Posts Tagged ‘journey’

An Upside To Risk

December 5th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Is ‘absolutely’ fabulous?  According to The Pet Shop Boys, it is:

There are many ways in which ‘absolute’ is anything but fabulous.  As a novice, you might have had absolute faith in absolute rules – this is what people are meant to do – and absolute confidence in your ability to follow those rules.  And then you realise that the real world is much messier; rules are replaced by skills and normative standards (the spirit) replace the ‘letter of the law’.  Absolute often becomes relative, with a ‘black and white’ view replaced by the colours of the rainbow.  Learning and changing becomes matters for continual and dynamic balancing, not adherence to blinkered absolutes.

Think of the words usually associated with risk taking or risk takers.  These words are probably, and overwhelmingly, negative – stupid, senseless, crazy, immature, thoughtless, idiotic or insane.  Risk takers are commonly seen as idiots.  Of course, there is an element of truth in these descriptions, particularly when risks are simply taken without being managed.  You could be excused for having an absolute position on risk taking in daily pursuits – it’s bad and always to be avoided.  Wouldn’t life be absolutely fabulous without risks and risk taking?

The answer is ‘No’, for you can’t adopt an absolute position on risk taking.  It can be relatively dangerous (with ‘danger’ being defined in many different ways) but rarely in day to day life is it absolutely wrong.  Think of the other side of the risk taking ‘coin’ – have you ever heard of risk taking being described as effective, positive or adaptive?  For managed risk taking can and should fit these alternative descriptions.

Experiential learning and behavioural change are traditionally viewed as methods to reduce or eliminate risks.  In contrast, ‘tis nobler conceives of experiential learning and behavioural change as methods to better enable self-management of risk, regardless of the type or level of risk.

Risk taking for the sake of taking risks is either unproductive or destructive.  Risk taking for the sake of learning and/or change can be managed.  It is essential to remember the big difference:

There is a big difference between the (self-) management of risk and risky behaviour.  Risky behaviour occurs when you pretend risk is absent, when you underestimate risk, when you are unaware of the consequences of risk, when you don’t reckon it is a problem for you.

Managing risk successfully can be exhilarating, can be fantastic, and can really make you come alive.  But you don’t manage risk just by saying that you’re going to be careful or you’re going to pay attention.  Successful management of risk involves effort; effortful practice, effortful preparation, effortful planning and real engagement, being ‘switched on’ rather than disconnected, being aware rather than oblivious.  Even so, managing risk isn’t perfect and there will be consequences. Serious consequences – but you strive actively to minimise the chances of coming unstuck.

Striking the right risk taking balance as your learning journey unfolds is crucial – too little is boring and too much is, well, you know what ‘too much’ is.  And ‘little and ‘too much’ are always relative terms, relative to you and the situation.

Managing risk by striking the right and relative balance can be absolutely fabulous!

Just Must

November 23rd, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

What is the relationship between ‘just’ and ‘must’?  It sounds initially like an imperative relationship – You JUST MUST do this, go there or see that.  But there’s a deeper connection – there’s always a deeper connection.

The deeper connection is similar to the connection between fairness and fault.  If you view the world as just, often a series of ‘must’ statements follow to reinforce this view.  For the world to be just, the bad things that happen to people just must be their fault.  When you have a choice between the world and a ‘victim’, it’s easier to blame the ‘victim’ than modify your world-view.

Do you remember when ‘tis nobler wrote:

As a strategy, blaming others is much, much more common than it is effective.  Why is it that being seen to be doing ‘something that is really nothing’ is more favoured than just getting on with the job of doing ‘something that is something’?  Pretending that the problems are ‘elsewhere’ because that is where you prefer to look is never a solution.

Think of the choice that is available to all of us all of the time – we can examine and explain or we can believe and blame.  The former takes a lot of effort and may not always be possible or successful but the alternative, while simple and tempting, will invariably be counterproductive.  This is not an argument against beliefs; it is a suggestion to review the connection between belief and blame.  Does it make sense for specific blame (it must have been your fault and you got what you deserved) to flow from a general belief (the world is a decent place)?

‘tis nobler has examined this music video.  ‘tis nobler cannot explain it.  Nor can ‘tis nobler believe it.  However, ‘tis nobler is not about to blame The Who for their ‘failure’:

Blame is an attractive proposition for it protects your belief that bad things happen to people who deserve these things.  Which path will you take – the ‘examine and explain’ journey or the ‘believe and blame’ shortcut?

You have to choose either the ‘Es’ or the ‘Bs’ as this fundamental choice determines the direction and distance of your learning.  You can move forward and keep moving or you can stay where you are and just go through the motions without much progress.

Choose? You just must.

Skilful Or Superstitious?

November 11th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Birds of a feather flock together, for they say like attracts like, whether they like it or not.  If you combine sufficient and sufficiently robust ‘likes’ together, a pattern is produced.  But what does ‘of a feather’ actually mean in practice?

More importantly, when any two or more things flock together, does this mean they are ‘of a feather’?

They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder, that subjective assessments determine the presence or absence of beauty.  What about patterns – are they also in the eye of the beholder?  Are one person’s patterns another person’s coincidences?

The development, refinement and ongoing validation of patterns underpin skilled performance.  The generation of such patterns could be considered the primary objective of experiential learning.  As you now know, patterns afford greater effectiveness and much greater efficiency of performance.

You take a big chunk out of the required effort to do something because you’ve put in the required effort to establish chunks!

Nevertheless, each and every pattern is affected by transient outliers; such novelties could the unusual forms of the usual or usual forms of the unusual.  In contrast, patterns are usual forms of the usual, which usually apply most (but not all) of the time.  Sorting out the unusual ‘usual’ (unexpected variations), the usual ‘unusual’ (unexpected novelties) and the usual ‘usual’ (expected routines) is the essence of validation – what do these things mean and how do they link together?  This is another area in which distortions can appear.

Validation is a product of continuing experience.  ‘Flocking together’ does not, by itself, make a valid pattern, even if you initially assign meaning to these apparent links.  Coincidental connections occur all the time and mean little or nothing.  Experience will diminish and delete these connections but only if you stop clinging to them, defying the evidence of experiences to protect personal superstitions. And ‘when you believe in things that you don’t understand ….. superstition ain’t the way’:

The distinctions between cause, correlate and coincidence can be difficult to learn for experience and personal meaning are common to all three dimensions.  Patterns can contain real and illusory elements – making sense of the former and seeing sense on the latter is all part of your learning journey.  Will you be skilful or superstitious?

 

Wide Shut

November 7th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

If you look up, what do you see?  If you’re indoors and taking this question literally, you might answer ‘the ceiling’.  If you’re outdoors and thinking atmospherically, you could answer ‘the sky’.  There is one answer that is independent of location and almost certainly correct regardless of where you are, who you are or what you are doing.

Any ideas on what this could be?  It’s not really a trick question although the answer does involve trickery.  This ‘thing’ must always be above you for you are always under it.

What are you always under?  An illusion!  Being under an illusion – that you are as clear to others as you are to yourself – is a constant companion in your experiential learning and behavioural change efforts, simply because you are you and you are therefore not somebody else.  Of course, they (being all the others) are under the same illusion that you are; this turns the shared illusion into the reality with which we all must cope.  It’s crowded under there!

We all think that others will understand us as we understand ourselves.  We believe this should be straightforward as we consider our feelings and actions to be an ‘open book’, unambiguously there for all to see and comprehend.  Further, as our ‘book’ is open, we should all be on the same page all the time.  But even ‘open books’ present many challenges:

Can you imagine the ways in which misunderstandings flow from our mistaken belief that we are transparent to others?  Can you imagine the ways in which this illusion is compounded because we also assume that the actions of others are as transparent to us as our own actions are?

As a learner and changer, it’s never easy being ‘you’ for you are continually monitoring, identifying, analysing and resolving challenges.  During this process, you will be selective, sometimes to your advantage and sometimes not, you will be suspicious without necessarily knowing the cause and you will be caught short-handed for demands may exceed your capacity to cope.

It’s hard enough being you.  With the ‘book’ metaphor, it is challenging enough to establish where you are, what is happening and what it all means, even when you know the page, paragraph and preceding chapters.  Can you really expect others to ‘read what you are reading’ and therefore understand what you understand?

Try to be transparent, for valid connections with others can only help your journey.  Never just assume that you are transparent, for even though you consider yourself to be an ‘open book’, you will still often appear as an enigma machine to others.

Appearing Positive

October 21st, 2011 | Strategic | 0 Comments

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.

Zero Addition

October 14th, 2011 | Strategic | 0 Comments

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!

Faster Than You Know

September 28th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

If you start at the finish (see previous post), there is no real need to be fast.  You arrive before needing to leave – in fact, arrival at the finish can be almost instantaneous – and the only thing you have to do is construct a ‘credible’ basis for being where you end up.  Only you will know that you didn’t end up there, for ‘there’ is where you started.

But there are many occasions in which you don’t know where and what the finish line is; in these circumstances, relative speed plays an interesting role.  Are you faster at believing or knowing?  Further, when novel information is presented, do your beliefs create your knowledge or are your beliefs derived from your knowledge?

‘tis nobler suspects that most people would think that knowledge is faster than belief, for this is the only way in which belief can have a (partial) foundation.  It reflects, and then may transcend, what you know.  This approach would be defensible, logical and reasonable so you realise by now that it’s wrong.

Evidence indicates that we believe and ‘know’ simultaneously – that is, we believe everything – and knowing (as opposed to ‘knowing’) follows subsequently. ‘Subsequently’ might be measured in milliseconds, seconds or minutes; it is also possible for subsequently to never arrive, which means that the ‘knowing’ beliefs are never challenged and knowing is so far back in second place that it is effectively out of sight (and out of mind).

Think about this as you listen to Black Dub  sing ‘I believe in you’:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

In terms of relative speed, ‘I believe in you’ and, perhaps more importantly, ‘I believe you’ might go without saying – belief is the default position.  The quality of your experiential learning may be defined by how and how often you transcend this default position.

Is there a difference between starting at the finish and getting stuck at the start?  Neither option involves movement, just a steadfast desire to maintain the status quo.

It’s crucial that you remember and activate that which lies between the start and the finish.

And that is the learning journey.  Find your own way.

May I Make A Suggestion?

September 21st, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

May ‘tis nobler make a suggestion?  In addition to the explicit request, this simple question could conceal a range of subtexts and pretexts – you need my help, you need my help because you’re not very good, you need my help as I am better than you or you need my help all the time.

But at least permission is sought and, if approved, a suggestion clearly follows.  To mangle some metaphors, as soon as you appear to be out of your depth, others can’t resist sticking their oar in.  Occasionally, a row develops.  Advice is always appealing to the giver and therefore freely given; it is less appealing to the receiver and, more importantly, ultimately more costly.  Advice can complement yet never replace finding your own way.

For every explicit request, though, there are many more instances in which suggestions are imposed on an unknowing receiver.  Do you remember when ‘tis nobler wrote about the ways in which we’ve been framed?  As a consequence of external framing strategies, sometimes provided by the very people we thought were giving objective advice, we become internally primed to see what we expect to see, we hear what we expect to hear and we can also taste what we expect to taste.  The power of suggestion is beautifully demonstrated in this video:

As an experiential learner or behavioural changer, you can be pushed and pulled in many directions.  Unlike that other road, the road to confusion is paved with the intentions of others and these intentions are not always in your best interests.  While there is serious and continuing debate on the validity of free will – the latest evidence suggests the brain forms intentions before we are consciously aware of them -, others will always try to determine large chunks of every learning journey.  It’s neat, tidy, and inherently, fundamentally ineffective.

If you receive what you expect to receive, what do you actually expect to receive?  As importantly, where do these expectations really come from?

May ‘tis nobler make a suggestion? Find your own way.

Stranded

September 16th, 2011 | Strategic | 0 Comments

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.

 

Really Or Real?

September 12th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

There is a Japanese proverb that states:

Fall seven times, stand up eight.

