Putting the trigger past the threshold
In part one of The hacker’s approach to the fretboard we looked at personality and environment, the two basic factors that determine behavior (B = f [P,E]), and how you can use that knowledge to maximize the number of times you pick up your guitar throughout the day for creative fun and for practice. We want to ensure immediate success, however, in designing our guitar habit: to take things one step further, we’ll take a look at what we can learn from B.J. Fogg, from the Stanford Persuasive Technology Lab.
The Fogg behavior model defines the threshold of ability (a) and motivation (m) over which the trigger (t) that prompts an action must fall in order for the behavior (B) to take place: the trigger must come at a time when both motivation and ability are high enough for the subject to perform the intended behavior.
B = m.a.t.
Hacking ability: cognitive leverage and environment design
In Fretboard Addicts, it is my job to ensure that the
student’s Addict’s ability remains high through cognitive design: I’ve put in two years of testing to find the formula for the simplest and shortest possible drill that gives the highest possible return in terms of facilitating future growth. This is compounded by layering, each drill leading to the next and the next and the next. The result is what I call cognitive leverage.
In terms of the drills themselves, the ability threshold oscillates —according to the Addicts themselves— between 1 and 3 on a scale from one to ten and stays low, by design. In the case of true beginners, the level of difficulty drops from an initial all-time high of 5 to 7 to the above mentioned 1 to 3 in two to three weeks, after the initial learning curve. This has been tested for again and again, on more than one level. According to Fogg’s model for persuasive design, six factors determine the level of simplicity of any given action: time, money, physical effort, brain cycles, social deviance and non-routine. This is what Fretboard Addicts looks like in those terms:
Time = 30 seconds to 1 minute per day
Even the busiest of CEOs could cope with that! Once the habit sets, it can be stretched out further to suit the Addict’s life-situation and objectives.
Money = affordable
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Physical effort = minimal
Technical requirements are kept minimal ensuring high playability. Besides, your guitar now lives next to your bed, remember?
Brain Cycles = minimal
Theory-wise, the drills are designed for ease of understanding, adding a single element at a time.
Social deviance = zero
No naked dancing or sacred animals involved. Your mom approves.
Non-routine = one week, one drill
The drill is the same every day for a week, establishing a routine that’s easy to follow. The following week’s drill adds a single new element to the equation, making it instantly recognizable as an evolution of the previous weeks.
Cognitive leverage means that the deceptively simple Fretboard Addicts drills work their way into your psyche through integration of senses and intellect: all of a sudden you find yourself seeing the fretboard in your mind’s eye and hearing its sounds in your head throughout the day. Cognitive leverage also equals time leverage. This surprise little finding, on its own, makes Fretboard Addicts worth a whole lot more than any other program out there.
The one job that remains for the Addict is to design his or her environment for success by keeping the
drug guitar handy at all times. Together, cognitive leverage and environment design ensure the lowest possible ability threshold. This is very empowering, and feeds directly into motivation.
Having already looked at the details of environment design, the very first element of our ability hack, let’s take a deeper look at what goes into motivation before we set the trigger to our habit.
Three elements of motivation
Each individual’s motivations for playing guitar are deeply personal and unique. But scratch even just below the surface and patterns emerge. In Fogg’s model, there are three pairs of key motivators at play:
Seeking pleasure / avoiding pain: Immediate pleasure or solace found in music-making.
• Funk just feels good… as does Bach.
• Ever play the blues after a break-up? I know I have. Crank it up, baby… time for a howl!
• Many people use music to “escape” their reality… is that you?
• Tired of focusing excessively on hours of painful technique and not getting very far, in spite of the time and effort you put into it?
• If you’re like me, you don’t just want to make awesome music: you also want full mastery of the fretboard. Just because.
Fretboard Addicts leads to pleasure by facilitating effortless creativity and effortless playing. By hacking around the raging war that goes on within a guitar player’s head when in the confusion / resistance mindset, creative juices start flowing and playing becomes pure joy. Moreover, experiencing continual growth and learning is one of the most rewarding experiences in life. Mastery feels good. Rhythm feels great. Creativity is godlike…
Hope / Fear: Anticipation of success or avoidance of living the same old boring life.
• Could you become the next rock star?
• Could you get rich and live the life of your dreams?
• Sick of that hateful job with the hateful boss and co-workers?
• Afraid of never having reached out for your dreams?
Getting there is 100% doable: Fretboard Addicts leads to a very unique kind of comfortable mastery of the guitar. Add that to new-found creative freedom and energy and you’re off to the races.
Social acceptance / Rejection
Speaks for itself…
Find your key levers
Turn off your phone and sit quietly for three minutes. Look inward and focus: what are your key motivators? Got them? Now write them down. By knowing what your innermost drivers are, and being honest about them, you’ll maximize your chances of success. There lies true meaning, beyond this simple hack to grok the fretboard: motivation is quickly generated when frustrated guitar players find an easy path forward with their playing, but more importantly, it quickly compounds as personal milestones are achieved. It’s a never-ending upward spiral.
With a low ability threshold in place and motivation at an all-time high, all that remains is for the Addict to set a trigger. Oh, forget it. Your guitar already lives right next to your bed, instantly reminding you to play your effortless drill as you prepare to get on with your hectic schedule for the day…
- Make it easy for yourself to accomplish your goal through cognitive leverage and environment design: make sure that your threshold of ability to play and practice guitar stays low by factoring in time, money, physical effort, brain cycles, social deviance and non-routine. Actually, forget it: I’ve done all this for you!
- Identify your key motivators by looking inward, and put them on paper. Knowing the reason why is powerful.
- Make sure that you trigger practice and play by putting your guitar right in your path: environment design doubles as trigger.
Now go to the comments section below and share your key drivers to become an awesome guitar player. Where and how far do you want to go? What’s your deepest dream as a guitar player? How could you use the hacker’s approach to maximize your chances of getting there?
Next, in part 3 of the series, we will look at the principles of self-determination, investment and infinite variability to ensure long-term success.