Seeing Random Walks in Speed Runs (Part II)

Link Eyes

Understanding that the path to success has its ups and downs has been an integral part in keeping a positive attitude during times of scattered results… there are always peaks and troughs in the path to a happy and fulfilling life.

Thanks for coming back! If you are not coming back (as in you didn’t read Part I) check it out now. So in the last post I talked about the how there can be different dimensions to making progress and understanding the importance of understanding the rules set forth by the system. Here I want to address one more element that relates to this learning progression: The Plateau. Then I will wrap it up with some more real life parallels.

The Feeling of Each Plateau

In almost every learning process there are checkpoints that can help us realize tangible improvement even amongst varied results. Some examples of these checkpoints can be found in Rhythm games as well as many Platformers.

In almost every learning process there are checkpoints that can help us realize tangible improvement even amongst varied results.

In Guitar Hero, for example, the feeling of hitting a plateau of skill exists everywhere. It’s obvious when you move from an easier difficulty to a harder difficulty, and the easier difficulty all of a sudden feels so much more manageable.

The checkpoint progression is just as apparent when you are striving to beat a single difficult song. In Guitar Hero 3, I remember dying multiple times on Stricken (I’m a Disturbed fan) in the first segment, but after playing it a number of times, that first segment became very manageable.

It was a plateau! The beginning was not necessarily so easy as to be second hand nature, but it was intuitive enough that I was making it to harder parts of the song. I’m sure almost everyone out there that can beat Through The Fire and Flames (I’m not among those people) remembers a time when they died repeatedly in the first 10 seconds, but also remember the day that it was all of a sudden doable.

Another game that is popping into my head is Run (or I suppose I played Run 2 more). Each level is no longer than a minute max and there is no downside to dying. I found myself getting sucked into cycles of death with the game instantly starting up again. I can see how the faint of heart could get frustrated fast but I realized how I was building my own personal checkpoints.

I would get stuck at one jump for ten deaths or so, sometimes barely scraping through, only to get killed at the next turn. Then I would slowly become more accustomed to the timing and positioning and nail the jump nearly every time. Tracking these plateau moments where once difficult tasks become near checkpoints kept my spirits high as I became more self aware of the evident shift in skill.

Tracking these plateau moments where once difficult tasks become near checkpoints kept my spirits high as I became more self aware of the evident shift in skill.

The Plateaus of Life

Just as in games, these plateau moments are quite present in our everyday lives. The most striking example of this for me was looking back on financial accounting when I was in more advanced accounting classes.

I remember working hard in financial accounting freshman year, memorizing specific accounts and journal entries for specific situations. When I was asked to consider tutoring the material the following year I had a moment of panic, that all those memorized journal entries and T-chart maneuvers had likely vanished from my mind since the class had been an exercise in memorization.

However, a quick look back at my notes instantly assuaged those fears as I realized that what once took clever mnemonics and catchy songs had become basic foundation work. Things made much more sense now that I had a better understanding of how different components fit together in accounting. I had reached a plateau in accounting where the more basic concepts became much easier than I remembered, and this realization was an amazing feeling.

Beyond these kinds of realizations, the general concept of plateau moments plays quite a large role in my life. I think in general I am pretty inertial. That is, I overly worry about doing things for the first time, more so than the average person from what I can tell. Because of this, I have put a lot of effort into understanding how I can really analyze an experience and make sure the second time I do a task, it doesn’t feel like the first. Two methods help me achieve this.

…I have put a lot of effort into understanding how I can really analyze an experience and make sure the second time I do a task, it doesn’t feel like the first.

The first entails being overly thorough the first time; I ask the questions that need to be asked and truly flesh out the ideas that need to be fleshed out to make the learning experience more translatable.

I ask the questions that need to be asked and truly flesh out the ideas that need to be fleshed out to make the learning experience more translatable.

For example, part of my job entails reviewing documents looking for “smoking guns”. The first time I did this, I was very unsure about how in depth we were supposed to inquiring. One of the more senior members of the team asked some very pointed questions in the initial debriefing which helped clarify a great deal, so I noted these and have created a running tally of good questions for preliminary understanding. I used these in my next document review to ease into the project and gain confidence in what I was doing.

Second, I always put time into considering how past tasks translate to current tasks. For example, I have often been able to save hours at work understanding how a macro I have written in excel in the past can be easily translated to my current task.

Additionally, I try to build on this foundation when I can; I do projecteuler.net problems in my spare time to help build my excel VBA skills and use new methods that can translate to future tasks (or at least that’s what I tell myself, it’s mostly just math fun!).

I always put time into considering how past tasks translate to current tasks

Concluding Thoughts

Understanding that the path to success has its ups and downs has been an integral part in keeping a positive attitude during times of scattered results. Whether it was a bad test after a series of successes, inconsistent weigh ins when trying to shed some pounds, a mess up in an email to a boss or a rejection after an interview that I thought was a perfect fit, there are always peaks and troughs in the path to a happy and fulfilling life.

With these gaming experiences in the back of my mind I am better equipped to keep a positive attitude as I push forward and prepare for whatever is next. It’s so important to keep in mind that the troughs today are better than the troughs of yesterday. We are constantly growing with our mistakes as well as our successes.

It’s so important to keep in mind that the troughs today are better than the troughs of yesterday. We are constantly growing with our mistakes as well as our successes.

Always keep an eye out for that mean; the ever climbing core that is dragging up those lows whether they like it or not. I know for me, sifting through that random walk behavior and truly basking in the core learning has helped keep a smile on my face at the worst of times.

That’s enough for this guy. Let me know how you feel on some of these issues. Have there been instances in your life that you really felt like these trough moments in the learning process were bogging you down? Has stepping back and evaluating segments of learning been helpful in keeping a positive attitude?

Thanks for staying tuned. As always, game on and learn on!

~Dylan

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