“Todd, what would you do if you were a beginner again?”
I get asked this question a lot.
And the answer… and even the nature of the answer… might surprise you.
When people ask questions like this, I think they’re looking for a couple things. Firstly, what are the absolutely most important techniques, and secondly, what is the SHORTCUT for them.
What they’re looking for is a way to be immune to the PROCESS of learning game.
This approach makes intuitive sense… “learn from the mistakes of others,” and “don’t reinvent the wheel” are common and popular expressions for a reason. And there are many arenas in which these are great ideas… and even some areas of game where this is so.
However, for the most part THIS APPROACH DOESN’T WORK IN GAME!
You see game isn’t a theoretical endeavor, it is a performative one.
FOR EXAMPLE: Knowing that you should maintain your frame when facing a shit test, is one thing… doing so, is something else entirely. And, in fact, the perfect “game” answer in such an instance, if delivered with thought and hesitation, is often the WORST possible answer.
So as a starting place to learning game, I give you the following slightly ironic quote:
If I had to live my life again, I’d make the same mistakes, only sooner.
At a glance, giving this as advice sounds a lot like, “just take action,” and you know I don’t believe in just that as an overall philosophy for learning game… but it’s not a terrible place to start. The field is the best teacher you can ever have. However, some coaching and guidance can make your field time much more effective.
You see the quote above is simultaneously brilliant and stupid. We all value the mistakes we’ve learned key lessons from, but we don’t value the irrelevant mistakes we’ve made. We also don’t value the times when we had to make a mistake multiple times because we were slow in learning the required lesson.
I’m reminded of an anecdote here. Two people were discussing the merits of making a safety announcement letting people know how to exit in case of emergency.
The first person says: “In an emergency, people are just going panic anyway, so what’s the point?”
To which the second person responds: “Yes, but at least they’ll panic in the right direction.”
Teaching game is very much a case of getting people to “panic in the right direction.” There’s only so much information you can spoon feed someone, but what you can do is give them the most relevant experiences and situations for their particular learning curve, as well as some pointers on how to handle them.
The other thing you can do, which is very important, is to help put the lessons in context so they don’t miss the key points and have to repeat the mistakes over and over.
NOW HERE’S THE IMPORTANT PART:
In order for me to help someone, I need to understand the structure of what we’re trying to accomplish.
Unless I have a clear picture in my head of what good game looks like, what needs to occur in order for an interaction to be successful, and what needs to be done next each step of the way, there’s no way I can teach anybody anything.
Unless I have something to compare against, there is no way for me to assess which areas to focus on, nor any way for me to measure progress. And the same is true when you’re teaching yourself.
YOU NEED A SYSTEM.
It’s important to go out and make mistakes.
But it’s even more important for you to recognize what the mistakes are so you can improve upon them and avoid mindlessly repeating them. (Which is what most students do. Some for years).
So the steps to getting good are:
- Have an understanding of what you’re trying to do.
- Take action.
Smart action vs. dumb, blind, ineffective action that keeps you at mediocrity.
Doing #2 without #1 is pointless. If you just want to take action and burn calories, go to a gym rather than a nightclub ;).
Steps # 1 and 2 above, are the core process of getting good at game, but I’ll add a third point, again associated with a quotation:
Any mistakes you commit through audacity are easily corrected with more audacity. Everyone admires the bold; no one honors the timid.
– Robert Greene
Boldness in game is critical. Not just to success (we all know that confidence is attractive). But also to the process of learning game. Bold mistakes are easily identified and easily corrected, timid mistakes are a nightmare to deal with.
Mostly what you need are proactive mistakes.
If you go out and take specific actions, you’ll get specific reactions. And the cause and effect will be clear. If you go out and are passive, or if you’re taking random, uncalculated actions, then how can you possibly know what to attribute your success or failure to?! So the third critical step in learning game. BE PROACTIVE!
So the skeleton of what to do as a beginner (and at every level of game actually):
- Have a plan (ideally a good one)
- Make proactive mistakes
- Analyze and learn from these mistakes to improve your plan
This is the core of how to improve in any endeavor of life, but particularly in a performative one, like game. And I can’t overstate the importance of this element in your growth. So much so, that when I codified my method of game in my program The System, I made a huge part of the curriculum, HOW TO LEARN THE SYSTEM.
Great information isn’t worth much if you can’t implement it or can’t learn it.
Obviously I believe in my system for game, (because it’s worked for me for almost two decades now)…but whatever your model and process is, in game or in other areas of life, remember the concepts of how to learn.
Maybe it’s not the “one simple trick” shortcut you were looking for…but it’s the truth.
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