How a Bowling Story Can Help You Learn Anything Faster

Do you want to learn a new language, skill, or hobby faster and more enjoyably? If so, you might want to pay attention to this bowling story.

It’s a story that I learned from a book called Irresistible by Adam Alter, a professor of marketing and psychology at New York University. In this book, he explores how technology and other things can become addictive and how we can overcome them.

But he also shares some fascinating stories and insights about human behavior and motivation. And one of them is this bowling story.

The Story of Adam and His Brother

The story is about Adam (the author) and his brother, who went bowling when they were kids. Adam was a good bowler, and he expected to do well. His brother was not so good, and he expected to do poorly.

They both got what they expected: Adam hit many pins down, while his brother hardly hit any.

But then something strange happened. His brother got a lucky strike, hitting all the pins down with one ball. He was ecstatic, and he started to enjoy the game more. He didn’t care that he missed most of the pins for the rest of the game. He was having fun.

Adam, on the other hand, got frustrated. He missed a few pins that he thought he should have hit. He started to lose interest in the game. He didn’t have fun.

The Power of Positive Emotional Jolts

What happened here? According to Alter, his brother experienced what psychologists call a “positive emotional jolt”. This is a sudden burst of happiness or excitement that makes us want to repeat the behavior that caused it. It’s like a reward that motivates us to keep going.

Adam did not experience this jolt. He did not get any extra satisfaction from hitting the pins down, because he expected to do so. He did not get any reward for his behavior, so he lost motivation.

This story illustrates how important it is to have a good first experience with something new. When we learn something new, whether it’s a skill, a hobby, or a subject, we are more likely to stick with it and enjoy it if we have a positive emotional jolt at the beginning.

When people don’t experience positive emotional jolts at the outset of an experience—or when they experience negative emotional jolts—they’re less likely to persist.

– Irresistible (Page 20)

This jolt can come from many sources: a compliment, a surprise, a challenge, or a lucky break.

But if we don’t have this jolt, we are more likely to give up or lose interest in what we are doing. We may feel bored, frustrated, or discouraged.

How to Use This Knowledge to Your Advantage

So how can we use this knowledge to our advantage? Well, one way is to try to create positive emotional jolts for ourselves and others when we learn something new. For example:

If you are learning something new, try to find something that interests you or excites you about it. Set realistic goals and reward yourself for reaching them. Seek feedback and support from others who are learning the same thing or who are experts in it.

If you are teaching someone something new, try to make it fun and engaging. Give them feedback and encouragement. Challenge them but don’t overwhelm them. Celebrate their achievements and help them overcome their difficulties.

If you are trying something new for fun, try to make it enjoyable and memorable. Do it with friends or family who share your enthusiasm. Try different variations or styles of it. Experiment and explore.

By doing these things, you can increase your chances of having positive emotional jolts that will make you want to continue learning and doing what you love.


I hope you enjoyed this story and learned something from it. Have you If you did, please share this post with your friends and leave a comment below.

And if you want to read more stories like this one, feel free to check out the book Irresistible for yourself. I personally learned a lot from it and even went back and read it a second time while taking handwritten notes all the way through. It really is a fascinating book and I especially liked how it delves into how technology and our devices can become addictive and how we can overcome them by better understanding behavioral psychology.

Anyways, thanks for reading and happy learning!

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