Every Sunday, ’tis nobler presents seven things that you may find inspiring, intriguing and informative. Enjoy!
A great new music video from Fulton Lights (not The Birds, The Yardbirds or The Byrds).
But ultimately, fiction is what the Hypothetical Development Organization has to offer. These are stories. And I do not offer that thought as an apology, an admission, or a concession. Good stories — funny, provocative, weird, or disturbing — have value in the real world.
The Big Picture’s images of the 2011 Tour de France, Part 1 and Part 2. Yell for Cadel !!!
‘tis nobler wants you to think of someone who has acknowledged expertise. Don’t select an ‘expert’ for there are ‘experts’ everywhere; expertise is somewhat thinner on the ground. For every person with expertise, there are many others who profess to be experts. Expertise doesn’t involve doing the extraordinary – it’s about doing the ordinary competently, confidently, convincingly and consistently. Those with expertise, that is, those who have made a sustained learning effort, can recognise expertise in others for it presents as another recognisable pattern. You may not be able to explain the pattern adequately – they are just good at what they do – but you do know it when you see it.
‘Competently, confidently, convincingly and consistently’ leaves out the concept of certainty. Those with expertise must be certain in what they’re doing; after all, they have done it many times before. Surely, then, a ‘certain’ expert (c.f. an uncertain novice) would be more persuasive in communicating the ways to behave. They know because they do so well; they do so well because they know.
However, the relationship between expertise, certainty and persuasion seems more surprising. When those perceived as lacking expertise appear more certain, they are seen as more persuasive. Conversely, when those perceived as having expertise appear less certain, they are seen as more persuasive. Apparently, and sadly, if you don’t really know what you’re talking about, speak with great conviction in order to persuade others; why do politicians spring to mind as an appropriate example? Alexander Pope suggested that ‘some people will never learn anything because they understand everything too soon’. An unshakeable belief in their own message can override the shaky foundation on which it is built.
The ‘uncertain expert’ received support from George Santayana who said that ‘the wisest mind has something yet to learn’. Can you imagine how these issues relate to your learning journey and its many features? Can you unravel and re-connect elements such as certainty, effort, (over)confidence, motivation, curiosity and perseverance?
Certainty should never be an outcome of experiential learning. Certainty can never be a pre-condition for continued (lifelong) learning. Nobody knows everything in a given area or specific skill, even though this is exactly what some may profess. Everybody does know something of potential value to your own learning journey – keep your ears, eyes and minds open along the way. Remember, however, others are describing what they do (or what they think they are doing) and description is not explanation. Explanations are constructed from your own efforts yet, as a product of your cumulative experience, your own explanations often remain hidden from you (and are thus even further away from others).
As you know, though, there is an exception to every rule. To end this post, watch this short video; it encapsulates great expertise, total certainty and compelling persuasiveness:
Is this post persuasive? ‘tis nobler is certainly not certain – if it is, that must mean ‘tis nobler is an [complete this sentence using a noun that begins with the letter ‘E’].
For a start, there’s the Sea of Tranquillity, the site for the first Moon landing. What’s that? Read the title of this post carefully. It’s ‘and’, not ‘on’. Is there a link between places AND the Moon?
The first, um, place to start is with some recent research that reinforces the value of pattern recognition derived from experience. When people were asked to make quick judgments on the safety of (photographs of) unfamiliar neighbourhoods, their ‘gut feelings’ were accurate. Of course, this has little to do with ‘the gut’, for the explanation can be found between the ears. Neither should you dismiss this capability as just ‘a feeling’ or intuition, for the effort invested to produce these snap judgments is substantial.
This research complements many other studies that have shown the emergence of pattern recognition as a function of increasing experience. Learners move from trying to cope with all the little bits through to holistic assessments of more global patterns. Experienced learners just ‘know’ things, not because they get better at guessing but because they can identify, understand and act on the patterns they perceive.
That’s the relevance of places, now for the Moon; enjoy this fabulous song by The Waterboys and pay particular attention to the lyrics:
“I had flashes.” Novice learners deal with the bits they encounter. “But you saw the plan.” Experienced learners combine (or chunk) these bits and operate on the basis of patterns, not bits.
