Learning a New Skill

I am learning a new skill this summer aka driving (don’t ask me why it has taken me so long to learn driving) and I have never felt more of a fool at something like I have these days. It reminded me of this quote by Mortimer Adler in How to Read a Book on how learning a new skill (driving for me and skiing in his example) can make you feel like a fool:

Learning to ski is one of the most humiliating experiences an adult can undergo ( that is one reason to start young). After all, an adult has been walking for a long time; he knows where his feet are; he knows how to put one foot in front of the other in order to get somewhere. But as soon as he puts skis on his feet, it is as though he had to learn to walk all over again. He slips and slides, falls down, has trouble getting up, gets his skis crossed, tumbles again, and generally looks and feels like a fool.

I have been lucky to have two good instructors helping me. There is something wise in what they tell me. In learning to turn at a junction, they tell me like at a junction that I should slow down first almost to a halt (separate act) and then turn the wheel (separate act). Therefore, as a beginner, I should consider both to be separate acts and perfect them each separately but in future, as an expert, I can combine them efficiently together. Again to quote Adler:

You cannot telescope the different parts of the job so that they run into one another and fuse intimately. Each separate act requires your full attention while you are
doing it. After you have practiced the parts separately, you can not only do each with greater facility and less attention but can also gradually put them together into a smoothly running whole. All of this is common knowledge about learning a complex
skill. (Emphasis mine)

In short as a beginner focus on the separate parts of the skills and with practice and time you can reach the goal. Also, it is okay to look like a fool at the beginning. That may serve me well in my never-ending challenge of trying to learn the Swedish language or any new skill.

At the beginning, the learner pays attention to himself and his skill in the separate acts. When the acts have lost their separateness in the skill of the whole performance, the learner can at last pay attention to the goal that the technique he has acquired enables him to reach.

Keep at that goal and you will be an expert someday. But what is expertise anyway?

Beginner Hazard Expert
The three stages of expertise

Have a lovely weekend, won’t you?


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