Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Steps Along the Way

"Wax on. Wax off."

"That's from that movie, right?  You know... uh... the Karate Kid."

"Yup, that's the reference."

"So why you bringing it up now?"

"Because it applies perfectly to this situation."

"Which situation?"

"Our situation. The one we're in right now."

"I guess. I never really got that part of the movie."

"What part?"

"The one where Mr Miyagi has that kid waxing all his cars for him. Poor kid just wants to learn karate and instead, he spends the whole day waxing the dude's cars. It ain't right. For sure I'd never let anyone pull that kind of crap with me."

"No kidding."

"Nope. So, what's up with the movie reference? What's it got to do with our situation?"

"Um... never mind."

Sometimes the path to learning is paved with activities that seem irrelevant or even counter productive. The activities make us uncomfortable. We ask why we must do them. We want to know if there are alternatives.

We typically find the responses (e.g., "just do it" or, "you'll see" or, "nope, this is the only way") unsatisfying. So, some of us quit. Some continue, but only halfheartedly. Some abandon (or at least temporarily suspend) disbelief and pursue the activities with intensity and focus.

The activities make no sense and yet, people who seem to know what they're doing insist upon them. For those who quit or only halfheartedly continue, the connections between activities and results are never made; the reasons are never understood. For those who continue with focus and vigor, the activities slowly build competence. Competence reduces discomfort. Comfort improves focus and attention. Better focus and attention lead to understanding.

The problem is that you often can't get there any other way.  There are things you can't understand except by learning to do them (or things similar to them). Without doing them, you can know about them; you just can't know them.

Oftentimes you can't get to know them directly; you have to tack in, i.e., you have to approach them indirectly using other activities that teach you a subset of the required skills. Sometimes these other activities seem to have nothing to do with what you're trying to learn, that is, until you've acquired the skills.

Happy Tuesday,

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