“I saw the crescent.” Novice learners deal with some, but not all, of the bits they encounter. “You saw the whole of the Moon.” Experienced learners incorporate all of the bits into the one pattern.
“I saw the rain dirty valley.” Novice learners deal with the bits literally and independently. “You saw Brigadoon.” Experienced learners are able to extract meaning from patterns (in part because they’re not overwhelmed by juggling the many bits) and ‘see’ not just the big picture but beyond it as well.
Can you imagine the benefits to precision, fluency, workload and decision making when you see the whole of the Moon and not just the crescent? Commitment to a sustained learning journey will take you many places and, eventually, take you to the (whole of the) Moon.
In ‘Take Them Off’, ‘tis nobler noted that people are generally inaccurate in their assessments of their own behaviour and that these assessments are positively skewed:
Self monitoring and self assessment are core elements of experiential learning and behavioural change. The ongoing question concerns the person being monitored and assessed. Is it actually you, is it the ‘you’ you think others want to see or is it the ‘you’ that you’d prefer to be? Wear clear lenses when monitoring and assessing your behaviour.
We do look at ourselves through rose-coloured glasses – as stronger, smarter, faster or more skilful than objective scrutiny would indicate. And, as well our general behaviour, we recall many past decisions through the same glasses, one reason why we repeat past mistakes. Other past decisions reverberate as reasons for continuing regret, something which can be offset through closure.
Both regrets and rosy recollections can be derived from an inaccurate perspective on past decisions – they are rarely as negative or positive as we subsequently recall for they are passing moments in a much longer journey. You can and must learn from past decisions but you are not constrained to repeat them for their apparent rosiness or their ongoing source of regret. There will be links and overlaps between current challenges and past decisions but there need not be any dependencies (which would be another variation of the Gambler’s Fallacy).
Would it be possible for Robbie Williams to replace ‘regrets’ with ‘rosiness’ in this song? Could he have sung – ‘No rosiness, it doesn’t work, no rosiness, it only hurts’?
Rosiness and regret may be two sides of the same coin, the one that ties you to past decisions in ways that hamper the here and now. How do you balance a longing for ‘the good old days’ (which could be as recent as the ‘great’ decision you made a few months ago) with the rueful conclusion that ‘things have never been as good as they are now’ (if only you were young enough to take advantage of them)?
We do think of past behaviour and previous decisions differently when we examine them from the present. This examination needs one of the three Rs to be applied and you get to choose which one – regretful, rosy or real.
Once upon a time that was known, a period called the duration, there was joy when things were was joyous and there was pain when other things were painful. And they all lived happily ever after, for they finally understood the effect that their knowledge of duration had on their learning and their lives. Knowing enhances and waiting lessens.
What’s the relationship between ending and enduring? One literal difference is that ‘U R’ is the difference. And perhaps you are! What’s the relationship between knowing about duration and waiting for this time to pass? These relationships can have a direct and substantial impact on your learning and your life for ending, enduring, knowing and waiting influence the response to experiences, be they happy or sad, positive or negative. Which endings must be endured and which can be enjoyed? What effect does looking forward to an ending have?
The Canadian indie electronic band Junior Boys have a song called ‘A Truly Happy Ending’ in which they sing these words:
Never seen, never been in a truly happy ending,
Get so close but it always just falls apart …’
Knowing there’s an ending is important; waiting for that ending is to be avoided. In a series of studies, knowledge of ‘duration’ has been shown to increase affect in both directions. This knowledge increases the pleasure of positive experiences (enjoy it while you can) and can also increase the ‘pain’ of negative experiences (knowing how long pain will last makes it worse). However, actively waiting for this time to pass moderates both of these reactions – both pleasure and pain are lessened when you monitor the time slipping away. Counting down makes pleasure and pain count for less!
Experiential learning and behavioural change are not finite activities; even when goals are achieved (or, more accurately, appear to have been achieved), there remains the need to sustain and deepen these goal-related behaviours. If you stop moving forward, you rarely stand still; while practice might seem to ‘make perfect’, you must also engage in the practice of ‘perfect’. If you don’t, what seemed perfect will inevitably deteriorate.
