This summer the blueberry bushes at my house have been going crazy! We have 3 young bushes and for the past several years they’ve been somewhat light in the production department. This year, however, they seemed to have turned a corner and re producing more berries that we can keep up with. It’s quite a change from years past when they produced only a couple of handfuls per season.
Fortunately, my wife and I were aware that it takes a time for the bushes to mature before they start yielding a large quantity. Therefore, we weren’t mad at the bushes in the early years. We didn’t put the plants in the ground one day and expect a bumper crop the next. We realize that it takes time
These bushes remind me that learning something new also involves a process that takes time. We all know this. Yet we often become frustrated with ourselves when we expect to be further along in the process after only a short time. The best thing we can do when learning a new skill is to realize that it will take time… and to be ok with that. We simply have to put in the effort over time and the results are sure to follow.
Here’s a fun thing you can do to observe the impacts of time on something you’re actively trying to learn. Write yourself an email that will be sent to you one year from today. In that email describe what you’re attempting to lean and the level of skill you currently possess. When you read the email next year, you’ll likely be amazed at how far you’ve come.
This week a good friend from church told me that they’ll be moving to another state to restore an old house they’ll be living in. This friend has a real knack for restoration, interior design, and overall leaving the world better than they found it, so I’m super excited for this adventure of theirs.
I’ve been thinking of the years we’ve spent together in the same Sunday school class, the fun we’ve had playing in the worship band, and the great conversations we’ve had over the years. I also remember the often-spoken kind and encouraging words from this friend that have been a source of joy and comfort as we’ve traveled life together for several years.
There’s a song I’ve heard recently by country singer Brad Paisley titled, “Last Time for Everything”. It’s about how good things transition away, and as they go, you experience them for the last time. This song, and my friend’s move, again remind me that we’re to enjoy the people, places, things, and even the time of life we’re currently in, while we have it, because things transition.
I’m certain my friend and I will continue to stay in touch and will no doubt see each other again in the future. And I’m also reminded that while good things transition out of our life, just as often, equally good things transition in.
Earlier this week I was working on a project with two colleagues from work. These two had spent a significant amount of time with the dataset we were working with, and it didn’t take long to realize that these two had a significant understanding of the intricacies of this data.
As we struggled to figure out a solution to our specific problem, one colleague said, “I feel like I should know more about be an expert at his point.”
His comment intrigued me and caused me to consider what an “expert” is. We hear this term thrown around frequently, especially during this pandemic. After thinking about his comment, I told him that I thought an expert was someone who has spent more time learning, understanding, and experiencing a topic than most folks. Being an expert doesn’t mean we have all the answers (in my searching through definitions of expert, not one mentioned being all -knowing… that’s God’s domain!) it means we have knowledge, skill, and experience that we can apply to solve new problems and address new questions.
I told my colleague that definition would qualify him as an expert on the dataset we were working on.
We’re not required to have all the answers to be an expert, and we certainly don’t have to possess all the answers to offer our knowledge and experience to solve a problem. So, the only expectation is that you share the knowledge, skill, and experience that you have.
“The test of a person’s education is that he finds pleasure in the exercise of his mind.”
~ Jacques Barzun
There are so many voices today, clamoring to fill our minds with their thoughts, ideas, or opinions and repeat them as our own. Since each one of us is blessed to have total ownership of our mind, we should be aware of what we’re letting into them.
We should actually use our minds and think critically regarding the formation of our ideas and opinions. Our minds are like a garden that we should tend to with care. We need to give attention to what we allow to take root, and root out anything that doesn’t help to produce the positive mind we’d like to cultivate. Our minds are too valuable, too precious, to be treated as empty vessels just waiting to be filled with someone else thoughts. Filling our minds is OUR job.
There’s a lot going on in the world today and a lot people eager to do our thinking for us, with regard to how you’re to respond, act, and think. Let’s make sure that the opinions we have and the actions we take are the result of exercising the super computer between our ears, rather than sopping up what someone else pours inside.
I’ve been taking lessons to learn the electric bass for 3 years now. There have been a number of skills to learn, and I’ve struggled grasping many of them! When I do find myself struggling with a concept, I have come up with a 2 step process for speeding up my understanding. The 2 steps are:
- Write down my understanding of the concept and present it to my instructor
- Be open to, and ready to apply, feedback
Jotting down my understanding of a concept helps me clarify my thoughts and also presents my instructor with a glimpse into my thinking. From this glimpse, he can easily tell whether I’m grasping the concept or not. It’s really difficult to fake my understanding when I’ve just handed him a chart, summary, or sketch of how I’m interpreting what I’m learning!
It’s nice when my understanding is correct. However, most times, I’m usually missing something. It’s at these moments when my instructor can jump in and clarify a point. This is where I need to be ok with the fact that my understanding is flawed. When it is, it’s not a knock on me. It’s an opportunity to learn and grow as a bass player. Frankly, isn’t that the point of lessons: to find out in what skills you’re lacking and learn how to get better?
If you’re struggling to learn a concept, consider jotting down how you currently understand it, and give it to someone who knows the topic and will give you an honest assessment. Then be ready to learn from and apply their feedback. You’ll have inaccurate understanding to lose and new skills to gain.
“The older I get, the younger my teachers become.” ~Unknown
As a life-long learner, I’m grateful for the people who have been (and currently are) willing to teach me. Whether they’ve written a book I’ve read, created a podcast, or sat down next to me to explain something, their willingness to teach me has enriched my live. I’m especially grateful that these teachers are often younger than I am.
As someone who’s been around for over half a century, I couldn’t imagine how adversely impacted my learning would be if I only listened to people who were older than me. If I carried the belief that there’s nothing I can learn from anyone who’s younger than me, I’d be willingly disconnecting myself from the wisdom and knowledge of a significant portion of the world population. What an awful way to move through life!
If sense a negative attitude bubbling up when you have the opportunity to learn from someone younger, check yourself. You may be on the cusp of throwing away a perfectly good learning experience.
How foolish it would be to miss an opportunity to learn something valuable, simply because pride and ego deafen your ears to voices younger than your own.