Posts Tagged ‘meaning’

Will Concrete Make Us Happy?

December 21st, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Yes, and there’s an irrefutable reason for this outcome.

According to Wikipedia, concrete is the most common man-made material.  Concrete is everywhere.  Now, where can we find happiness?  Rather than consult Wikipedia again, ‘tis nobler consulted other experts, for DJ Andi and Stella know the answer to this question:

It’s in the ocean, yeah!

Happiness is all around, happiness!

It’s in the sunlight, yeah!

Happiness is all around…  

Are you following ‘tis nobler’s line of reasoning?  The syllogism goes like this:

Concrete is everywhere.

Happiness is all around.

Therefore, concrete IS happiness.

In the movies, it is never true when people say “There’s just one problem”, and it’s not true here either.  The first and most fundamental problem is that the use of ‘concrete’ in this post’s title referred to the adjective and not the noun.

Both the past and the future are obstacles to overcome in the pursuit of happiness.  On Monday, ‘tis nobler noted that we change the meaning of the past to conform to the present, something that prevents us from learning from our errors in predicting what will make us happy.

And this failing is compounded by the temptation to view the future in abstract ways.  In theory, something will make us happy; in practice, however, happiness may prove elusive because it is pushed aside by reality.  It’s like the Tomorrowland that never arrives, in which all these magical tools are promised but fail to materialise; it’s summed up in the name of the Scottish Indie music group “We Were Promised Jetpacks”.

Flights of fancy can play useful roles in problems solving and creativity but the link to happiness may be more fanciful.  The gap between the concrete and the abstract can be huge and assessments of future happiness based on ‘the promise of jetpacks’ will only ever be a letdown.  Dreams must be realised, hopes must be achieved and happiness must be pursued – will anything of consequence happen if dreams, hopes and happiness remain abstract, poorly defined and a long way away?

Concrete is a great way to cement your emotional state in happiness.  As always, though, balance is required.  Too abstract can just be a mess but too concrete can weigh you down and prevent you from making progress.

Finding ways to transform the abstract into the concrete, the hoped-for into the happening, is a great start for the pursuit of happiness.

Who Are You Fooling?

November 28th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

It’s not so much a foolish week at ‘tis nobler this week as a fooling week.  Think of this week’s theme then as ‘tisfoolery’.  The first post raises an interesting ‘chicken and egg’ question; sometimes, cause and effect does not always operate in the direction it appears to.  Untangling cause from effect, effect from cause and effect as cause of a subsequent effect is a constant challenge, especially when these causal relationships are accompanied by a host of correlates that muddy the water. Correlates rarely clarify, and never cause.

And carousels only circle, but whether they circle as a cause, effect or correlate is a matter of some conjecture for your experience of them can be ‘deceptive’:

The real point for presenting this video was to illustrate the circular nature of deception and the many other elements that swirl around this process.  An effect can be described but this description is usually limited to the effect, a linear process that begins with ‘this happened’ and ends with ‘this is what happened’.  And the line continues.

An effect can be explained and this explanation transcends the effect, a non-linear process that begins with ‘this happened’ and ends with ‘this is what happened, this is why it happened and this is what it means’.  And the behavioural ‘space’ is unpacked and re-packed.

But much of what we do falls between description and explanation for the former is too glib and the latter requires too much effort.  Welcome to the land of the pretend explanation, a land overrun by justifications, rationalisations, opinions, bias, strategies and stratagems.  In this land, the aim is to prevail rather than understand.

And it is here where deceit and deception can run rampant.

At some times, we deceive others and then believe our deceit to be true.  At other times, we deceive ourselves in order to better deceive others.  And then we deceive ourselves yet ignore the consequences of our self-deception, or we ‘pretend explain’ these consequences by compounding self-deception.  There is compelling evidence that (self-) deception can be a powerful influence on our own behaviour and the ways in which we interact with others.

But it’s not really a question of causes and effects, of lines and directions. It’s a question of circles.

It’s worth remembering that there’s a lot of (self-) deception going around.  Who are you fooling?

Would I Lie To You?

November 25th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

One aim of experiential learning is to make sense of the world around you.  Armed with this understanding, you are better able to cope with the ‘usually usual’ and its variations.  Sense comprises a number of dimensions – good/bad, valid/invalid, possible/impossible, right/wrong, expected/unexpected and many more.