Experiential learning and efforts to change and then manage behaviour are empowering and immensely satisfying. They don’t have a fixed or short time limit, an ending in the usual sense, for they can and must be lifelong activities. The effect of knowing this produces great and positive affect, affect that can’t be lessened by looking for the end to arrive. The end to learning and change never arrives; enjoy the learning and change journey for it is not something that need be endured.
This simple statement carries much weight for experiential learners and those pursuing behavioural change. Unsurprisingly, the evidence indicates that positive expectations are more predictive of success than negative expectations – it’s very difficult to succeed when you have little expectation of success. In contrast, negative imaginings of the future are more likely to lead to success than when these ‘dreams’ are positive. Positive expectations and negative dreams push you towards success; however, positive dreams can be counterproductive, making little or no contribution to success. ‘tis nobler explained this surprising finding in this way:
It is possible for positive dreams to become an end in their own right rather than a (motivating) means to the desired end; if the positive dream is enjoyed now, it is less likely to produce goal achievement in the future. The dream is enjoyed even though it never leads anywhere…….. Having positive expectations, supported by evidence (of effort, insight, progress, feedback etc), leads to success. Having negative ‘dreams’, the images that the learning process will be demanding, time-consuming and extensive can also contribute to success, for they are directly connected with the evidence on which expectations are based. Positive ‘dreams’ are unconnected with anything except your dreaming.
Now, recent research has provided an explanation for the failure of positive dreams – they sap your energy! Dreaming of the finish line in whatever form it takes resembles having finished, with the feeling of completion accompanied by feeling physically and mentally flat. It’s like running and finishing the race before the starter’s pistol fires – you get the exhaustion and exhilaration without the exercise. You are spent without expending any effort.
On this basis, it’s reasonable to conclude that these guys have the most positive dreams of all:
Expect the positive and imagine the negative, for these approaches fuel enthusiasm and effort. Just imagining the positive ensures that the positive remains in your imagination. Imagine that, for that is a negative!
What should you be mindful of? The usual answer is to be mindful of the moment.
Mindfulness is a concept that requires a unilateral focus on the immediate, the here and know, the moment. It is a way to focus, to relax and to renew. It underpins aspects of religion, meditation, therapy and ‘life coaching’. The focus can be very narrow – breathing – or it can be very wide – the situation you’re confronting – but the emphasis is on devoting attention, your full attention, to everything.
As a learner, what should you be mindful of? ‘tis nobler’s answer would be to be mindful of not being too mindful, except when being mindful recharges your learning journey. What do you think the relationship between mindfulness and experiential learning is?
A single-minded focus on the immediate enables you to push away all of the other elements that comprise learning. If you do so as a needed break from your learning, then that’s fantastic; if you do so because you believe this focus is necessary for learning, then that’s probably misplaced.
Narrowing your learning in time while expanding the amount of information you’re taking in can be counterproductive. If you take everything in, moment by moment, how can you be mindful of the moments that are yet to arrive, the ‘future’ moments that you should be anticipating and preparing for? If you take everything in, moment by moment, how can you be mindful of the reverberations of the moments that seem to have passed?
You can undoubtedly find things ‘in the moment’ but you can also be lost in the moment:
‘tis nobler thinks it’s wrong to conceive of the here and now as comprising all of the information you need to perform. This conception suggests that the more mindful you are, the more successful you’ll be as a skilled performer. Experiential learning adopts the opposite approach – the more your ‘here and now’ performance reflects the sum total of your entire learning journey, past, present and future, the more successful you’ll be.
What many consider to be thinking ‘on your feet’, another way to describe applied mindfulness, misrepresents this type of thinking for the better performers are thinking through their journey and applying the lessons learned; they are not just thinking about where they happen to be standing at any point in time.
Being mindful is about conscious control, conscious processing and conscious awareness; being experienced is about shifting from the conscious to the automatic. The specific challenge may be in the here and now but its solution is created over a much longer timeframe.
‘tis nobler encourages you to practise mindfulness when you want to relax and recharge. When you want to learn, ‘tis nobler encourages you to practise being mindful-less.
Nothing will stop me from getting there! You know there ain’t no mountain high enough:
There ain’t no valley low enough. There ain’t no river wide enough. To keep me from getting to you …..
