Monday, June 4, 2012

Victim of Training

I don't know if it's simply a result of increased awareness on my part or if the rate of incidence is indeed rising. In either case, it's alarming.

What's alarming?

The number of people who've been victimized by formal education.

Victim's of formal education?

Yeah, victims, you know like robbed or assaulted or pillaged.

Robbed by formal education?

Yeah, robbed.

How exactly does that happen?

How about I give you an example?


You ever see someone who's been taught exactly how to swing a golf club?

Yeah, I guess so.

She's been taught to hold her head this way and to turn her hips that way and to bend her elbow just so.

Shit, I've been taught that.

OK, so how natural does it feel to swing a golf club when you do everything you've been taught to do?

Umm... I don't know. I haven't ever been able to do everything I was taught to do.

Then how natural does it feel to swing a golf club when you try to do everything you've been taught to do?

It doesn't feel natural at all. In fact, it feels downright awkward.

Then you're a victim of formal training. Your formal training robbed you of your natural swing.

But, I never had a natural swing.

Sure you did. You just never developed it.

Hmm... OK, I kind of see what you're talking about with the golf thing, but how does that generalize?

It happens all the time, or so it seems to me.  You hear someone sing and his voice doesn't sound at all like him; you think, "Uh oh, he's had singing lessons."  You see someone struggling to work a math problem that you know she could do in her head; you think, "There goes another victim of formal education."  You see someone who can't prepare a meal without a recipe; you think...

I know, "There goes a victim of cooking lessons."

Yeah, or televised cooking shows or cookbooks or magazines.

OK, let's say that people are victims of education or training.  How else are they supposed to learn?

Good question. Hmm... How about through imitation?


Yeah, rather than learning through formal instruction of technique and method, you simply imitate someone who's able to do what you want to do.

So if you want to learn to sing, you find someone who sings and you copy them?

Pretty much. I mean, you want to find someone who sings like you want to sing, but that's about it. You don't worry about technique. You don't worry about getting it right. You just imitate the singer: not just his voice, but everything he does. You stand in front of a mirror and do everything you can to become that singer.

But isn't that just copying. If all you're doing is copying someone, are you really learning anything? What if you learn to sing and you have know idea how you're actually doing it.

I think that's when they call you a natural.  Come to think of it, that would be a great time for formal education.  Rather than learning a bunch of techniques and then trying to apply them, you first learn how to do something and then add in the techniques that you find most useful. It's kind of like trying to turn the wheels of a car that has no power steering. If it's sitting still, it's next to impossible. However, once it's moving, it's a piece of cake.

Isn't that kind of backwards?

In the context of formal education, yeah. However, in the context of how we naturally learn, I think not.

So, if I want to learn to do something, I find someone who already does it the way I'd like to do it and I imitate them.

Yeah, I think that's it.

Happy Imitative Monday,


  1. Sounds great! Then I'd like to find somebody I can learn a few things from:
    Laughter, Attitude, Optimism, Creativity, Joy
    In fact any one of these would help greatly!


  2. Zhenya,

    The good news as that the worse you are at something, the easier it is to find someone to learn from. To get started, all you really need is someone who does what you want to do better than you do.

    You don't need someone who laughs all the time, just someone who laughs more often or more deeply or more joyously than you do. The same goes for positive attitude, optimism, creativity and joy. Find someone (anyone) who's more positive, more optimistic, more creative or more joyous and do what she does or what he does.

    Your teacher can be a child. Your teacher can be a dog. Your teacher can be character in a book.

    You find someone and you imitate. The most important part is to imitate all aspects of what they do, not just the ones that you (or they, for that matter) believe contribute to they're being able to do it.

    It's amazing how often the secret ingredient seems completely unrelated to the accomplishing what you want to accomplish.



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