Sluggish Improvement vs. Heightened Awareness

How many times have you approached a problem thinking you had the solution, only to find moments later that you were trying all kinds of other things to solve it? Or worse, you thought you found the solution and then in the blink of an eye you forgot it already. The sad thing is all of this could've been avoided had you made the effort to do one simple thing. That simple thing is taking notes.

Solutions Don't Come Easy

Yet they come even less easy when we aren't consistently looking for them. You may feel that you're thinking about how to cope with your struggles in scratching, but it's the depth of your thinking that measures the quality of your solutions. Generally, especially in the act of scratching, our thought process is very shallow. This is especially true the less experienced you are at successfully overcoming challenges in your scratching, because you have so many more things to think about that could be going wrong.

When you approach a practice session with a plan to document solutions you come across, your thought process automatically deepens. This is because writing things down takes a lot more focus when scratching then just thinking briefly about what might improve things. Not only because you have to actually stop what you're doing to write things down, but you're automatically going through a review process in order to write it out properly. Additionally, you can come back at any time and review what you wrote further, as well as weigh it out against future sessions that might shed further light on the validity of your previous notes.

Complex Problems Need Serious Care

If you were in school facing an extremely challenging exam and you didn't take any notes during lectures that preceded it, how well do you think you'd do? You would most likely not do well and perhaps even fail. As a serious student, you can bet you wouldn't let that happen. Yet when it comes to practicing the art of scratching, you probably wouldn't even consider taking notes at all. Admittedly for most, it's a pretty foreign concept. However, that level of care will put you head and shoulders above the rest.

Taking Notes Might Not Seem Fun

Guess what is much less fun though. Performing at a mediocre level because you weren't proactive enough to take the actions necessary for greater, faster improvement at scratching. Believe me, having a moment of realization then capturing that moment, is actually more exhilarating than you might imagine. It's the feeling of ensuring all your hard work is going to pay off instead of just hoping it will.

Documenting Your Thoughts Doesn't Come With a Guarantee

Admittedly, taking notes about what you think are solutions to your problems, does not mean that what you write is always going to improve things. However, not writing out your thoughts increases the odds that you don't get your problems fixed in a timely manner, if at all. In fact writing out the wrong solution is actually still a step in the right direction because it makes it easier to eliminate it from the possibilities of what is going to pan out. You don't want to think you have a solution, find out it doesn't work, still not have a working solution and then stumble upon it again, repeating the process. Now you have a document of what to avoid as well.

Before You Find Solutions You Must Find Problems

All this advice is well and great, but what if you don't even know what your problems are? Note taking can still aid you in such situations. If you haven't spent some serious time examining what's wrong with your scratching, you'll be even further behind. Fortunately such a predicament is reversible. Simply follow the advice I've given you in this article, but with problem finding in mind and before you know it, you'll have a whole laundry list of things you can seek out solutions to.

Reviewing is Undeniably Crucial

Note taking is great, but reviewing your notes is where the true power lies. Otherwise, you're just a minor step beyond those who only think about solutions. Repetition is the mother of mastery, so finding a solution and continually reviewing it will get it imprinted permanently in your brain, making it that much more reliable info to actually put into practice. So don't let all your effort to find solutions go to waste. Get out what you put in and watch the results stack up.

The Dangers of Playing it Safe

We all know that the key to improvement is to challenge yourself, but how much are you actually challenging yourself? Are you guilty of being too realistic? What do I mean when I say realistic? Well being realistic in terms of scratching and the challenges you take on, simply means assessing you're current scratch skills and then creating challenges for yourself that don't go too far beyond your comfort zone. While this is actually not a bad strategy for decent gains in skill over the long term, it is not a be all, end all way to approach scratching.

Lack of Comfort Creates Comfort

Sometimes you have to take a challenge that you normally face and double or triple its difficulty. The benefit to this may not be obvious at first. Of course your natural instinct is to feel that if you're already struggling with an easier challenge, why is multiplying its difficulty going to be any easier or less frustrating? It starts in the mind. Your mind is virtually capable of doing anything you set out to do, so if you're always playing it safe, you're just setting your belief system up to think you can only achieve minor things.

Being Unrealistic Pays

When you get more accustomed to thinking unrealistically, what seemed unrealistic before becomes reality. Aside from the mental aspect, you need to become physically used to high levels of physical difficulty. You'll never get a feel for what it's like to scratch at ridiculously high speeds for example, if you never attempt to do so. Sure you could wait until you're truly ready, but you're going to do that anyway. You might as well attempt to now so when the time comes for you to scratch comfortably at such speeds, you're already mentally and physically prepared to do so.

Don't Get Carried Away

I realize that my advice may sound amateurish, but that's only if taken out of context. I am not saying to do what many beginners do and scratch wildly out of your comfort zone regularly. I'm merely pointing out that you should integrate going way beyond your level of comfort into the other scratch skill building strategies you are or should be using to reach the level of scratching you aim to achieve.

There are many times where multiplying the difficulty of what you're working on will not be so helpful. Just as being realistic is not the only way to achieve your goals, neither is being wildly unrealistic. You must find a balance between the two as one feeds the other and vice versa.