So, why is ‘except’ in the title of this post? Won’t determination and application prevail over the highest of mountains, the lowest of valleys and the widest of rivers? Nothing is going to stop you from achieving your goals. Nothing, absolutely nothing at all.
Except, perhaps, if someone else gets there first. Most people might consider the achievements of others to represent an incentive for them to continue their pursuit of the same goal – if they can do it, so can I. It reinforces the reality of achievement for it’s no longer an abstract possibility. ‘Can anyone do this?’ is no longer a question for you have direct evidence that ‘they’ can do it. And, if they can do it, surely it makes you more motivated to reach the goal they have already attained.
This sounds reasonable, it makes sense – except for the evidence that being a witness to the achievements of others can be deflating rather than uplifting. Instead of ‘if they can do it then so can I’, research has shown the consequence to be more like ‘they have done it so I can stop trying now’.
Sharing the limelight that shines on others as a result of their efforts is not just pointless, it can be counterproductive. Their achievements are not yours, their ‘limelight’ doesn’t shine on you and their efforts do not mean that your efforts can cease.
The heading for Monday’s post was ‘Behind’; you might be wondering how ‘Before’ can come after ‘Behind’. Before ‘tis nobler answers this question, which would put us behind schedule, let’s explore the value of ‘before’. For ‘before’ is capable of putting you ‘ahead’, ‘before’ can stop you getting further ‘behind’. Even though ‘before’ is before ‘now’, ‘before’ can help you control ‘now’, especially if you use ‘before’ more often than every ‘now and then’.
Now then, if we want to understand ‘before’, we must realise that it’s important to not just stand there. Of course, there are many ways we could just ‘stand there’ – we could stand around, we could stand still, we could stand for it or we could stand our ground:
These lyrics from this song were very pertinent – It’s all around, Getting stronger, coming closer, Into my world, I can feel that it’s time for me to face it, Can I take it? Many think that the essence of self control is to ‘stand your ground’ and attempt to take whatever is thrown at you; while ‘tis nobler has explored the value and shortcomings of willpower previously ( see a summary here), standing your ground should never be the only way you exercise self control.
And this is where ‘before’ comes in. Rather than just standing your ground, prepare the ground in advance so that standing it is either unnecessary or easier. There is substantial evidence to support the notion of pre-commitment – taking actions beforehand that reduce the need to subsequently control other actions. Do you remember when ‘tis nobler wrote that experiential learning and behavioural are ever tempting:
Limiting exposure to known temptations is particularly important as people tend to overestimate the strength of their self-control, another one of those pesky cognitive biases. This overestimation is exacerbated by the fact that it is used as the basis for greater exposure to temptation. Can you guess what happens?
Decide and act on how you want to cope with temptations before they appear. Never just rely on your (weaker than you believe) ability to stand your ground. A commitment to pre-commitment will help you cope with the ‘now’ because of what you have done ‘before’. Think of this as anticipatory self control.
To assist your self control, the ‘now’ you want can be achieved by organising the ‘now’ you will confront ‘before’ it happens. Standing your ground can sometimes work but you must realise that this ground can be shaky. What can you do beforehand to make it firmer?
In many children’s pantomimes, there is often a part where the leading character is being stalked by a ‘baddie’. At these times, it is mandatory for the audience to shout “He’s behind you” as loud as they can, and then the merriment ensues. But what happens when you’re behind? What happens when you’re losing?
Research guidance on this question revolves around momentum, force, motivation and self-belief. Let’s first think about the concept of momentum, which is the product of a body’s mass and rate of movement. The bigger ‘you’ are and/or the faster ‘you’ are moving, the more momentum ‘you’ have. The law of conservation of linear momentum says that momentum doesn’t change unless acted on by outside forces. Sometimes, momentum appears unstoppable but only because the force needed to change or stop it is not available.
Now think of motivation as a force, something that can be applied to alter momentum. In this sense, motivation is not an absolute force – applied at the same level regardless of circumstances. Think of this motivation in relative terms, for it does relate to both ‘distance’ and self-belief. The smaller the gap and/or the stronger the self-belief, the more likely you are to be successful in altering momentum to your advantage. Losing by a small margin yet believing that you are capable of overcoming the deficit produces a higher than expected rate of ultimate success.
