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The String #18: Isolate, Integrate, Improvise.

Aquiring new skills in new domains requires us to start small. As we mature and get confident we integrate our learnings, we grow and eventually we can start to improvise. To truly enjoy our new superskills.

Jonas Achouri Sihlén
Jonas Achouri Sihlén
3 min read
The String #18: Isolate, Integrate, Improvise.

The Three I's

When it comes to the ability of acquiring and growing skills we can simplify the process by describing it with the three I's: Isolate, Integrate and Improvise.

Perhaps you are learning to play an instrument, a new language or putting a new exercise into your training protocol. Or just like me, starting to learn web development.

Despite which path or quest you are into, it makes sense to isolate your learning journey into smaller bits and pieces, at start. Once maturity is reached, you integrate them into cohesive scenarios or exercises. When you're comfortable enough by integrating your knowledge into larger parts you all of a sudden reach another state of mastery. A place where you start improvising.

I first encountered this concept when I went to the European Movement Meeting in Copenhagen, late summer of 2017. No, not the political activist meet-up. The physical movement meeting 💪 😃
Ido Portal talked about this metaphor a few times in the seminars. Referring to the process of learning how to apply your skill-set and knowledge. Defining them as signs of maturity in your learning journey.

Let us unfold with an example:

When I was a kid, I started to play the violin and then the piano. I was dreaming of becoming a professional soloist, performing on the world stage.

Playing instruments like the violin and the piano truly requires dedicated practice and continuous repetitions. And it all starts with small pieces.


If you want to learn a new piece, you usually don't start immediately by playing from start to finish. You divide the piece into smaller chunks. So that you can practice each one of them to perfection. You start small.

Once you play them without any friction. With almost no effort. With smooth, nearly automatic strokes and performance, you can proceed with the next part.

See below example where I have marked 4 sections. You play one section at a time before you move on to the next one.



When integrating the small chunks that you almost know by heart, you start to realize the full picture. You get a more coherent melody when you put 1-4 together. The previously separated parts get integrated to something that may sound and experience differently compared to the isolated experience.


Below is the tune for this masterpiece, masterfully played by Hilary Hahn 👇🏽.

Try to follow the notes and hit pause from time to time to get a feeling how the integrated parts are tied to each other.

Hilary Hahn playing Violin Partita No.3 by J.S. Bach.


The last 'I' and the highest step of skill-maturity is where you can deviate from the script. This is the stage where you start making up own variations and new ways to express and problem solve.

A state of mastery where you use the skills from previous steps to create your own way and interpretation. This is where you feel so confident with your skills that you don't need notes. You don't need to follow any script, procedure or process. The knowledge is already programmed into your body and mind. You start creating something different.

This process or mental model of skill practice is something we can apply to any domain that requires deep focus and practice. Such as learning to code for example.

Applying The Three I's - Learning To Code

I have started to adapt this mindset myself in my journey today. Starting to learn web development from scratch. And no, I am not kidding.

To not become overwhelmed of everything I need to learn to be able to build my own applications, I build up my curriculum into isolated parts at first.
I.e learning HTML, CSS and JavaScript separated. Before I start to integrate the Front-End with the Back-End.
And who knows, maybe someday even start improvising with my fresh tech skills... It will probably be something like this 👇🏽


I have just joined an online bootcamp and I am super excited for my next projects I want to create. At the moment my GitHub repo is pretty empty but I aim to fill it up with some cool stuff.

I hope you will stay and follow me through my journey. Who knows, maybe my learnings and insights will be useful for you as well. Code or no-code, we all learn from each other.

Thanks for reading. Until next time!