Look around you. And then explore, analyse and establish. Can you see the design floors?
A design floor is the ultimate and fundamental design flaw. Individually, design flaws are often simple to identify and, with the right tools, rectify – at least in part. Perfection is an asymptotic concept; striving for constant improvement will get you closer and closer without ever actually arriving. Don’t be fooled though, design flaws can be persistent, ingrained and resistant to change. Flawless is a nonsensical objective but ‘flaw less’ can be attained.
But the design floor might appear impossible to overcome, for it must be achieved through revolution rather than evolution. Design floors can’t be tinkered with, they must be tossed out! A design floor is the foundation on which a program, policy or pursuit is based, a foundation that allows certain things and constrains or eliminates other things.
Floors are low, not deep; when you think about it, floors can be viewed as a shield against the deep. And low is close to the lowest common denominator, low is close to shallow and low is very close to face validity. Low is about appearance rather than substance, low is about the bottom rather than the deep and the deep is the only way to get to the top.
Foundations can be strong but this needs effort, insight and persistence. Foundations can be weak and this just requires disinterest and a willingness to tolerate the design floor; despite these weaknesses, things often keep rolling on:
It’s another fundamental choice in experiential learning and behavioural change. Will you tolerate design floors and pretend that things are as good as they can be? Or will you actively work to rectify design flaws and realise that things can be better than they are?
The last ‘Slow Down Sunday’ post had a strong numerical theme; ‘tis nobler thought numbers could feature in this post to explore some fundamental themes in experiential learning and behavioural change.
1 + 2 + 3 + 4 = 10.
That’s arithmetic – in experiential learning and behavioural change, you’ll use much more sophisticated mathematics without really being aware of it. And you’ll do this even if you think you’re no good at maths. In the artificial world of the classroom, you might struggle with maths but, in the real world of learning and changing, you’re a maths wizard!
10 > 1 +2 +3 +4.
That’s synergy, in which the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Life and learning are not additive pursuits. When you devote effort to the 1s, 2s 3s and 4s (etc), this experience produces something that is greater, more elegant, more effective and more efficient. Mindlessly following a recipe is a recipe for ‘disaster’. Transcend the mechanical.
2 + 2 = 4, NOT 5, 6, 3.5 or any other number suggested by someone else to satisfy specific circumstances.
That’s a reflection of values. While mathematics is the one absolute and universal discipline, undisciplined or expedient behaviour can be applied to mathematics and, more broadly, the scientific method, to distort the truth. Thinking, saying or doing ‘calculations’ in which 2 + 2 = 5 is the slipperiest of all slippery slopes. Stay true and stay truthful, for numbers don’t lie:
Finally, remember that any number (and the distance between any two numbers) equals infinity. Apparently straightforward tasks possess depth and complex tasks have great depth. It just doesn’t make sense to think that you can skate over the surface and cope with all the challenges.
1 + 2 + 3 + 4 = 10. But there are infinite ways to get to 10.
It is extraordinary. If it wasn’t for the plentiful evidence, it would be unbelievable. And the effect that it has on our behaviour is both extraordinary and extra ordinary.
It is extraordinary that we have a predisposition to focus on the extraordinary. It’s a twist on the usual ‘forest and trees’ connection; in this case, we can’t see the trees all around us as we focus on the chance that a sasquatch lives in the forest and the danger this would represent. What makes something extraordinary is precisely why this focus is misplaced. If it was just a question of misplacement, it would be less of an issue for priorities can always be rearranged.
However, concern does grow when displacement enters the cognitive arena. Displacement is close to replacement; once the crucial focus on the very common ordinary is replaced by an unwavering focus on the very infrequent extraordinary, the risks we (fail to) perceive and the decisions we make accordingly affect our behaviour adversely.
How many falling branches, snakes, spiders, cliffs or weather conditions do you tend to overlook because you think that the real danger is found in the possible presence of an angry Bigfoot? It’s extraordinary that the extraordinary is so extraordinarily influential.