Albert Camus wrote:

In the depths of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.

And this from Helen Keller:

Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.

Nobody can argue against the value of resilience.  Each learning journey has its challenges; every day can have its pitfalls as well as its pleasures.  In experiential learning, error, setbacks and failure are common companions and it is crucial that you persist.

Being really resilient is vital, for it can rebuild your heart after it has been bashed to bits – all the shattered pieces snap back together:

But being real and resilient is equally vital.  There is much to admire in dogged determination but there must be limits to deploying resilience.  One of the factors associated with resilience is (cognitive) flexibility, and flexibility can sometimes mean changing direction rather than maintaining resilience.  Without flexibility, some individuals apply the same recipes (that got them into ‘trouble’ in the first place) continually and across different situations.  Regardless of the detail, they tend to trot out the same old story, lose control of their journey (again) and rely on their resilience to keep going.  Opportunities to repeat that come from resilience are not necessarily opportunities for learning, progress or satisfaction.

As a result, resilience becomes an end in itself rather than a means to a desired end.  And that’s not the point or value of resilience.  Only you can chart your course between being really resilient and being real and resilient.  Change is not failure – failing to change may well be.

Where resilience is concerned, will you be really or real, or both?

On Trials

September 2nd, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Things will always go wrong.  Error is a constant companion as you learn and try to change your behaviour.  There is no place for the apostrophe and the space (but there is always time for a rhyme):

I’m perfect never applies; imperfect is one of your defining qualities.

Trial and error learning is based on maximising the trials, learning from the errors and then minimising the mistakes.  However, learning from your errors is easier said than done.  Regardless of the ‘lessons’ contained within the experience that didn’t go to plan, you also have to learn how to cope with these experiences.  After all, getting things wrong can be dispiriting and distressing.  And remember, error is just one cause of negative experiences in your learning and behavioural change journey.  What should you do in order to cope when things do go awry?

Thankfully, research findings do present a view on this question and the answer is that it depends on your view of the situation and/or the situation that you are viewing, assuming these aren’t similar.  The Mynabirds must have been aware of this as their song ‘Ways of Looking’ has these lyrics:

I lose my sense at the sight of you

The effortless way you take the worst news

You said “You can move mountains with your point of view”

Doesn’t have to be so hard

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

You may not be able to move mountains but your point of view can be a useful coping mechanism when negative experiences happen.  Coping strategies must change in relation to the perceived severity of the ‘problem’ that has occurred.  When severity is lower, you are encouraged to be more positive in your assessment – you cannot and should not take everything to heart.  Minor bumps in your journey may provide additional learning value but it might be best to move on quickly for getting stuck (or, even worse, going backwards or giving up) is a much worse outcome.  Don’t over-analyse these minor bumps; giving them more attention than they deserve can paralyse.  Be positive, see them in the right perspective, push them aside and keep going.

When severity is higher, however, being overly positive is negative.  In these situations, it is important to review the ‘problem’ as honestly as you can, while seeking feedback from others if this helps you.  The additional learning value in these situations is much greater – they represent the real ‘errors’ in trial and error learning – and dismissing them with a positive attitude is counterproductive.

You have to decide whether situations are bumps or BUMPS and whether, as a consequence, you should be overly positive or objectively analytical.  In trial and error learning, trials will always have errors but there is no reason why these errors need be a trial.

Generally Correct?

August 19th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Just recently, we went sailing on the Specific Ocean: on this journey, ‘tis nobler noted:

Sailing the specific ocean can be disastrous.  If something or someone dominates your reasoning by being ‘spectacularly available’, there is every chance that dominance will create distortions…….More spectacular does mean more available and more available pervades and distorts your thinking in many ways. This is one explanation for the ways in which important public debates can be hijacked by ‘spectacular’ irrelevancies…….It’s little wonder, then, that the only valid way to navigate this messy ‘world’ is to find your own way. Finding your own way is not spectacular but it is always available to you.

