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Posts Tagged ‘learning’

That Awkward Feeling Of Being A Noob


Have you ever tried using your left hand to write if you’re right-handed? Or maybe tried driving on the right side of the road? Recall the first time you’ve tried riding a bicycle or learned how to skate (I have to admit that I still don’t know how.) How did that feel? Here’s what’s worse. You’re trying a totally different approach related to your area of expertise. Like the accountant learning how to use TurboTax for the first time.  He knows the spreadsheet in-and-out but just couldn’t get the software’s user interface. This reminded me of how users reacted to Microsoft Office 2007 when it first came out. And because change is constant and inevitable, we’ll always feel like a noob. ALWAYS. And it feels awkward. ALWAYS.

But just like learning how to ride a bicycle, we get used to it. The awkward feeling starts to go away and we start feeling confident. When you’re riding your bicycle without holding the handle bars, you never think about how many times you’ve fallen off or the number of scratches you got. You probably couldn’t even remember. You went from being a noob to being an expert and riding the bicycle no longer feels awkward. You now feel great about it. But it definitely took a lot of trying it out and getting used to it. The path from being a noob to becoming an expert is never an easy one. That, in fact, was the thesis of Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers and the idea behind the 10,000 hours road to expertise. With the right investment of time and effort, anyone can move past the feeling of awkwardness fairly quickly.

But I think it’s more than the awkward feeling of being a noob. Behind all of that is the feeling of PRIDE. Admitting that you have to throw away all of your efforts and investments does feel a bit awkward. And that feeling where you suddenly have to slide down the ranks from up top all the way back to the bottom. When experts feel that they’re back to being a noob. And because they’ve gotten used to the feeling of being an expert, they no longer want to go back and re-experience how it all started – the fear, anxiety, and frustration that comes with it.

Didn’t I say that change is constant and inevitable? This means we have to get used to being a noob because we will always have to learn something new. But we need to put our pride aside or we’ll never get past this awkward feeling.

Now, go ahead and ride that bicycle.

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Create An Environment For Learning

December 31, 2012 1 comment

Salamat sa regalo

Every time we have an opportunity to go back to our home country, the Philippines, I try to give back as much as I can.  We also try to schedule our travel around the Christmas and New Year season because it’s like a pilgrimage for every Filipino living overseas. It’s the season of getting together as a family and, most important of all, GIVING. Our alumni association based in Singapore – the University of the Philippines Alumni Association (Singapore) – has an annual community program called Pamaskong Pambata. Thru the program, the group partners with a local non-profit organizations that focus on the welfare of children and it becomes the beneficiary for the year. I take this opportunity to teach my kids about the value of community work while at the same time opening their eyes to the living conditions of our less fortunate countrymen. In 2007, my youngest son and I joined the community program as they partnered with an orphanage. As a 3-year-old, my son had the opportunity to distribute food and gifts to kids much older than him. One thing he remembered vividly was putting on a Santa hat as he started giving gifts. He still remembers how each recipient had immediately put on a smile as they received the gift he was giving.

This time around, I took my eldest son with me on this trip. I was informed that the location for this year’s community work was in Payatas in Quezon City. Payatas happens to be the main area for garbage disposal in Manila. Most of the people here make their living by collecting and selling recyclable garbage from the dump. The girl in the picture below is sorting out recyclable plastic in a place that she considers both her home and workplace.

Payatas Dump - Plastic Recycler

Payatas Dump-Plastic Recycler by suvajack

It’s easy to teach kids (and adults) lessons on gratitude and the importance of properly managing one’s resources. We can talk about it in the dinner table or even in the board room when we want to emphasize operational efficiency in the company. Internal memos, emails and parental nagging may end up being ignored and not get the results we want. But to really drive the message across, we need to create an environment for learning. And not just learning thru theory and concepts but something that they will always remember. Here are few ideas that you can use to achieve the results you want:

  1. Put it in their calendar. As early as November, I’ve already made arrangements to join the community outreach program. There were slight changes in the date but I made sure I update my calendar. I told my son about the schedule so that he can make the necessary preparations. Creating an environment for learning requires telling the people involved that it has to be on their schedule as well. 
  2. Engage their emotions. Theoretical and conceptual learning only lasts for a while. Emotional learning creates an impact. I bet you remembered a very important lesson that your parents or friends told you because of the experience associated with it. As we were heading to the meeting place, I kept showing my son the difference between our house and the ones he’s seeing along the way. He did see several kids playing near the dumps, most of them don’t even have anything to protect their feet. It’s priceless to see the look on someone else’s eyes (both kids and adults alike) as they see other people searching thru the garbage to find food that they immediately take in. That experience immediately teaches them the deeper meaning of gratitude.
  3. Tap in to their passion. My kids have different personalities. While my youngest son would enjoy engaging with people, my eldest is a bit timid. I thought about how he can make the most out of this trip. Then, I realized that he likes taking photos and videos. I told him to charge up his iPod and be ready to snap photos. I also let him take charge of my DSLR camera. Since I already taught him the basics of digital photography (I’m still learning myself), I was confident that he’d do a great job. And he did. As I was distributing food to the kids, he was taking as much photos as he can. It was easier for me to engage him in the moment because he was having fun with what he was doing.
  4. Re-tell the experience. The day with my son ended up with a trip to my alma mater. As we were enjoying a great snack, I asked him about the experience. I also told him some of those “remember when…” stories: “Remember when we couldn’t even buy you an ice cream cone?” We’ve told him this story several times but this time was different. Because now he has seen kids that are younger than him who can’t even afford to go to school, who need to scour the dumps in order to have something to eat and who think having an ice cream cone is a luxury. The lessons and stories we used to tell him now made  more sense because of his personal experience.

Whether you’re teaching a lesson to a kid or an adult, it is important to make sure that the lessons do stick. Because it’s not just about teaching them lessons, it’s about creating memorable experiences.

Question: What is that one lesson that stuck with you? Did it come with a memorable experience? You can share your story by clicking here