This music video for the song ‘Extraordinary’ assembles many extraordinary events and piles them one on top of the other but, as you watch it, you have to remember that ‘extraordinary’ is almost never the problem. However risky you perceive this behaviour, it should never distort your perception of risk towards the extraordinary:
One of the many benefits of effortful experience is the ability to see the bigger picture. But operating at the level of the bigger picture should not and does not arrive at the expense of only seeing/looking for the biggest risks. It’s an interesting contrast – experiential learning allows you to cope with the many ordinary risks automatically while you concurrently focus on the extraordinary risks intentionally.
‘tis nobler hopes that you achieve extraordinary things, perhaps just by doing the ordinary things extraordinarily well. This will involve some risk management – skilled yet ‘ordinary’ performance that should not be distorted by an intentional focus on the extraordinary.
And yet it remains extraordinary that we continually act on our predisposition to focus on the extraordinary. In what way will you be extraordinary?
Apparently, this week has been about appearances. At least, that is how it has seemed. Making an appearance, as appearance has done this week, suggests that there are periods of absence. Appearing then departing, appearing (in the sense of seeming) then becoming clear(er) or absent and then appearing, the change in ‘state’ may be the most noticeable feature. Of course, the regular appearance of change blindness suggests that we can be blind to a change in appearance.
Who would have thought that appearance was such an awkward concept?
Still, In the face of continuing uncertainty and constant change, we are often told to stay positive, suggesting we were positive in the first place. But ‘appearing positive’ – the title of today’s post – is not about affect; rather, it’s about grammar. And it’s about the relevance of the relative and the abandonment of the absolute.
The positive is the base form of an adjective – easy, safe, hard or dangerous – and it is in this form that many people view experiential learning and behavioural change. They view it in absolute terms. Things might appear positive – they might appear safe or easy – but the ways things appear can be deceiving.
But things are rarely absolute and so we need to think of ‘appearing positive’ in degrees – safer, easier or less dangerous. This is the comparative form, the form that is more appropriate for learners and changers. You are never safe but you can always be safer, things are never easy but effort can make them easier. If you think ‘positive’, you see things in black and white. To appreciate the many subtleties that influence learning and behaviour, you need to see both others and situations (and yourself) in true colours:
As soon as you slip back to accepting that things appear positive, and therefore they are absolute, the potential for error increases. We can be lulled into this type of thinking for the real world often conspires against us:
We operate in forgiving environments and so we are often unaware of being forgiven.
We operate in familiar environments and so we are often unaware of the subtle variations.
We operate in self-paced environments and so we are often unaware of our efforts to ‘keep up with the Joneses’.
Forgiving, familiar and self-paced are ‘positive’. But we need more, or less, to guide our journey – more forgiving, less familiar, and more self-paced. Is more or less more or less appropriate than the positive? Can you be absolutely positive or is it better to be surely relative?
Things might appear positive but they aren’t. Be positive, think comparative.
This is the fifth (of six) ‘strategic’ post in a row, which hardly seems random (for the sole reason that it isn’t). Yet the appearance of randomness influences learning and behavioural change in a host of ways. Let’s start with a few questions.
Would your friends describe you as fantastic or bombastic? Would your friends describe you as gymnastic or inelastic? Would your friends describe you as enthusiastic or plastic? Would your friends describe you as ecclesiastic or scholastic?
Would your friends think these rating are drastic or exaggerated? Exaggerated? EXAGGERATED?? That doesn’t fit the pattern!
The use of ‘exaggerated’ isn’t sarcastic – it’s stochastic. Actually, it’s not stochastic, but ‘tis nobler is trying to make a point. And the point has to do with how you go about explaining things, for your explanations can affect everything you do.
Stochastic means random, a messy word that might be best defined as unpredictable, although this might just mean things are happening according to a pattern of which we are unaware. Just because things look random doesn’t mean that they are – even many sets of ‘random’ numbers are, in technical terms, pseudo-random rather than truly random.
The difference between things appearing mostly random or mostly predictable is you!
Everybody knows the saying, ‘S#@t happens’. Is this just ‘bad luck’? Was it unavoidable? Was it a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time? Was there anything you could have done differently? In order, ‘tis nobler suggests that the answers to these questions are improbable, probably not, possibly and absolutely.
How would you answer these same questions?
