Are You a Panda or a Chameleon?

Widely renowned as the best bowling coach on the planet, world traveler Rick Benoit once said that the most successful bowlers were the ones that thought in black and white rather than in colors. Have you ever thought to yourself, “wow, now that guy throws it really good,” about pros or local guys, but rarely see them on tv at the PBA level or at the top of the list at the end of tournaments and wondered why that was? We’re going to talk about what Rick means by what he said, which will explain why sometimes those with exceptional physical skills aren’t able to have as much success as you might think they should.

Thinking in black and white vs thinking in colors is basically describing how many details are being considered while in the process of making a shot. Now, that’s not to say that black and white thinkers aren’t capable of the depth of thought that the colorful thinkers are, rather it’s how far all the information that’s been processed by the bowler has been boiled or pared down to the critical information being used during the execution of the shot, though they’re generally not interested in the smaller details. Black and white thinkers have very simple goals or thoughts in their minds during the shot, colorful thinkers have more detailed ideas about exactly how they want to throw the shot. You might ask why considering more details is a bad thing, because it makes sense that the more information you’re considering, the better your probability of success will be, and that’s true, HOWEVER, it depends on when you’re considering that information. If you process it before the shot, and boil it down to one or two key things, you have given your brain very clear directions on your objective. This is what black and white thinkers do. If you are considering too many things DURING the shot, you can overload your brain, and that limits the amount of focus it can give to each different objective, this tends to be the problem that colorful thinkers have.

Think of it this way, you’re lining up to shoot a free throw. You consider your abilities, you consider your comfort zone or how you normally throw the ball, and you consider what needs to happen. A black and white thinker will still consider many of the same things a colorful thinker might, but perhaps without the details that can be distracting. At the end of the day, the objective is to get the ball in the basket, and that is the goal for a black and white thinker. For the colorful thinker, they realize that the ball needs to go into the basket, but they concern themselves with the execution of the shot, because the quality of the execution is directly responsible for the success of the shot. However, many more details are considered in the process. Summed up, the focus for a black and white thinker is the end result by whatever means necessary, and the focus for a colorful thinker is the quality of the execution, however the goal for both is the same.

So are you a Panda (black and white thinker) or a Chameleon (colorful thinker)? There are advantages and disadvantages to both, but by and large, Chameleons are usually better coaches, and Pandas are usually better players. Now, this isn’t to say that both can’t have success in both areas, but Chameleons often have trouble reducing the amount of details they’re considering during their in game execution to have consistent success, especially under pressure, while Pandas may be too focused on the end result and miss a few critical details. The elite players, such as Pete Weber (Panda) and Chris Barnes (Chameleon), are great examples of guys who are good enough to have more success overcoming the disadvantages that their associated ways of thinking may present. I’m a Chameleon, and I definitely agree that it’s a struggle sometimes trying to get my head out of the way. I’m very good with details and thinking things through, but sometimes I can’t pry the ball off my hand. However, I have a friend who is a Panda who doesn’t care about the details, he just knows how to knock pins down, and he’s very good at it. He’s even said before, “I really don’t have a clue what I’m doing, I just move around until the ball hits the pocket and then just keep throwing it there.”

So how do you tell if you’re a Chameleon or a Panda? As I’ve said before, Pandas generally aren’t very interested in the details. They don’t really care about what exact dual angle layout they have, they just know what they want the ball to do, they don’t really care about what pattern is on the lane or have much interest in seeing a lane graph, they just want to get out there and throw the ball, because they figure it out by doing, and they’ll soak up the pertinent information that way or the details that are important to them. Chameleons are very interested in the details. They’re very interested in what their specs are, what the pattern is, what the lane surface is, ball layouts, surfaces, they make moves mathematically (2 and 1 left, etc.), and they usually target specific boards, arrows, or dots, while Pandas just throw the ball however and wherever they need to throw it to strike, they are usually more feel bowlers. These are common characteristics, though some or all may not be true for you. Again, I’m a Chameleon, but I’m not very interested in details, because sometimes the numbers can be misleading, and I’m also a feel bowler, however I do care about the details of my shot. My angle of rotation, axis tilt, speed, the shape of the shot, when I want it to start revving, when I want it to move on the backend, and how I want it to transition are all very important to me, because I feel they’re important in determining the success of the shot. A Panda on the other hand, will usually trust the muscle memory they’ve developed and just focus on where they’re throwing it.

I hope this has helped you understand your own game or way of thinking a bit better. Again, these are just common characteristics of the typical groups of thinkers, so if you don’t perfectly fit the mold of the group you think you’re in, don’t let it confuse or discourage you. Some people are a little of both but everyone “leans” in one direction or the other. I can tell you though that if you’re reading this article, you’re most likely a Chameleon!