The Aimee Mann song ‘Momentum’ captures this well when she sings:
But I can’t confront the doubts I have
I can’t admit that maybe the past was bad
And so, for the sake of momentum
I’m condemning the future to death
So it can match the past.
Events and outcomes will match the past if you make little or no effort to change them. And changing momentum requires the application of motivational force that, in turn, requires self-belief. Self-belief can be sustained when hope remains intact; a small gap can fuel hope and nurture self-belief.
Momentum can always be shifted by the appropriate force. The ongoing challenge is to keep the motivation to achieve this alive by ensuring the required force remains within manageable limits. May the force to shift momentum be with you!
How do you translate this sentence? To be more precise, take the sentence “How do you translate this sentence?” and translate it into English.
How did you go? Did it take you long? Did you make any mistakes? Really, it couldn’t have been any easier given the absolute precision of instructions and the simplicity of the task.
Now, look at these four sentences and try to work out what they mean:
Comment traduisez-vous cette phrase? Miten kääntää tämän lauseen? Πώς μεταφράζεται αυτή η πρόταση? इस वाक्य दूसरों के लिए अलग है?
Did you make any headway? Did you recognise that the first sentence was written in French? Doesn’t ‘comment’ mean ‘how’ in English as in ‘Comment allez-vous?’ – ‘How are you?’ And perhaps the French word ‘phrase’ has some overlap with the English word ‘phrase’. Could the French ‘phrase’ be translated into English as ‘sentence’. How, something, something, sentence, and then a question mark. If you can see an emerging pattern, then the French sentence does indeed translate as ‘How do you translate this sentence?’
The second, third and fourth languages are Finnish, Greek and Hindi. As they are all questions and if the pattern continues, they probably all translate as ‘How do you translate this sentence?’ And you’d be right – almost – as the Hindi sentence is a translation of ‘Is this sentence different to the others?’
Even if you are monolingual, you are still an interpreter for precision and clarity are uncommon features of experiential learning and behavioural change. You must make sense of the situation as it unfolds and perform effectively and efficiently in the circumstances – the demands being imposed on you are never fully defined, never just handed to you on a plate. Translate, interpret, act.
And this is where there must a real change. Teachers, trainers and instructors have traditionally thought that their job is to make things as easy as possible by providing their learners with the ‘safety’ of precise instructions and unambiguous advice. In certain tasks, viz closed-loop skills, this remains the case.
But when you must learn by doing and not by doing what you’ve been told to do, the value of ‘the vague’ has received research support. ‘Vague’ supports personal value-adding while ‘precise’ removes the personal contribution from the process. ‘Vague’ may be more challenging and more daunting but the essence of your learning – your own experience – can’t be artificially ‘injected’ by an outsider. Their role is to facilitate, not force.
‘tis nobler could tell you what (‘tis nobler thinks) this video – ‘Hat’ – is all about:
And you might simply adopt ‘tis nobler’s interpretation as your own, becoming a parrot that recites without understanding rather than a performer who demonstrates the value of experiences and reflection. Vagueness encourages autonomous learning; you should learn with autonomy rather than learn as an automaton (for there is no real learning involved in mindlessly obeying instructions)!
In experiential learning, vague suggestions are the new precise instructions. Vague? Precisely!
‘tis nobler has previously written a post that had the title ‘For Others’ . In that post, ‘tis nobler noted:
Familiarity breeds contempt, a shorthand way of describing the expertise bias. When I am able to do something, I find it difficult to understand why you can’t do it. I compare your ‘now performance’ with the ‘now me’ rather than compare it to the ‘beginner me’. I can’t imagine how your ‘beginner you’ can be so hopeless. After all, I have done this many, many times and it is so easy to do. What is wrong with you?
Familiarity can breed contempt for others. Familiarity can also breed contempt for novelty for recent research has shown that people prefer a familiar option (to a less familiar option), even when they know that it is a worse option in the circumstances.
How can you ever truly find your own way when the way you ‘find’ is the familiar one that you’ve travelled many times before?