Stochastic systems aren’t entirely chaotic; they have both predictable and unpredictable elements – just knowing how they start out doesn’t guarantee that you’ll know how they finish (if it did, the system would be deterministic, not stochastic). Traffic is stochastic – you can predict reliably, but not perfectly, what most other drivers will do because most behave in accordance with rules and social norms most of the time. You can predict that almost every driver will stay on their side of the road almost all of the time but you can’t be completely sure that, as you round the next corner, you won’t be faced with another car coming straight towards you on your side of the road. Welcome to the stochastic world!
Unpredictability is always from a particular viewpoint – an event may appear unpredictable to you but not to others. An event may appear unpredictable to you simply because you didn’t notice the things that led up to it. It may have been surprising (to you) but it wasn’t unpredictable. If you don’t see something, does this make it inherently unpredictable?
Being ‘unpredictable’ doesn’t mean being unavoidable; the key dimension is time. You can ‘predict’ something just as it is about to happen but that’s not much of a prediction. The challenge is to operate ahead of time, to anticipate so that you have the time to work out what to do and then do it. Anticipation is a hallmark of experience.
Until now, we’ve talked about stochastic things as things you have to anticipate, avoid or cope with. But there’s another side that is exciting:
“What’s the point of living it without a tiny little bit of ….”
Don’t be determined by others or by events that you think are beyond your control. Be determined to find your own way, even when the process appears stochastic. Appearing random can be transformed into being in control through that essential element – effort.
It will remain a partially stochastic behavioural world. Stochasticity is part of the challenge but it’s also part of the fun.
Learning and change can be great fun, producing memorable experiences that just seem to flow. But these don’t last forever.
Learning and change can be real ordeals, producing difficult periods that you just can’t seem to shake. But these don’t last forever.
Between the fun times and the ordeals, learning and change can just be! They remain a part of your day to day life, even though they may be swamped by apparently more pressing matters.
How should you treat the highs? How should you cope with the lows? And how should you persevere when you are in the much, much larger ‘space’ between them? There is much guidance on overcoming procrastination and much assistance on perseverance – much of which you can find by browsing these archives or exploring elsewhere. None of this information has real meaning unless you derive it personally. Without this investment of effort, just empty words remain.
Learning isn’t consistent, progress isn’t linear, change isn’t guaranteed and perseverance isn’t unchanging. While there will be times when you feel like you’re making great progress, it’s probably more likely that you’ll be feeling as though there’s nothing left to learn (which is wrong because you’ll continue to improve for many years). It’s a rollercoaster ride – sometimes you roll along, sometimes you coast and sometimes you struggle to cope because it’s a rollercoaster. All the time, however, you are riding.
Even when you don’t think you are in ‘the game’, you ARE in ‘the game’.
Still, there will be many times when you’re going to feel as though you are frozen, something which (you and) others may not understand. But, when you unfreeze, just look at the response!
At different times, actions, learning, motivation and progress can appear frozen. Learning and change should not be icy. Instead, learning and change should always aim to be ‘I See’. Think of effort as the great defroster! Think of what will get you moving again!
That’s right – zero addition. If ‘tis nobler stopped writing right now, what would your reaction be? If there’s nothing to add, that might be a minor concern. What if ‘tis nobler put things in reverse – add to nothing instead of nothing to add?
‘Add to nothing’ can have much more serious implications for learning and change. For when things add to nothing, it’s a zero-sum game.
A zero-sum game is one in which the gains and losses cancel each other out – for you to win a little bit, somebody else has to lose a little bit (check out the Prisoner’s Dilemma). When everything is added up, they sum to nothing, a sum that is something even though it is nothing. By definition, these are conflict games.
In your experiential learning and behavioural change journeys, it might be helpful to think of yourself as being in a competition and not a contest. You are a competitor and not a contestant who, by definition, contests things. If this distinction is too fine, it becomes clearer when you recognise that you are only competing with yourself. There is no competition with others.
What does competing with yourself, rather than contesting issues with others, mean? You might conclude that you’ll cross that bridge when you come to it …… and that’s a great example:
Compete with yourself, co-operate with others. The advantages are clear, so clear in fact that reaching this conclusion is a ‘no contest’. Be positive, operate beyond zero.
“Operate beyond zero’ has been a theme of this week; “operate beyond zero” is never a theme of the weak!
