Building Valuable Experience

“A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt

We often think that learning takes place in a controlled environment like a classroom or an online course.  Here, lessons are orderly, information is dispersed, and an opportunity to apply the knowledge we’ve gained is provided.  While this is certainly one way to gain knowledge, the best learning and experience is usually gained when the wheels are coming off.

Don’t get me wrong, the base knowledge we gain on a topic from classroom instruction, or in other ideal conditions, is crucial in helping us develop an understanding of our topic of choice.  However, when we find ourselves having to apply this knowledge to solve a problem in an uncontrolled setting where conditions are far from ideal, that’s where experience is forged.  And that experience is valuable!

Consider the following scenarios:

  • Parenting a child through a challenging time or situation
  • Restoring a computer network outage that is keeping scores of people from working
  • Leading a family or team through an unexpected tragedy
  • Running a business during a global pandemic

Problems like these can easily cause us to feel like we’re in over our heads, which may be accurate. What we can do, is take the skills and knowledge we’ve gained to this point and focus it toward solving the problem we’re facing.  No, it’s never fun to be in “rough seas”, but if we can see past the storm and be confident in our abilities to apply what we have, we’ll likely come through with a greater depth of experience, and even wisdom, than we possessed before.

Be confident and apply what you’ve learned.

Dig In

I was recently practicing bass guitar in preparation for playing on my church’s worship team. There was a specific part of one song that I kept having trouble with.  For some reason, I couldn’t rhythmically understand how a series of note were to be played.  I could hear it when I listened to the song, but I couldn’t make it happen when I actually tried to play it.  It was time to dig in!

First, I wrote out the notes I was to play. Then I played those notes several times in the order they were to be played.  This helped me become familiar with what I was supposed to be playing.  Next, I listened to this section of the song at a much slower speed over and over as I counted out what beats the notes fell on.  Every time I figured out what beat a note fell on, I’d write it down so I could move on to the next note without forgetting what I had just learned.  Once I had determined what beats all the notes fell on, I was able to begin playing along with the song at normal speed.  From here I continued to practice what I learned until it became familiar.

It can be like that for problems we struggling with. Sometimes what we need to do is do a deep dive on what we’re struggling with and give focused energy into figuring it out.  This may involve slowing down, breaking our problem into pieces, addressing each piece separately, and then reassembling these pieces into what will be a solution to our problem.

Think of some problem you’re struggling with or a concept you’re having a hard time grasping. Perhaps you could benefit from devoting some focused attention toward figuring the problem out.