Being Unrealistic in the Real World

Here is a challenge to give you a better feel for how you can actually apply this strategy. This exercise has to do with increase of speed, but keep in mind that what I've spoken about thus far is not only limited to challenges dealing with speed.

Put on a 4/4 beat that you can comfortably execute four notes per beat over. A regular challenge would be to increase your speed to five notes per beat. Instead what you will attempt to do instead is scratch eight notes per beat. Don't worry about how comfortable you feel or how clean it sounds. Just push yourself as hard as possible and keep trying even if you don't achieve it by the end of the exercise.

After you complete the exercise, drop back down to the more realistic challenge of five notes per beat and see how much more comfortable and at ease you feel now. When you started the exercise, four notes per beat was your comfort level, but now five notes per beat, whether you can execute it yet or not, will seem like nothing compared to the extreme challenge of doubling what you're currently able to handle.

Mental Barriers Come Tumbling Down

Navigating through such extremes will take the edge off more realistic challenges and you'll begin achieving higher levels of scratching faster. This happens because your mind is your biggest barrier to achieving anything. If you don't believe you can handle something with ease than you won't. It's really that simple.

Unfortunately suspending one's belief is easier said than done, which is why creating physically demanding challenges like the exercise above, will force your mind to accept the truth that lies behind mental barriers in scratching and what it takes to push past them. Seeing is believing rings very true here. Thus, I invite you to get creative by thinking of, then trying many ways of being unrealistic.

Are You Caught in a Delusion of Ruts?

Being in a rut is an all too common problem for many people who scratch. Not surprisingly, this causes tons of frustration for anyone who believes they are in such a rut. Often times this can lead to you losing the joy you experience when scratching, or even worse loss of motivation to scratch at all. Ruts are an all too real problem. Or are they?

Why would you ever doubt the existence of ruts? After all, you’ve likely been hearing about them from every walk of life imaginable for so long, you’d probably feel like a fool to consider that they could just be a fallacy. So when you begin to feel you are suffering from one, it only becomes more real to you.

Subtle Improvement

What if you were to reject popular belief for now in order to consider what is really behind this so called rut of yours? Perhaps you’re experiencing a lack of growth in your scratch skills. You feel like you’ve been at it for awhile and there is no obvious progress taking place. What you have to understand is that, while you may have high expectations of yourself, you’re not necessarily going to see any big advancement over night.

In fact you’ve probably also had the experience of feeling like you were in a rut and suddenly you have a major breakthrough seemingly out of nowhere. How can this be so? Well the truth is you were never in a rut. You were simply going through the process of improvement. You made mistake, after mistake, after mistake, all the while getting closer to hitting the nail on the head. So what happened? You stayed persistent with your scratching until you finally achieved what seemed like such a big struggle before.

Frustration Takes Over

When you have a big challenge on your hands it may seem overwhelming because you are constantly comparing your current skill with that of what you want it to be. As you continue to struggle through, you start accumulating all these experiences of frustration caused by not yet achieving your goal. So much so that a lot of times you’ll fail to realize how much closer you’re actually getting to what you set out to do originally and all your focus gets fixated on your frustration from scratching instead. This type of thinking is really pointless and here we are, right back to believing we’re in a rut.

A Change of Focus Makes a World of Difference

If you look back to the previous perspective you’ll see that part of it was right. Focusing on what you ultimately want to achieve with each goal you set for yourself is important. However, focusing too much on the struggle is clearly taking the life out of something you should be having fun doing. So what you must focus on instead is each little victory you make along the way to your goal.

Now you might be saying to yourself, "What victories? I haven’t succeeded yet." Think of all your mistakes when scratching as a learning experience. Not one to think that you’re just not getting it, you’re not good enough, or any other garbage you’ve been feeding yourself. Take the time to actually think about what’s going wrong and how you can fix it.

It’s so easy to bang away at something without really thinking, but successful people don’t do this. Successful people recognize that taking the time to analyze what’s holding them back is worth doing because they believe, whether they know the answer or not, they will get to the bottom of things. So each time they make a mistake they realize it’s worth celebrating, because now they have another thing they can learn from and this type of mindset will inevitably lead to larger victories.

The Many Faces of Ruts

So now you might be saying to yourself, "Well that’s great, but I’m not having that kind of rut. I’m having a creative block." Or perhaps you have some other issue that you consider to be slowing you down to a screeching halt. You can’t let it get to you though. You have to realize that all of these kinds of feelings you’re experiencing are really just your mind signaling to you that you need to take a step back and truly think about what’s wrong and how you can fix it.

Sulking about it isn’t going to do any good. The brain loves to problem solve and if you just muck about, you’re not allowing it to do what it does best. You may not have the answer now, but if you get used to thinking of ways to resolve your scratch problems, you will resolve them. It’s a healthy habit to develop that WILL yield results.

The First Step is Faith

Faith in yourself. Faith in your goals. Faith in the capacity of the human brain. And why shouldn’t you have this faith? Look around you. There are many who have achieved great feats in scratching. At one time or another, they were no different than you. Cultivate faith and then take action!

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