Zero tolerance is a well-known approach to law and order that dismisses discretion and imposes automatic punishments. If you do something, then this will happen. No ifs, no buts, no nonsense, no escape. There’s an iron-clad guarantee of a specific response. These are the rules, and the rules must be obeyed.
There is debate within criminology and the justice system about the efficacy of zero tolerance. There should be no debate within experiential learning and behavioural change circles about the intrusive influence of (arbitrary) rules. They shouldn’t be tolerated.
And yet learning and change are often reduced to simple rules, but that’s another story for another time.
The previous post pointed powerfully to the pursuit of alliterative prose. No, it didn’t but the previous sentence did have a point (and it had to do with tolerance!). The previous post talked about the relative ease of separating the possible from the ‘impossible’, which just left the ongoing challenge of sorting out the probable from the less probable. Zero separation is straightforward; beyond zero lies everything with which you must cope. And that, as every learner and changer knows, is not easy!
Can you identify things for which you do have zero tolerance? For these things, is it zero tolerance in principle or do you actually practise zero tolerance? As you know, individuals, corporations and governments do (sometimes or often) condone things for which they have expressed a zero tolerance attitude.
This father finds himself in a peculiar situation, for Buck is different – can you/should you draw any conclusions that generalise beyond the situation?
Was Hamlet talking about zero tolerance when he stated “…it is a custom more honor’d in the breach than the observance …”? The real challenge, though, can again be found beyond zero. What are your tolerances and how flexible are they?
Possible, probable and tolerable all exist beyond zero; there’s nothing more to say but everything for you to do.
Last week, there was nothing and this week it is all about nothing. Nothing changes, and therein can be found a key dimension of experiential learning and behavioural change. It’s not that nothing changes for nothing does change – if you see what ‘tis nobler means.
Neither is it that nothing changes into something, for nothing has been something all along. If some think that nothing is nothing, ‘tis nobler wonders whether this is why some also hold the view that nothing changes. And they hold this view even when nothing changes! T here is much ado about nothing; not for nothing is nothing this week’s theme.
Zero separation suggests absolute proximity or the closest of close contact. You might hear people say that you can’t tell two things apart or that they can’t split them. Zero separation indicates equivalence and difficulty. But, for experiential learners and behavioural changers, zero separation is often the first and always the easiest thing to do.
Unfortunately, being first and easiest can create problems, and this is the downside of zero separation.
It is easy to identify things that reside completely beyond your learning and change challenges – those things that have zero probability of occurring. Separating these things from things that have a chance of occurring is straightforward for you only need to concentrate on the most extreme of events – your diet being threatened by winning a lifetime supply of donuts or crashing your car after swerving to avoid space junk that had just fallen from the sky. The simplicity of removing the impossible may however spill over into a biased view of the possible – a sort of ‘simple is as simple isn’t’!
Separating the possible from the ‘impossible’ adds little value to your learning/change journey and neither does separating the possible from the ‘certain’. All of the value can be found in how well you distinguish the probable from the less probable, realising at the same time that these probabilities change continually.
Once you leave zero behind, all you have to do is zero in – as much as possible – on the possible for it is in the way you cope with the richness of experience between zero and not zero that will define you. The value of effort and experience is clearly demonstrated in the knowledge that beyond zero is everything:
It’s certainly possible to manage the probable but everything depends on you.
No, ‘tis nobler is not using ‘stranded’ in the sense of being marooned or left behind. As you realise, things aren’t always as they seem – you can trust your eyes but not your brain, your memories are revised rather than just retrieved and your beliefs can overpower your knowledge (and new information is often powerless to overcome this). Things seem to be different; things are different from what they seem.
‘tis nobler is using ‘stranded’ in the sense of being composed of strands – threads that are woven to form something bigger and stronger. In the context of experiential learning and behavioural change journeys, the relevance is apparent. Stranded – things are as they are.
In recent posts, ‘tis nobler has unpacked (slightly) the concept of resilience, revealing that there is more to it than people might imagine from simply tossing the word around. And not all of the resilience ‘below the surface’ is necessarily valuable or desirable. What seems to be a single strand is itself composed of smaller strands. How do you make sense of anything if you remain oblivious to the elements that make it what it is?
