAIL WORK THAT ONE FINGERING THAT YOU STILL HAVEN’T SOLIDIFIED WIN WIN WIN WIN WIN.
And then, having achieved your 5xCx, you STOP.
No 6x, no matter how much you want to.
Here’s one more piece of advice, from someone who has collected a lot of spreadsheet data on this process:
If you are planning to work something 5xCx, make sure the fifth pass is a working pass, not a proving pass.
I kept trying to figure out why it was easy for me to do 4xCx and nearly impossible for me to do 5xCx — and when I told myself “okay, just do 4xCx then,” I only ever achieved 3xCx, and suddenly I understood. I was failing the last pass because I was treating it as the “gotta prove you know it” pass. It was a completely different mindset, and from this difference came all of the problems.
You have nothing to prove, as a pianist — or as a chess player or a writer or a partner or any of that. Proving is a shortcut. Proving is ego and distrust and disintegration and desire and all of the things that get in the way of actually doing.
When you do the work, you have a better chance of creating the reality you’re working towards — and since you’ll never get precisely that same reality ever again, you might as well STOP AFTER WIN. ❤️
p.s. after I wrote this, I did my lunchtime chess study — and came across this thematically relevant paragraph from Jonathan Rowson’s Chess for Zebras:
Finally, there is ‘fabulation’, which involves grabbing a few facts and then spinning a narrative web around them, often with the aim of trying to prove something to yourself. This usually means that the facts are distorted by the supporting narrative.
in this case proving is building a narrative about what you want reality to be rather than looking carefully at what it is, which is why proving leads to failure.
p.p.s. this may be a separate issue from STOP AFTER WIN? and if I can eliminate the “prove pass problem” I could theoretically recreate my WIN CONDITION after achieving it? hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm