Learning to Learn18th Mar 2021
You may know that I’ve been learning Wing Foiling lately. It’s kind of like being on those America’s Cup boats but on a smaller scale. You’re riding a kind of surfboard with a hydrofoil attached underneath, flying above the water powered by a ‘wing’, or sail. It’s exhilarating, and the learning curve comes with lots of crashes. I referred to it in a recent post about setting the tone for learning.
Since I began in January this year, I’ve progressed to a point where I can get out on the water, stand up and get going pretty easily. I’m now learning more advanced techniques like gybing (turning around), which comes with its own set of challenges. I’m still crashing, but I reckon I’ve got a few fundamentals under my belt now.
Last weekend, I was at the spot where I’ve been learning. When I arrived, a friend of mine, Estaban, was out on the water having his second-ever go on a wing foil. He was crashing every few metres, hooting a lot, and generally having a ball. As I watched him, I realised that that was me just two months ago.
What’s this all about? In my workshops and keynotes, I often talk about Delivery vs. Discovery. In a work setting, Delivery is what we’re rewarded for. But Discovery is what we need to master if we’re to keep delivering worthwhile stuff in a changing world. Here are two ideas on how we can do that better:
We get a confidence boost when we can see how far we’ve come. Seeing Estaban was so helpful to my own sense of progress. I think this is where comparisons are useful. Not to say that I am inherently ‘better’ than him (I’m not), but benchmarking my former skill level to the skill level I’m at now has been helpful to crystallise my sense of progress. How often do we remind ourselves, or remind others, about how far we, our team, or our organisation has come? Most of the time, we’re focused on what we can’t yet do. Let’s give ourselves a break and celebrate progress more.
While our capacity to handle things grows, fear stays. When I first started learning, it was kind of terrifying, because I knew that I’d be crashing a lot. The fear of the foil slicing me in half was right there in my face, because I couldn’t predict what was going to happen when I crashed. As I’ve developed new skills, I’ve learned some mastery over the equipment and I now crash less. I have more capacity to handle what’s going on. Yet here’s the thing. If I want to keep progressing, fear is part of the package. Progressing means facing the unknown, and when we do that, fear is usually lurking right there somewhere. The more we normalise that it’s OK to feel scared, the faster we can learn.
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