What might seem to be trite slogans are progressively revealed as fundamental principles. ‘Effort is essential’ was revealed as much more than a catchcry when you burrow down beneath the semantic surface:
This is another example of why effort is essential. Experiential learning and behavioural change can and do present ongoing challenges; both are made more difficult by the subordination of knowledge to belief. The ongoing resistance to new knowledge that is inconsistent with our beliefs may be the single greatest reason why we stand still or go backwards.
And yet all the time we still believe we’re moving forward. Can you believe that?
As you browse the archives, the depth and the detail will coalesce into shapes that suit you (for you know that it is inappropriate and ineffective for any shape to be imposed, however well-intentioned that imposition may be). These guiding shapes and patterns are produced by your effort:
As your journey unfolds, you will learn that you are stranded but you are never stranded. Appreciating the distinction and acting on its implications is a sure sign of progress.
‘tis nobler set out this morning to write a post about some new evidence on the value of self-affirmation. As the thoughts started to coalesce, the post changed into this:
Compile a list like this in your own head: rioting, looting, assault, alienation, exclusion, hopelessness, contempt, criminality.
Compile another list in your head, this time like this: hope, inclusion, effort, respect, morality, achievement, compassion, community.
Compile a list of the (post hoc) contributions of commentators, journalists, academics and politicians, competing to have their own voice heard, as they present their assertions, opinions or dogma in the guise of explanation of recent events. You can’t measure the gap between the rhetoric and the reality for it is incalculable. It is an odd fact of modern life that the race to the bottom is won by those who are the shallowest.
Imagine the ways in which you can bring the first two lists closer together, eventually reducing the appearance of the first so much that it all but disappears. The ‘talking heads’ focus on legal sanctions or constraints on technologies such as social media; a focus on (re-)affirmation of normative behaviours seems to have been barely mentioned and yet this could provide the most constructive, most durable ‘solution’.
But normative behaviours, shared values and re-affirmation are neither simple nor straightforward. In ‘That’s Wrong, I Believe’, ‘tis nobler wrote:
When there is evidence that a belief you hold is incorrect, you generally do not modify the belief; rather, you set out to protect your belief. You will look for mistakes in the evidence, try to get other information that supports your position, attack the messenger, ignore the evidence or simply and more strongly re-affirm your belief, often with the support of those who share your view. While there are a number of factors that will mediate your response, the principle of belief protection in the face of correct and contrary evidence is a clear and common practice. Things may not be as different as chalk and cheese if, for whatever reason, you ‘believe’ that chalk is cheese. It is difficult to convince you otherwise.
There is evidence that the value of your learning can be sustained by your values or, to be precise, affirmation of your values. Essentially, if people reinforce the fundamental things that are important to them, this effort can act to strengthen ‘the able’ and push ‘the unable’ away………The important thing to note is that this affirmation must be relevant at a personal level. There is little point in saying ‘learning is important’, ‘people should have more tolerance’, ‘money is not the only motivation’ or ‘tomorrow will be better than today’. Such sentiments often last no longer than their utterance and are almost entirely disconnected from the learning and change challenges that you are confronting.
While enormously challenging, strengthening normative behaviours is preferable to the coercive compliance model that underpins most social policies. ‘Talking heads’ generate a clamour of contentions that may be motivated by a demand for personal attention. And this focus on the discrete individual downplays the role of the things we have (or should have) in common, the shared norms and values that define our community by transcending the narrow legal and political frameworks. Individual freedoms flourish within shared responsibilities, enabling you to strive to ‘win every day’:
It might be considered trite to suggest that every day is yours to win. But we are measured as a community by the extent to which your life is yours to win.
If your life isn’t yours to win, it’s not just your problem. It’s our problem, for we are all diminished if any are left behind.
Should I turn left or right? Should I just keep going? Does it make sense to backtrack for a while? What does that mean anyway? Where should I head next? How do I know if I’m heading in the right direction? Isn’t there a path I can follow? Everything looks the same, nothing makes any sense, progress is very difficult to detect and I’m starting to wish I’d never set out.
Welcome to the labyrinthine world of experiential learning and behavioural change:
Despite many and ongoing attempts to present the learning and behavioural change ‘world’ as simple, straightforward and structured, the reality is that it’s messy. But this doesn’t mean that it’s a mess for it is always possible to find your way and find it in a way that becomes increasingly effective and efficient.