When you commence your experiential learning journey, everything may be unfamiliar. Gradually yet progressively, (some) things do become more familiar, a sign of the progress you’ve made and an indication of the ever-present challenge to continue transforming the unfamiliar into the familiar. At any point, in both psychological and educational terms, there is a temptation to stay within the familiarity you have accrued rather than continue to expand experiences and develop expertise.
Some stop at the earliest possible time, an unfortunate combination of overconfidence and ‘under-ability’. Others stop further on – but not much further – without realising that the learning path(s) keep going and going. If you keep to the one familiar path, your learning will be less effective and more inefficient. Don’t do the same, limited and familiar steps; actively and effortfully make your learning journey one of many different steps:
Familiarity can breed contempt for novelty. Transcend the familiar and just be ‘for novelty’!
You must do at least 30 minutes of study every night means you must do at least 30 minutes of study every night. But this is not how it is perceived; ‘at least’ becomes the least of your concerns and 30 minutes is all that you do (assuming you do any, that is).
Your minimum credit card payment this month is $36.00 means that your minimum credit card payment this month is $36.00. But this is not how it is perceived; $36.00 becomes the reference point that determines your payment (which, for many people and for psychological rather than financial reasons, is close to the minimum required). Your decision is heavily influenced by the reference point and research has demonstrated a significant correlation between minimum credit card payments and actual credit card payments.
This weekend only, all suits are 30% off means that all suits are 30% off this weekend. But this is not how it is perceived; the 30% discount assumes greatest importance, overshadowing the absolute price, the (possibly poor) value for money and whether you actually need a new suit.
These numbers, and many other things besides, act to distort your reasoning. These numbers, and many other things besides, act as psychological anchors that keep you ‘moored’ to the reference; rather than being a simple reference point, they become self-regulatory prisons from which you rarely escape. These ‘anchors’ can stop you moving, these ‘anchors’ can weigh you down and these ‘anchors’ can channel you in directions chosen by others. Anchors are heavy, which means that is often seen as better to simply accept them than try to move them.
While an anchor is initially derived from a reference point, the anchor then becomes the reference point for future assessments. And so this connection endures even though it is based on an irrelevancy. It might be easier but is it better to refer to something that’s irrelevant than to attempt to create something relevant?
Naturally, not all anchors are bad, for positive connections can help you to ignore external reference points, sustain the important, internal ‘anchors’ and escape the self regulatory prison:
Reference points are pervasive and persuasive and yet there is often little point to them. They might provide a starting point and yet, if this is where you stop, you have never really started. Weigh up the anchors and then it’s anchors away!
After waiting a while, to no avail, and then realising that learning challenges can’t be left to fate (but there is a chance that ‘fate’ can help cope with learning failures), ‘tis nobler wants to finish the week with a comment about outsourcing.
But it’s not the (all too familiar) outsourcing approach that organisations initiate in order to cut costs. This outsourcing has to do with regulation, not of policies or products but of yourself. Across all of these types of regulation is a sort of cost/benefit analysis in which you try to strike the right balance between risks and rewards.
Support, guidance, facilitation and encouragement are all fantastic to have as long as you realise that they can never replace ‘you’ in your journey. Support can help you ‘climb your learning mountain’ but it can push you off your chosen path and unfortunately also hold you back. Marching up and down on the spot – apparent effort – to someone else’s tune is not the same as moving forward to your own.
There is evidence that indicates the negative effects of outsourcing the self management responsibilities that you should not avoid. When you outsource these responsibilities, you rely on others to achieve your goals for you; as a consequence, you can make less effort, hoping they will take up the slack.
Of course, it’s another balancing act. When does help become hand holding? When does support become spoonfeeding? When does gentle guidance become strident demands for you to ‘do it the way I do it’? Only you can determine what the right balance is at any point along the way (and it will vary over time) but do so on the realisation that asking someone else to assume your self management responsibilities makes as much sense as the question asked in this music video:
It will always remain your learning journey. It will never be a guided tour conducted by others in which you have the luxury of letting them do the work. The ‘self’ in self management is there for many reasons, all of which combine to make your learning journey relevant, effective and efficient. In a very direct sense, experiential learning and behavioural change must remain self-centred.