It is not application of these polar extremes within a given situation that enables you to manage effectively but your ability, developed through extensive experience, to discern and act on all of the subtleties that may appear between them.  Being able to appreciate the rich detail between these poles, the many shades of grey rather than just black and white, is an indicator of expertise.

Today’s post focuses on another dimension – true/untrue.  There is self deception, something that ‘tis nobler has written about here and here; let’s look at social deception in this post.  There are various guides to language, both verbal and body, that present indicators of deception.  These indicators are similar to the ‘poles’ of sense, perhaps helpful at a general level but rarely relevant at the specific level.  Deception interacts with intention to make the implausible plausible and the unreasonable reasonable.  This is absolutely true – if you don’t believe ‘tis nobler, believe The Eurythmics:

Do people lie to you?  Of course they do, for communication is not restricted to a neutral process of information transmission.  There are no ‘one size fits all situations’ recipes – life is not that neat and predictable.  There is, however, some evidence-based guidance that is summarised below; be warned, some of this guidance is drawn from the literature and some of it is concocted.  How and why will you establish the difference for therein lies the real value in this message?

Those seeking to deceive:

Say as little as possible to avoid tripping up.  Or do they hide their deception by speaking a lot?

Justify what they are saying while saying it.  Or do they fail to provide a justification?

Pay close attention to your reactions as they speak.  Or do they pay little attention to the reception of their story?

Will speak faster as the story unfolds. Or do they speak slower to make sure they remain consistent?

The statements are correct.  Or are the questions correct?  Perhaps some statements and some questions are true.  Confronting the need to discern truth from untruth is an ongoing challenge as part of your mission to make sense of the world.  It is unlikely you will encounter the logical absurdity of the Liar’s Paradox; it is much more likely that you will need to resolve issues on a relative basis.

And in a relative, probabilistic and imperfect world, the one thing you can always apply to this task is effort.  Would ‘tis nobler lie to you?

The Damage Done

November 21st, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

There is a media inquiry in Australia at the moment.  Apparently, according to newspaper reports and the testimony of newspaper executives, this inquiry is completely unnecessary as Australian newspapers are perfect.  It is a vendetta orchestrated by non-newspaper people – at least that is how it is being reported in, um, some newspapers.

At the heart of this examination are balance, bias and behaviour, systemic issues that could intentionally or unintentionally present inaccurate information as news.  Still, some may think that inaccuracies – deliberate or otherwise – can be remedied with a retraction, clarification and/or apology.  Is it a case of no real damage done?

The evidence indicates that this apparently reasonable approach of retracting and correcting your mistakes is not the remedy many believe it to be.  Retractions and corrections are the equivalent of closing the barn door after the horse has bolted – they do not ‘place the horse back in the barn’, they just close the door on the original error.  When the damage is done, the damage (or parts thereof) remains ‘done’ despite efforts to undo it.

And the damage remains ‘done’ as it can resist multiple correction efforts, although stronger corrections are better but still not perfect – what is ‘done’ cannot be completely undone.   This remains the case even when corrective efforts are understood and accepted and the original error was relatively innocuous.  Complicating matters further and rendering corrective efforts even more impotent is being receptive to the original error through processes such as framing, priming or confirmation bias – if the error makes sense to you, you will resist attempts to overturn it.

Despite what Beyonce sings – I can have another you by tomorrow, so don’t you ever for a second get to thinking you’re irreplaceable – the damage done through misinformation errors is often irreplaceable:

How do you reconcile this resistance process – the continued influence effect of misinformation – with the effect that the retrieval of memories has on their content, which ‘tis nobler wrote about here?  The key message is set out below:

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. 

For ‘tis nobler, this underscores the importance of a systemic approach, the centrality of self management and the need to address the efficiency of interventions and not just their effectiveness.  It’s a continuing challenge to ‘connect the many dots’ on an ongoing basis in the most meaningful way you can; however, this is always better than placing your faith in fixed ‘solutions’.

How will you incorporate the message that the damage done cannot be fully undone into your learning and behavioural change efforts?  If redress is undressed for it fails to address the incorrect information expressed, what will you do to sort out the mess!

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.

Appearing Frozen

October 17th, 2011 | Strategic | 0 Comments

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!

Zero Tolerance

October 12th, 2011 | Strategic | 0 Comments

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.

Beyond these things, that is beyond ‘zero’, what are your tolerances?  More importantly, how variable are these tolerances and how do they affect the way you behave?  These sorts of questions reinforce the principle that what you do tells me more about the situation than it does about who you are .

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.

Is, Like And As

September 23rd, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

What is the meaning of life?  Now, that’s a big question, perhaps the biggest question of them all.  ‘tis nobler wants to address another question, one that is equally perplexing:

Is there an analogy for analogous reasoning?

In one sense, analogous reasoning – thinking about the things you know less well in terms of the things that you know more fully – is a cornerstone of thinking and an excellent exemplar for experiential learning.  After all, experiential learning can be thought of as building a bridge from the things you’ve done in order to ‘reach’ the new things you’re about to do.

Can you see more similarities in the learning and change process beginning to emerge?  Perhaps we can use some of these as analogies to increase our understanding. Perhaps there are analogies for analogous reasoning!

First, let’s think about patterns, a recurring and fundamental theme in experiential learning.  Patterns are built through experience; they are created as you make the move from all the little bits to just the bigger picture.  These patterns or mental models support more effective and much more efficient performance.  Both within and between models, progress involves the extension of the known or experienced to include the less known and/or just experienced.  Incorporation requires the relationships to be understood so that the models grow validly rather than just grow.  Bigger is not always better but, in learning terms, better is always bigger!

You start with ‘this’, incorporate ‘that’ and then deal with the ‘other’.  As all learners realise, without effortful experience, ‘this, that and the other’ can be quite confusing:

Secondly, there is the issue of depth.  ‘tis nobler has previously talked about the effect, both positive and negative, of metaphors but metaphors and similes are generally shallow.  Thinking something IS something else uses metaphors (he is as fast as a cheetah); thinking something is LIKE something else uses similes (he has the courage of a lion).  Both can be useful descriptive aids but analogies must go deeper.

When you use analogies, you think of something AS something else; for it to be really helpful, though, you need to go beyond the obvious surface features and discover the deeper connections.  It’s easy to use ‘IS’ and ‘LIKE’; it’s far harder to unpack all of the ‘IS’ and ‘LIKE’ descriptions to construct a valid ‘AS’ understanding.  ‘AS’ helps reduce errors, ‘AS’ inspires creativity and ‘AS’ strengthens understanding.

Analogous reasoning focuses on ‘AS’ relationships, the deep patterns rather than the shallow descriptions.  Isn’t that a sufficient reason to embrace ‘AS’ over ‘IS’ and ‘LIKE’?


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.


Deeply, Durably, Highly

September 7th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

It’s easy to have an opinion; from having an opinion, it’s a short and backward step to becoming opinionated.  It’s harder, possibly much harder, to establish a position; do you understand the difference between opinions and positions?

It’s easy to hold an attitude; from holding an attitude, it’s a short and backward step to ‘having an attitude problem’.  It’s harder, possibly much harder, to adhere to values, to be purpose full; do you understand the difference between attitudes and values?

It’s easy to nominate a goal; from nominating a goal, it’s a short and backward step to becoming fixated and inflexible.  It’s harder, possibly much harder, to strive to achieve aspirations; do you understand the difference between goals and aspirations?

Opinions can be shallow.  Attitudes may be short-lived.  Goals may be simple.  When you think about opinions, attitudes and goals, there is nothing necessarily wrong with them but neither is there anything necessarily right with them.  Opinions, attitudes and goals need to have strong foundations, and the best foundations are comprised of positions, values and aspirations.  Without these foundations, it is all too easy to slip away unnoticed.  To avoid this, adopt a deep, durable and high approach.

‘tis nobler has emphasised the importance of ‘pattern development’ to make skilled performance more effective and much more efficient (most recently here), which raises the question – What are the ‘patterns’ underpinning your behaviour?

In addition to the (inescapable) opinions, attitudes and goals in your daily life, are there deeper and stronger patterns to your behaviour that enable you to go above and beyond?

Do you have positions or just opinions?  What are your values?  How will you achieve your aspirations?  These are big questions; the starting point for the last question might be to have aspirations (for research has shown a strong and positive link between aspirations and achievement).

Think deeply, commit durably, aspire highly!