Perhaps the most famous, yet mythical, labyrinth was that constructed by Daedalus – no bull! Actually, there was a bull (well, that’s half right) but that’s another story. You might like to ponder what implications Daedalus’ son’s behaviour also has for learning – his son was called Icarus – but that’s also another story. The story to be told today concerns the way that Theseus found his way in the labyrinth and slew the Minotaur, the half man, half bull. He used a simple ball of yarn; he overcame the labyrinth because of (his) strings attached.
Regardless of the complexity, the seeming impenetrability of Daedalus’ design, there was a simple solution. And this is diametrically opposed to experiential learning and behavioural change, for there are no simple solutions. ‘tis nobler suggests that acceptance of two guiding principles will ensure that you will always find your own way through each and every learning and change labyrinth:
There is no one right answer, but there can be many right answers.
Conversely, history tells us that there have been many wrong answers, but there is no reason why any particular answer should be wrong.
The only truly right answer is the one you provide to yourself through your effort and engagement; looking for others to supply it will ensure that you’ll remain lost in the labyrinth. At any point in your journey, being ‘lost’ or confused is never an indication that you’re going the wrong way – change of direction is much, much less important than maintenance of momentum.
Just keep going and, while you never escape the learning labyrinth, many of the internal walls do disappear. Navigate the labyrinth your way, no strings attached.
This post is motivated by a particular event yesterday that demonstrates that learning ‘rites’ collapse when reasonable responsibilities expected to be met by others are absent. Rites, rituals, ceremonies, procedures, training and education have a number of things in common. They are often (closed) sets of behaviours. These sets are established, systematised, prescribed and repeated. They benefit greatly from practice. They are consistent, predictable and appreciated, if not always entirely understood.
Can you see the links with experiential learning? It might be easier if you replace these various acts with the concept of routines. Simple sets of behaviours become more complex yet more efficient routines, when bits become bytes and bytes become kilobytes. Such routines are derived from experience, which allows you to understand and then anticipate the world around your task. Gaps in this world and/or gaps in your collective routines are offset by expectancies for you have learned through experience that some things are more likely than others.
And this is where the external responsibilities come in, for they support your routines in standardised, predictable ways and set the probability of some features of some gaps at close to 1. They are consistent, predictable and appreciated, if not always entirely understood. And here’s the story – if anybody from Microsoft is reading this, please meet this reasonable usability responsibility. ‘tis nobler will be brief:
To encrypt, ‘tis nobler entered and confirmed 19 character password for a PowerPoint file, then saved and closed it. To check, ’tis nobler entered the 19 character password to open ppt file – success! ’tis nobler entered and confirmed the same 19 character password for a Word file, then saved and closed the file. ’tis nobler entered the 19 character password to open doc file – error! What is going on?
Now here are the clues – ‘tis nobler watches the keyboard while setting up passwords to avoid errors and the PC speakers were turned off. Hhmmm, if ‘tis nobler couldn’t hack the process, the document would be lost forever. ’tis nobler wondered about the ‘save’ process for .doc(x) files after encrypting – wasn’t it odd that the ‘Save’ dialog box appeared for an already saved file. ‘tis nobler decided to try the same process on another .doc file in case the ‘problem’ was revealed. The only difference was that speakers were turned on and after ’tis nobler had entered 16 characters, the PC goes ding, ding, ding.
That’s right, you can enter more than 16 characters for a password in PPT but no more than 16 in Word. All this time, ’tis nobler was wondering why the password wasn’t working ….. when it was three characters too long. No error messages – Word can only accept passwords of 16 characters or less – so, unless you watch and count the circles and/or have speakers turned on for the auditory warning, you’re left in the dark. Stupid, stupid Microsoft!!!
My rites will only work if you meet your reasonable responsibilities. Don’t forego responsibilities and leave me wondering – “I made you suffer, I caused you pain, I played a secret game ….”
You will often hear people say that there’s more to it than meets the eye, where ‘it’ can be anything. And, in saying this, they are both right and wrong. While ‘it’ can indeed be anything, ‘it’ is, in fact, everything.
There’s more to everything than meets the eye. Effort and courage are required to meet the challenges of this realisation. Effort is a given in experiential learning, although many give learning away rather than give learning a chance by giving effort. But not many people would associate courage with all forms of experiential learning. Where does courage come in? Think through the implications of the following sentence:
To strive to understand, you must be prepared to be misunderstood.
It’s easy and safe to stay on the well-worn path, following where others have gone before you, seeing the things they saw and just doing the things they did. It’s comfortable, conservative and unchallenging. Going through the motions need not involve any movement and certainly not any progress at all. And yet, as part of a large, unquestioning group of fellow commuters, it is possible to pretend that everything is OK and that it doesn’t get any better than this.
But it does, if you make the effort and have the courage. For if you strike out in a new direction, you will be misunderstood by others who are unwilling to see the new things you see, who are unwilling to do the new things you do, who are unwilling to take risks in case they fail. And so they fail safely.
It’s not the first time ‘tis nobler has used the Emerson quote:
Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.
Only the brave leave a trail. Eric is leaving a trail:
You must not be afraid to go where there is no path, and this is where Eric is going for he’s not afraid to take a stand:
Be brave. Eric is, and this is why we admire and love him.
The more you are able to do, the better you seem to be. And this is generally the case. Except when it isn’t, and that is generally the case for novice performers. The distinction is whether what you are doing is necessary; for novice performers, unnecessary and inefficient actions are unavoidable and defining characteristics.
However, the less you seem to be doing, the more able you actually are. This might appear a bit odd for we usually associate busyness with business, excitement with effort. Isn’t it strange then when things happen with a minimum of fuss, a minimum of mess and a minimum of apparent effort?
How can it be that the less you seem to be doing, the more proficient you actually are? Shouldn’t manoeuvres be accompanied by the flailing of arms, the juggling of tasks and the grunting of effort? When what you are expecting to see, what you believe should be there …… just isn’t. But, in some circumstances, nothing can be really something …….. which is different to saying that nothing can really be something, although this also applies. Confusing? Well, no, not unless you’re expecting to be spoonfed. After all, a slight movement in the ‘be’ makes a big difference.
You have to work at this, not just get given what you need as though you somehow deserve it. Everybody deserves it but only those that make the effort receive it. Confused? Let’s move on. What’s the relevance of this? Well, how would you answer the fundamental question, “What constitutes a skilled performer?”
Most people would answer this by listing the things that should be present in their actions. The traditional things, the usual things, the common things – all of them discernible and conspicuous. I’m sure you could nominate quite a few of these, couldn’t you? But there’s a much bigger question than your ability to name them – does the presence of these things define skilled behaviour?
Is it possible for many of them to be absent and yet skilled behaviour to be present? The answer is ‘Yes’!
Hang on, if all these standard things can be either present or absent in skilled behaviour (and it doesn’t make much difference), perhaps skilled behaviour is better defined by the absence of other things? The answer is ‘Yes’!
What are these ‘other’ things, then? I could tell you but that would be …. um, what’s that horrible word ….? That’s right, it’s spoonfeeding.
What are the differences between names and labels? A person usually has the one name and yet they are assigned many labels by others. Names could be described as traditional or exotic, they might be straightforward, interesting or intriguing. Names may have historical derivations or they may be without precedent, created by a novel combination of letters.
If you were to describe the perceived qualities of labels, what words would you use? Labels may be convenient, perhaps inductive, and, or so it seems to ‘tis nobler, invariably negative. We name people and objects without prejudice while pre-judging them with labels.
Issues are always more complex than labels indicate, so why do we persist with the use of labels? Labels have as much to do with experiential learning as the legal system has to do with justice. Little or nothing! This is not to deny that there is inappropriate or unsuitable behaviour or people behaving like ‘jackasses’. No age group, no gender, no suburbs or towns are immune; doesn’t the problem begin when you or ‘they’ start to believe that this type of (infrequent) behaviour is the only problem?
Describing something in a general way, like all of the sound bites you get on the news, is light years away from explaining or understanding it. You are not a label. You are not a category. Life would be very different if everybody fitted into a small number of pigeonholes.
You are certainly not a problem. Sure, you are different but, if just being different was a problem, then ……. hang on, sometimes, some people unfortunately think it is. But, in these circumstances, it is their problem, not yours.