You might think it’s best to get as far away from the Specific Ocean but trekking what ‘tis nobler calls the Plains of Vague also has many pitfalls.  These pitfalls can be summarised as follows:

Appealingly vague statements aren’t vaguely appealing – they are very appealing!

And this particularly applies when the statements are about you; welcome to the world of subjective validation in which positive and general are perceived as specifically personal and generally correct.  Unlike the Specific Ocean, where you can’t seem to avoid the most available, single ‘reef’ on which to founder, the Plains of Vague envelop you in a blanket of generalities from which there is no escape – not that you ever try to escape -, just the security and warmth of identification.  This blanket is so comforting, so reassuring and so, so true!

The Plains of Vague convince you for its general features can be massaged into any shape that fits you.  Ultimately, though, generalities convey little information for they rely more on affect than effect for their power – of course, that’s me to a T, all the good things that you’re saying about me really ring true.  But information is defined as that which reduces uncertainty and generalities can’t reduce uncertainty; they’re like saying “Thank you for everything, thank you for nothing” in the same sentence, sweeping statements that sweep away little if any uncertainty:

Most of the time, you wander around in the vast region between the Specific Ocean and the Plains of Vague, trying to understand the more than specific and less than general information that confronts you.

Availability of specific information is no guarantee of accuracy or utility.  The accuracy and utility of general information, information in which everyone can find a ‘home’ if they go looking, is equally suspect.  How much of your experiential learning and behavioural change journey is spent at the ‘Poles’ – the Specific Ocean and the Plains of Vague?

As you must find your own way, you are the only valid subject of your learning journey.  Don’t waste your time by subjectively validating the vague!  This is NOT generally correct.

No Strings Attached

August 8th, 2011 | Strategic | 0 Comments

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.

 

Is It True, Man?

August 5th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Have you seen ‘The Truman Show’ , a 1998 film starring Jim Carrey as Truman Burbank?  The plot revolves around Carrey’s character unknowingly being on television since birth, the realisation of which gradually dawns on him and he sets out to discover what the truth is.  At the end of the movie, he escapes from his artificial ‘prison’ and enters the real world.

The essential elements of the plot – what is fact, what is fiction and how do you tell the difference? – echo throughout experiential learning and behavioural change.  It is difficult to validly imagine an experience before having it, it can be difficult to accurately understand an experience while you’re having it and it can be difficult to reliably reflect on an experience after you have had it.  As these experiences accumulate, anticipation, understanding and reflection become increasingly refined; while error rates decline, specific errors (perhaps refelcting inaccurate or false memories) can continue to plague performance.

But this doesn’t just apply to the experiences you have, it also applies to your vicarious exploration of the experiences of your peers and the experiences you think you had but never actually did.  Welcome to the world of the suggestion, false experiences and false memories.  ‘tis nobler remembers talking about these things when we all took that balloon ride several years ago:

Using past experiences as building blocks for present performance is not necessarily a neutral process.  Injecting the past into the present can and does assist in meeting current task demands but this can and does change your memories of the past.  You effect their retrieval and they are affected by this retrieval.  The past is fenced off in time but the fence is not impervious to the present.  Over time, facts can soften, fiction can harden and the lines between them can become less visible.

The power of suggestion and the creation of false memories is a standard technique in advertising, they can cause problems in the legal system and they can influence your daily behaviour in many ways (you can view the results of a recent survey into the beliefs people hold about memory here).  It is a subtle, pervasive and insidious process.  Imagine how this process can distort the feedback process and dramatically affect your learning and change journey.

Striving to understanding the real world underpins experiential learning and behavioural change.  Striving to eliminate uncertainties also underpins experiential learning and behavioural change.  However, both understanding and uncertainty are not immune from intentional or incidental manipulation.  Self management must involve the management of both your actual reality and your apparent ‘reality’.

Ask yourself – Is it true, man?

Certainly Not Certain

July 29th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

‘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’]. 🙂

Places And The Moon

July 27th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

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.

Ending And Enduring

July 22nd, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

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 …’

 

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

 

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.

Mindful

July 18th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

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.

For Novelty

July 6th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

‘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’!

Can I Come Too?

July 1st, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

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.