The value of play, diversity and randomness

In today's workaholic world, things are getting pretty uptight. In disciplines ranging from athletic training to classroom education, there's scarcely any room to move. Every detail of our curriculum is now pre-meditated, measured and monitored. We have become hypnotized by the illusion of our expertise and we have excessive confidence in our knowledge. In our quest for professionalism and results, we tighten up our acts to the point that people can hardly breathe. If all this screw-tightening actually worked, that would be one thing. But it doesn't. Our top-down delivery of expert knowledge actually deadens the learning process and inhibits personal ownership of education and health. And, from a neurological point of view, rigid programs may actually be inferior to messy, random and diverse practices.

Consider this masterful presentation by Gary Avischious, head coach at As Gary demonstrates, motor learning works best when it includes variation. And, not only does this principle apply to motor learning, it also becomes a metaphor for learning on any scale.

Coach Gary's perspective is reinforced by a recent New York Times piece How Nonsense Sharpens the Intellect. The short story is that violations of patterns and expectation actually stimulate the brain to seek out meaning. In this respect, play and modern art both activate the brain in new ways and keep our minds active.

Now obviously, we can go overboard with play, diversity and randomness. An over-randomized program doesn't stimulate any training effect and simply wastes time. Nevertheless, it's time to loosen up our training and embrace some variation. Not only does it work better; it's also a lot more fun.