As drummers, we all strive for excellence in our craft. Whether we are playing in a drum corps, in a band, or just practicing on our own, we want to continually improve and achieve the highest level of proficiency possible. However, it's important to remember that even the best drummers have off days. Therefore, you should be aware of the regression to mediocrity principle and act accordingly. In this blog, I will explain the regression to mediocrity principle and give you some examples on how you can use it in your practice mindset, teaching or on the field with your drumline.
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Sometimes, we might have a performance that doesn't go as well as we had hoped, or we might make mistakes that we don't usually make. It's natural to feel frustrated or disappointed in ourselves when this happens, but it's important to remember that these setbacks are a normal part of the learning and improvement process. It’s a fact that you’re not always, all the time on your top performance level, no matter how hard you even try.
Setbacks are a normal part of the learning and improvement process.
The principle explained: regression to the mean
One concept that can be helpful to keep in mind when evaluating our own progress or giving feedback to others is the "regression to the mean" principle. This concept was popularized by Francis Galton in the field of statistics already in late 19th century and recently brought to attention again in the field of psychology in Daniel Kahneman’s famous book: ‘Thinking, Fast and Slow’. To put it in statistics jargon, it means that extreme observations (either very high or very low) tend to be less extreme in subsequent observations. In other words, if someone has an exceptional performance (either good or bad), it's likely that their next performance will be closer to the average or "typical" level.
This principle can be especially relevant when giving feedback to others or judging yourself, as it's important to avoid overreacting to one-time events or making judgments based on a single observation. For example, let's say you are a snare tech working with a snareline in a drum corps. One of the snare drummers has a particularly poor performance one rep, and you feel the urge to criticize or punish him for it. However, if you keep the regression to the mean principle in mind, you might recognize that this poor performance was likely due to temporary factors (such as being unprepared or lost thoughts) and that the drummer is likely to improve already in the next rep. Instead of criticizing or punishing him for the direct one-time events, you might choose to focus on providing constructive feedback and support to help him improve.
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Support the mind rather than criticize outcomes
Be curious about the processes going on in your or someone's mind, rather than just focusing on their immediate outcome. Thinking about the regression to the mean principle can also be helpful when evaluating our own progress as drummers. It's easy to get discouraged when we have a poor performance or make mistakes, but it's important to remember that these setbacks are normal and that we are likely to improve in the future, progressing steadily. By staying positive and focusing on the progress we have made, rather than dwelling on our individual setbacks, we can continue to grow and develop as musicians. It is much better to keep encouraging ourselves in a positive way and working toward achieving higher goals than to get stuck in mistakes we just made. And in the same way you should encourage yourself, you should encourage others as well in your teaching.
It is much better to keep encouraging ourselves in a positive way.
As drummers, we aspire to achieve greatness in our craft. We want to be the best that we can be, to attain the highest level of proficiency possible. But in this pursuit, we must remember that even the best drummers have bad reps sometimes. These setbacks and moments of mediocrity are not failures, but rather an integral part of the learning and improvement process. It is through embracing this principle of regression to the mean that we can truly evolve and progress as musicians.
Ultimately, the regression to the mediocrity principle reminds us to be kind to ourselves and others, and to view setbacks as opportunities for growth rather than failures. It is through this mindset that we can achieve greatness in our craft, while also nurturing a community of lifelong learners who embrace the journey of improvement.