Friday, September 4, 2020

Two Life Lessons I Learned From A Drawing Class

I recently took a beginner drawing class online on Udemy and I highly recommend it if you're interested in drawing.  It's called "The Art & Science of Drawing / BASIC SKILLS" by Brent Eviston.  It was affordable and well worth the time.  There were two drawing principles that I believe apply not only to drawing, but to all aspects in life.

Life Lesson #1 
The quality of your life is determined by the quality of the conversation in your mind.

This idea comes from the drawing principle that the quality of your drawing is determined by the quality of the conversation in your mind.  In drawing, this means continually evaluating basic shapes in terms of size, axis and location.  Asking the right questions allows the drawer to make informed decisions.  Which results in better shapes.  Which results in a better drawing.  

Distracted thought and excellent drawing cannot coexist.  Distracted thought includes negative self-talk, limiting beliefs, unconstructive self-criticism and unfocused questions.  There have been entire books written about the importance of self-talk in musical and athletic performance (The Inner Game of Music by Barry Green, The Inner Game of Tennis by W. Timothy Gallwey).  It turns out that drawing is no different.

Decision making is no different, either.  The quality of your decision making is determined by the quality of the conversation in your mind.  It's about asking the right questions at the right times.  A drawer translating a complex shape onto paper must ask the right questions.  What is the biggest shape?  What's it's axis?  How big is it?  Where does it go?  What changes can I make?  Keeping the thoughts focused on the answers to these questions will result in a good drawing.  

We run into problems in drawing, and in life, when we focus our thoughts and energy in the wrong places - when we ask the wrong questions.  This is what causes us to make bad decisions.  

In poker, there is a term called going ''on tilt.''  It comes from the idea that when a slot machine goes "on tilt," it hemorrhages money.  The poker player who goes "on tilt" starts making bad decisions, and thereby hemorrhages money - just like the slot machine.

A poker player who is "on tilt" gets angry, such as after being bluffed by an opponent or losing a big hand.  He loses focus.  He begins making bad decisions.  He gets overaggressive.  He takes unnecessary risks and falls into traps.  He loses site of the forest (making money in the long run) because he's only focused on one tree (the bluff or bad beat he just took).  

Being "on tilt" doesn't just apply to poker.  You can go "on tilt" anywhere.  People go "on tilt" so often when they are driving that there's even another name for it: "road rage."  Karen goes "on tilt" at the grocery store because they ask her to wear a Covid mask.  Little kids go ''on tilt'' all the time.  Pretty much anyone throwing a temper tantrum can be considered "on tilt."

Being "on tilt" and being focused on what's important cannot coexist.  If you're angry, you're not focused on what's important.  If you're focused on what's most important, then you won't be angry.  There's never a reason to be angry if you're asking yourself the right questions and focused on what's important.  Even if you're stuck in a traffic jam.  Even if you're stuck in jail.  You can still focus on something that gives you hope.  Viktor Frankl survived Nazi concentration camps by focusing on the dream of seeing his wife again and returning to his work.  He focused on what he loved most.  It's always an option, even in the most hopeless circumstances.  

It may take an extraordinary amount of self-awareness and emotional maturity to recognize when you're "on tilt" and quickly get off of it, but it is a skill that can be learned with practice.  The ability to get off of tilt quickly is probably the most valuable skill you can learn because it enables you to make good decisions.  The quality of your life is determined greatly, if not completely, by the quality of your decision making.  Successful people make good decisions.  Happy people make good decisions.  Good people make good decisions.  Successful, or not.  Happy, or sad.  Good, or bad.  All determined by the quality of your decisions. By the quality of the conversation in your mind. By asking the right questions at the right times.  By focusing on what's most important.  By releasing negative thoughts and energy.  The quality of your entire life is determined by the quality of the conversation in your mind.  

This is why strong leadership is so important to a business, organization or country.  The words and actions of the leadership have a major impact on the conversations people have in their minds.  If the conversations are paranoid, scared, confused and mean, then the people's actions will be paranoid, scared, confused and mean.  Right now we have a U.S. public that is paranoid, scared, confused and mean because: 1) we have a President that is paranoid, scared, confused and mean, and 2) the President is having a paranoid, scared, confused and mean conversation with the public.  The quality of a country is determined by the quality of the conversations in the minds of its people.

Life Lesson #2 
Masters never get tired of drilling the fundamentals.

This applies to learning any skill, period.  Sports, martial arts, language, music, drawing, painting, you name it.  Any skill you can think of.  Masters never get tired of drilling the basics. 

Master martial artists repeat the same basic offensive and defensive moves thousands of times.  The timing, rhythm and technique of the basic moves can be perfected endlessly.

Master drawers draw the same basic shapes thousands of times.  They can create hyper-realistic and lifelike drawings because they have practiced seeing and drawing basic shapes thousands of times.

Master gymnasts can perform spectacular movements because they have drilled the basic movements thousands of times and perfected them.

Master linguists read and write millions of lines of basic sentences and phrases.

Master guitarists can play complex pieces because they've mastered basic notes, chords and patterns.  They've practiced these thousands, if not millions, of times.

All art forms, and all skills, can be broken down into basic components (movements, shapes, notes, chords, patterns, letters, words, phrases).  It's not magic.  It's mastery of basics.  Masters never get tired of drilling the fundamentals.