Slipping Through, Working Through

August 12th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Last week, it was noted that retrieval of memories is not a neutral process – it’s not a case that we remember something and then file this untouched memory away again.  The present influences our recall of the past, revising pre-existing memories or creating false memories.  The retrieval process is active, not passive.

Now, you would expect that vision is a neutral process; after all, our eyes do the seeing and the brain supplies the meaning.  But the more we understand visual perception, the more the balance shifts towards the brain.  The eyes let the light in and the brain does the rest – it’s more about perception and (as we’ll soon see) perceptions than sensation.  Vision is an active process, not passive.

In biological terms, this is similar to the difference between diffusion and facilitated osmosis, between slipping through and ‘working’ your way through, between effortless and effortful (ignoring the detail, regular osmosis can be passive).  Diffusion and the two types of osmosis are explained in this short video, perhaps more fascinating than entertaining:

The specific trigger for this post was some recent research that indicated that exposure to gossip affected vision as well as judgement.  As noted, vision transcends sensation and perception is, in one sense, just a subset of perceptions (which can be cognitive as well as sensory).  Images with negative information were given preference (by the brain) if this information (gossip) was socially relevant, that is, it allowed users to pass judgement.  Negative but socially irrelevant information (e.g. broke their leg) did not attract preferential treatment.  Can you imagine why we subconsciously direct our visual attention more to those associated with socially negative information?

But there’s a broader issue at play here, with implications for experiential learning and behavioural change.  Perhaps novices operate more as diffusers, ‘allowing’ information in and out with little effort or control and unable to operate strategically.  Gaining experience can be seen as a way to shift from passive to active, to move from externally controlled (or pushed around) to internally controlling (or effectively self managing).

Diffuse or osmotic applies at the cellular level and can be used as ways to describe (in a non-technical sense) vision and memory processing.  In the labyrinthine ‘world’ of experiential learning and behavioural change, can you connect these concepts, and the shift from one to the other, to effortful practice and self management?  Is it ever possible to simply slip through to success or do you always have to work your way through the challenges?

Sailing The Specific Ocean

August 10th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Sailing can be spectacular but, when you are sailing the specific ocean, spectacular is only the start.  The full equation for this type of ‘sailing’ is:

Spectacular  =  Available  =  Dominant  =  Distorted

Just because something is more available to you in thought, knowledge or memory – which is itself often a function of how spectacular the subject matter appears – does not mean that it is more important, more likely or more true.  The association of these qualities – importance, likelihood or truth – with availability (known as the availability heuristic) can produce biased reasoning.  Think of it as a type of error in inductive reasoning, the mistakes you make when going from the specific to the general.

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.  Imagine that you’ve been told, again and again, that Kramer dominates the dojo.  You’ve had this dominance described in great detail – how he throws his opponents around, how he wins every bout and how nobody else can lay a finger on him.  These vivid descriptions, spectacular and thus readily available to you, lead you to conclude that Kramer has all the makings of a great martial artist.

But spectacular and available need not mean accurate:

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.

The potential distorting effects of the spectacularly available can also be used as a demonstration of the labyrinthine ‘world’  of experiential learning and behavioural change.  Can you imagine the interactions between these spectacularly available distortions and the creation of false memories through the influence of present actions on (manipulated) memories of past actions?  And these are just two issues in a universe of competing, compounding and conflicting issues.

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.

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?

Message More Than Medium

August 3rd, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Almost 50 years ago, Marshall McLuhan introduced the saying ‘The medium is the message’, which noted that the method of message transmission influences how the message is perceived.  This contention has many implications for experiential learning and behavioural change but these are not the focus of this post.  Can you imagine what some of these implications are?

So, when ‘tis nobler writes ‘message more than medium, what exactly does this mean?  What changes if ‘message’ in the title is a verb rather than a noun?  What changes if ‘medium’ in the title is an adjective rather than a noun?  Making sense of the world around you is never as direct or straightforward as your initial interpretations suggest.

The starting point for this cryptic title is in some recent (business-related) research that investigated the effect of information flow on project completion.  In summary, the research indicated that managers who were deliberately redundant in their instructions – building (necessary) repetition into the communication process – were more successful in getting projects completed.  Deliberate redundancy was considered more important than clarity of message.

Imagine how the expertise bias affects the frequency and clarity of communication.  Think of the problems that the basic proposition of this bias creates for learning and behavioural change:

I’ll explain your behaviour on the basis of who you are simply because what you do is, for me, so easy that your performance can’t hold the explanation.

