When I teach people to whitewater kayak or raft I always have to do a little bit of brain massaging to help them learn some basic concepts. The brain is such a powerful tool, (apart from for a lot of players on my server), but if you don’t direct it properly it can work against you in unforseen ways. Case in point: once a new kayaker has learned the basics; how to paddle properly, extract themselves from the kayak if it’s upside down, etc; we move on to running a river. There is a nice rapid that I take them on and it’s very simple – some moving water that flows around a bend. The river is about 30 meters wide at this point. Just one little obstacle to negotiate – in the middle-right of the river sits a large rock. My instructions to them are simple: don’t hit the rock. 90% of my students however, do just that. They hit the rock. Time after time. I always try and let them figure it out for themselves, as you retain knowledge better that way. But there comes a point where you have to spell it out for them.

The problem is their focus. They are trying so hard to avoid the rock, that they are focusing 100% on the rock. So that’s where they go. The brain does not diferentiate between positives and negatives. If you’re repeating over and over in your head, “Don’t go near the rock, don’t go near the rock, don’t go near the rock,” all the brain is hearing is the word, rock. And that’s where you end up going. I simply get them to change their focus to where they want to go. And for them it’s like magic, the very first time they glide effortlessly past the rock. And then I make them buy me some beers.

I was reminded of this process last night in the Ice Cream Citadel. The weekly raid was Marrowgar, so in we dutifully went. Not geared that well, and a pvp guild at that, but we one shotted both Marrogar and Lady D. As usual, no drops for rogues. Gotta get me some plate! But I digress. We moved on to the big gunship battle where we decided to do it on heroic becuase it drops lots of loots. It was the first time on this fight for many of us and we wiped twice. I lasted about 10 seconds in the first fight as I jumped straight across, not realising that we had to wait for the mage to come out, and finding myself alone on the other ship. The second time I lasted longer but got stupidly bladestormed down on my own ship. I hate those whirly warriors. That was when we decided to go back to normal mode. This time we executed the fight perfectly, didn’t lose a single person, and the loot chest was ours. So we opened the chest to find …

Heroic drops. It turned out that we hadn’t switched heroic mode off at all. But we thought we had. Our brains had switched from ‘this is hard’ to ‘this is easy’ mode. And it was, it was easy. Now, a good deal of this can be put down to us understanding the fight on the third attempt as opposed to the first attempt. But there is still an element of the brain tricking you here, only in this example for the better. We were focusing on the fight, but relaxed in the knowledge that we would surely prevail after getting close on the hard mode. We weren’t thinking, ‘Oh no hard mode.’ We were thinking, ‘oh cool easy mode.’ Except it wasn’t. St├Čll, no loot drops for rogues even on this mode … sigh.

We moved onto the next boss and got him down to 16% but then had to call it due to people having to leave. Still, a fairly good effort for a quick Sunday night run with a couple of PuGs in the group, and an excellent lesson on where to keep your focus.

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