It’s been a week since my last post so I guess it’s about time I write another one. Today’s topic is the idea of the immersion ideal, and how to most effectively develop new skills. I’ve embedded a video as I plan to dive into experimenting with video as a medium, but I’ve also written a healthy sized blog post here in case you prefer reading.
What Is Immersion?
Immersion is the idea of putting yourself into an environment that requires you to extensively perform a certain skill, with the hopes of improving it. Immersion typically takes a large chunk of a person’s time, sometimes even to the detriment of other areas of one’s life, but for many people immersion is worth it because it allows them to quickly develop a skill.
For example, cultural immersion. Thousands of foreign exchange students come to America every year for an opportunity to be immersed in our language and culture. This may mean putting the rest of their life on hold, but nearly all exchange students are happy to have done their exchange because immersing themselves in the American culture for a year allows them to attain language fluency, experience our culture and often develop an entirely new perspective on life.
Of course, foreign exchange is an extreme example of immersion, and leaving your entire world behind to develop a skill usually isn’t necessary.
A more moderate example of immersion is something I did last summer. Making the commitment to write for an hour everyday. I wasn’t perfect, but I ended up writing something like 75 blog posts in 90 days, watched my blog traffic double, and improved my writing skills a TON in the process.
I probably would’ve gotten even better results if I committed to writing 2-3 hours everyday, but the point is even moderately immersing yourself in something can produce huge results in a relatively short amount of time.
The first summer after I learned to juggle I loved juggling so much that I’d often juggle for 6-8 hours a day. My skills were improving and I was having a lot of fun initially, but by the end of the summer my arms had gotten disgustingly skinny from such an excessive amount of cardio, the pace I was progressing dramatically dropped off, and worst of all I felt moderately depressed because I had no life balance.
I’ve also experienced this at times with my social life. Going out and immersing myself in social situations can be great if I’m doing it 3-7 days in a row, but if I go more than a week or so running around to social events without taking a day off I start to get run down, and they stop being fun.
The Accumulation And Output Of Energy
As I mentioned a couple weeks ago, I’ve tried the 100 hour work week, and although it’s cool to hammer things out every once in a while, it’s just not a sustainable long term approach.
I’ve tried going to school, then working out, then doing my juggling training, then doing my homework, then writing a blog post, then rapping, and it feels awesome to get so much done in a day, but I’ve learned that doing so is unproductive in the long term because doing so sets myself up for burn out.
Something most people don’t understand, and that I didn’t realize until recently, is that you can only output as much energy as you accumulate. Trying to put out more than you’ve accumulated will only lead to frustration, stress, and ultimately a lower output.
If you seem to be stagnating in life the best way to get past a plateau is to reach a new level of energy accumulation. By eating healthy foods, exercising, enjoying an amazing social life, meditating, finding fulfilling hobbies, exposing yourself to uplifting material, etc., you’ll increase the amount of energy you accumulate, and thus you’ll be able to have a much more powerful output.
The reason we’ve just covered the accumulation and output of energy is it’s an essential piece of the immersion puzzle. Immersion is important, but in most cases immersion shouldn’t be permanent.
From my research, the people I’ve studied, and personal experience, immersion is most effectively done in a cyclical fashion. In other words, you can’t always be at your best at everything all the time.
So maybe you decide to focus on your social life for a couple months. You think hey, I deserve to have some really cool friends so I’m going to go out seven nights a week for the next two months.
The important thing to realize is that for your RAS (reticular activating system) to really kick in you’ve got to be hammering it in whatever you’re trying to improve in. You can try to learn a language by studying 20 minutes a day, but you’re never going to become fluent that way because you brain needs the immersion for you RAS to kick in, and really understand the nuisances of whatever it is you’re trying to learn.
Unfortunately, doing something like going out seven nights a week is probably going to cause stagnation, or even a slight drop off in other areas of your life. It’s difficult to make gains in the gym when you’ve only got time to go 1-2 times per week, but that’s OK.
It’s not in your best interest to let the rest of your life go to the shitter when you’re immersing yourself in something, but the willingness to let things just chill in maintenance mode sometime will ultimately allow you to get the most bang for your buck and develop the best skills you could possibly have.
After a couple months of hammering it out socially maybe you start to get burnt out, and then you decide to switch your focus to your work. This shift in focus will reduce burnout, stress, and ultimately increase your ability to accumulate energy, and thus improve your ability to output new things to the world.
This cyclical approach to immersion isn’t something that’s talked about a lot, but by using it you’ll be able to produce some amazing results in your life.