Recognise the differences.
Manage the differences.
Handle the differences your way. Find your own way.
By your actions, show the labellers they are wrong. Reject stereotypes, not just by words but also by deeds and thoughts – it’s time to put your best foot forward:
Make your own decisions – don’t just grab at labels. Don’t do things just because others want you to. Do your own thing. Find your own way. Be strong, be safe. Stand for something or fall for everything. Put your best foot forward! If you decide not to, do you have a reason, or just an excuse?
If you have any interest in public policy, what sort of interest is it? Is it the sort that means you are interested, even if you don’t find it interesting? Or is it the sort that means you are disinterested?
Is it possible to be both interested and disinterested in an issue at the same time? In a semantic sense, it is possible for curiosity or concern and impartiality can co-exist. And yet, in a practical sense, an interest in something is so closely aligned with self-interest that co-existence is rendered nigh on impossible. How often do you hear people say, “I don’t care what’s in it for me”? And, when you do, how often do you think they truly mean it?
It seems that it is not possible to be interested in something without being interested in how this interest can work to your advantage. If there is no probable advantage, interest disappears rapidly. Of course, this alignment of interest with self-interest distorts the issue, some would say strategically while others would describe this distortion as expediency or duplicity. Or is this too cynical? How do you balance interest and disinterest, and how much of your interest is actually self-interest?
For this question can produce harmonious, inclusive solutions or discordant, exclusive reactions. There are always choices and, as a society, we are defined by our choices. More accurately, we are defined by the choices made on our behalf.
It is important for interest and disinterest to co-exist in experiential learning, for curiosity and objectivity extend learning and understanding. Self-interest is not the pariah you might imagine, for positive self-interest need not operate at the expense of others. Commit to positive self-interest at the beginning and then put it away in the bottom drawer for it is a cause and not a consequence of sustained learning and sustainable behavioural change.
Where interest, disinterest and self-interest are concerned, it seems that we still have a lot to learn:
* this post is in response to the disgraceful notion that, rather than contributing equitably to flood reconstruction ourselves through a temporary levy, we should pay for it by reducing foreign aid.
Clichés are so hackneyed and so trite that we tend to be very dismissive of them.
Just take it one day at a time. Ho-hum. Time flies. Yawn. Tomorrow never comes. Hrrumph.
But many clichés are true, something that is conveniently overlooked to avoid their real meaning in the here-and-now. In the current circumstances, what does ‘just take it one day at a time’ really mean for me, right here, right now?
It’s a cliché to say that things can change in an instant. But they can and they do.
Today, for ’tis nobler, they did and then, eventually, normal service was thankfully resumed. Sometimes, unfortunately, normal service is not resumed; things have changed forever.
Please realise that clichés do become true, eventually but unpredictably:
And live your life accordingly. It’s up to you. Yeah, you.
For a long time, experiential learning was bedevilled by task analysis. Task analysis is grounded in the belief that complex behaviour is the sum of its constituent parts and, that, if systematic analysis identifies these parts, it is possible to (re-)construct the complex behaviour through compilation of the parts. What could be easier? What could be less effective?
But complex behaviour doesn’t work that way. Complex behaviour reflects open-loop skills that have ongoing problem solving at their core. Task analysis might be OK for closed-loop skills – the unvarying repetition of a set of unchanging processes – but how does one analyse flexibility, variability or dynamism? Task analysis is invariably descriptive rather than explanatory, which is another reason why it is a waste of time. It is just not possible to derive explanation from description, irrespective of how detailed these descriptions become (and some become highly detailed, with many hundreds of elements and sub-elements).
As an experiential learner, you must provide your own explanation for task demands and your behavioural processes to meet those demands. Not that you’ll realise this for you are creating this explanation through both doing and thinking about your doing.
Transcending external descriptions and creating internal explanations is the goal of all experiential learning. And everybody is able to do this; everybody can perform with precision, fluency and artistry through sustained and insightful effort:
And then you can appreciate the wizardry of your own efforts. You may not know your explanation but you can create it through your own efforts.
A silent yet valid explanation that you have created is worth so much more than all of the oft-shouted descriptions from those around you.