How Training a Skill Can Harm Your Execution of It


I’ve realized something interesting recently: the opposing forces of natural execution and training.

I recently started improving markedly in table tennis by figuring out how to completely relax and be aggressive with my play. It takes an effort to reminds myself not to think, and to just 100% go for it.

I’ve been realizing how many things this applies to. Social engagements. Speaking. So many things.

There are many things where partial effort is MUCH worse than a failed complete effort. Where the fact that you’re holding back, or thinking too much, makes the execution 1/10 of what it could be.

But when you’re doing it you think you’re still getting 80%, or 90%, when you’re actually only getting 10% or 20%.

So that’s what I’ve been training. To realize that full effort is the standard, and that if you’re going to lose you should lose fully open. It also makes you more likely to succeed.

So then I took a couple of lessons.

I have learned some major problems I had with my technique. And I’ve learned some very powerful stuff.

But, once again, when I play matches I am constrained. I’m hesitant. I’m thinking. I’m focusing on DOING TOPSPINS instead of just hitting the ball.

So the lesson for me is to see these worlds very differently.

Training is thinking. Thinking is learning.

But when it comes time to play, all thinking must cease. The only thought can be FREEFORM EXECUTION. Complete aggression. Complete confidence. Complete looseness.

These are switches—on and off. You’re learning or you’re executing.

There is no middle.

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