Creating redundancy requires repetition, even if you think repetition is no longer necessary (which most people believe well before that moment arrives).  Repetition is never exact and all of the little variations add more value and understanding.  This is the point made by Nelly and Tim McGraw:

Cause it’s all in my head

I think about it over and over again

Whether the communication source is external or internal, the challenge is to get the message into your head and then keep it there so that you can think about it over and over again.  Of course, redundancy transcends communication; it applies more generally to learning and behavioural change.  Redundancy as, for example, practice of perfect, is one way to make both yourself and your behaviour more robust.

One person’s repetition is (eventually) another person’s redundancy, even when they are the same person!  If you are sending messages to others or to yourself, message (verb) more than medium (adjective).  Messaging and practising more isn’t a redundant strategy – it’s an effective strategy to achieve redundancy.

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’]. 🙂


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.

Waiting For, God, Oh, Like Forever

June 27th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

How often, if at all, do you resemble Vladimir or Estragon?  These two men are the central characters in the renowned, absurdist Beckett play, ‘Waiting For Godot’.  There have been as many interpretations of this play as there have been productions – you can read into it, and take out if it, what you will for it supports a variety of presumed meanings.  However, ‘waiting’ is a central and enduring theme as Godot never arrives.

There’s no need to do anything for better times are coming.  If we are waiting for Godot, all we have to do is wait, and wait we shall.  The wait can become a weight, a weight that prevents you doing anything other than waiting.  Things will change any time now and there is no need to do anything except wait for the expected change.

Waiting for something equates to doing nothing with nothing to do but wait.  And so everything reduces to nothing.  It’s a show about nothing:

It becomes a show about nothing with nothing happening except waiting.  But just waiting for something is really nothing.  Should you wait for learning in the same way that Vladimir and Estragon waited for Godot, pretending that doing nothing is actually doing something?

We may constantly acknowledge and affirm the challenges in experiential learning and behavioural change but this affirmation may not transcend the words for we are always looking for easier ways, ways that avoid rather than resolve the challenges.  We wait and hope for ‘a pill’ to cure our ills rather than prevent or better manage them through sensible lifestyle choices.  One study demonstrated that people reduced their likely levels of exercise upon becoming aware of new drug treatments for chronic conditions such as diabetes and obesity and hypertension.  Do you think that waiting for something that will enable you to avoid the effort is worthwhile?  How long are you prepared to wait for something that may not arrive?

Waiting for Godot is absurd and therein can be found its real strength.  Waiting for, god, oh, like forever is also absurd and therein can be found the greatest danger to your experiential learning and behavioural change efforts.

Neither life nor learning are waiting games.  How will you ever find your own way if you just wait for others to show you the(ir) way?

Metaphorically Speaking

May 30th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

‘tis nobler is feeling descriptive today:

Police are looking for a male described as being between 18 and 29 years of age, approximately 180cms tall, with a slight build and last seen wearing a black shirt, blue jeans and runners. He is known to be as cunning as a fox, with the demeanour of someone who has found 20 cents after losing $20.  He should not be approached unless you are backed into a corner and have nowhere to go but up.

Some descriptions are close to useless, some use comparisons that add depth and colour while the reviews for others are mixed, speaking metaphorically:

It is easy to describe skilled performance for the obvious elements are known and you just need to list them.  You can describe the way Federer serves, the way Vettel drives or the way Clapton plays the guitar.  Describing is easy, so, so much easier than doing and yet describing and doing are often seen as the same thing.  If you can describe, does this mean that you can also do?

Descriptions sit on the surface of the ‘What World’, outlining what is done at a very general level.  Being readily available but superficial, descriptions don’t detail everything that is performed for you need to explore the ‘How World’ and the ‘Why World’ to get this information.  All of these things come together to form understanding and, combined with direct, effortful experience, produce competence and expertise.

Descriptions may be a starting point but they never take you very far.  But their influence is not necessarily limited as the way you describe something (or the way others describe it to you) can guide your entire effort (or lack thereof).  For (doing) better or for (doing) worse, metaphors are a double-edged sword that could tip the balance either way!

Is learning to drive like falling off a log?  Is umpiring a football game like stealing candy from a baby?  Conversely, is learning to drive like trying to nail jelly to the wall?  Is umpiring a football game like trying to herd cats?

Metaphors are pervasive and influential, yet another example of the framing process.  How do you behave under the influence of descriptions?  Can you learn something through metaphors or do metaphors just affect your learning?

Outside The Chunks

May 6th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Moving from novice to experienced status involves moving from bits to chunks, from pieces to patterns.  It’s incorrect to think that you just get faster at handling the bits and pieces for it is the ways in which you compile larger, more sophisticated patterns from all of the bits that is a true sign of experiential learning.  Whether you think of ‘bigger picture’, ‘mental model’, ‘forest not trees’, ‘holistic assessments’ or ‘internalised representations’, the process is the same.  As a direct consequence of experience, your way of seeing the world around you changes.

And other things change as well.  You move from serial (from bit to bit to bit) to parallel (multitasking) processing of information, you move from dealing with objects to dealing with meaning and you move from a rudimentary understanding (perhaps comprising just a few of the available bits) to deeper, more valid and validated understanding of how your immediate ‘learning’ world works.  There are implications for memory, workload and processing; ‘tis nobler hopes you get the (bigger) picture.

You move from trying to make sense of the jumble of jigsaw pieces to seeing the completed puzzle.  As importantly, you sense what the current puzzle means for you and how you should respond.  And then the current puzzle changes (something that you may already have anticipated for the availability of patterns gives you the ability to anticipate rather than just react) and you respond in a timely and fluent way.

But all patterns have outliers – novel elements – and limits; they can be both specifically different and generally the same and they are specifically general.  The former represents the balance between novelty and similarity; with increasing experience, the balance tends more and more towards similarity.  The latter indicates that patterns are not necessarily transferable to other activities (compare Michael Jordan’s basketball and baseball careers) and may actually be counterproductive.

Imagine being transported to a place where your patterns are at odds with the world around you and little makes sense.  While things look sort of the same, they are very different in fundamental ways.  And then you find a situation in which your patterns apply and things just ‘click’:

Practice promotes patterns and patterns promote efficiency.  But patterns aren’t a panacea for they might contain the seeds of their own irrelevance – the little bits that don’t fit and that might be overlooked – or they might not be as applicable to other areas as you might think.  And the more you (effectively) apply your patterns in one area, the less applicable they will become to other, unrelated applications.

In experiential learning, you develop the chunks through practice but you can never rely on just applying the chunks.  Chunks will contain novel chinks in your ‘chunk armour’ and, when you take on new challenges, other forms of experiential learning, you’ll have to think outside the chunks you already possess. Think through what the relationships between patterns and performance might be.

Pushing The Sky Higher

April 18th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Apparently, it’s much better to get 81% on a test than it is to get 79%.  It is obviously ‘better’ but the point of this post is that it’s apparently much better!

People get sentenced to 200 hours of community service and not 204 hours.  Some might argue that there’s no real difference between 200 and 204.  Why would a sentence of 197 hours be perceived then as much less appropriate?.  Isn’t any number able to be monitored and communicated just as easily as any other?

A success rate of 40% in some endeavour might be considered excellent.  Why would a success rate of 38.4% be perceived as much worse than it actually is?  Why are people more motivated to increase this rate of 38.4% to 40% than they are to get from 34% to 38%, even though the latter is a greater improvement?  Imagine if you were achieving 41.7% – what would you do to protect this result over time?  Would you stop completely?

There is evidence that we assign greater importance to round numbers.  Further, we are more inclined to increase our efforts if we are just below a round number than if we are just above it.  Being just above a round number can trigger ‘protective’ behaviours that aim to preserve this achievement.

We often establish learning milestones that are round numbers and many are prepared to persevere in order to reach the milestone.  It’s nice to have neatness and order in your learning aims, although the world in which your learning is occurring is messy.  A round number is a neat number but it is not necessarily a meaningful number.  A milestone, round or otherwise, is not a destination; it’s merely another signpost along the way that indicates where you are and where you’ve come from.  And it implicitly emphasises the need to continue.

At every stage of your learning journey, it is important to consider:

“If I could reach higher,

Just for one moment touch the sky,

Know that I’ve tried my very best ……”


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Learning is not about reaching higher in order to, for one moment, touch the sky.

Learning is about constantly pushing the sky higher.