Learning vs Teaching

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A friend of mine in South Africa, Jon-Pat Myers, relayed this principle to me:
Do something for 8 hours and you’ve tasted it
Do something for 2 weeks and you’ve borrowed it
Do something for 3 months and you own it.

I like it because it ties in with a lot of what I have observed and read when it comes to being good at stuff. Everyone wants to be good at stuff. Not everyone is prepared to put in the effort. Those 3 lines demonstrate clearly what sort of return you get for what kind of effort. And then you get to Malcolm Gladwell who says, do something for 10 000 hours and you have mastered it.

It’s a scale of effort and reward that confuses a lot of people because, quite frankly, some people seem to need to try harder than others. As if in fact, we are not born equal. But the truth is that, for those who want a thing hard enough or who enjoy a thing enough, the achievement appears effortless. They get joy and reward out of their learning faster than the rest of us.

Learning is like this. We learn every day, or we certainly could if we just kept our minds open and didn’t insist on applying the template of our experience over what we see on a daily basis.

This is why teaching is a bit of a dodgy occupation. All the teacher does is train the learner in the use of their lens or template. True learning, the acquisition of true knowledge, requires effort, observation, practice and interest. Which is why, no matter how gifted, pleasant or persuasive a teacher, not every pupil will excel. Some just don’t give a damn, some are too busy with their own idea, yet others resist the lure of knowledge, reluctant to give up their neatly organised world.

As someone who is employed to teach, its hard sometimes to detect the space where you can facilitate learning… where teaching is required to open that space and where stepping aside is required. It’s mostly obvious, but some people need prodding before they will stumble into the learning space.

School... what is it good for?
School… what is it good for?

It doesn’t help that many people still believe in the magic of the teacher: that by merely showing up at a course or a workshop they will magically acquire knowledge. It’s funny though, learning is so much more than knowledge transfer isn’t it? It’s also experience acquisition. It requires you step over the threshold of your current thoughts into no-mans-land.

Some times to make a client happy I have to teach. Sometimes I just help them learn. One thing is for sure, through all of this I am always learning.

If you want to truly learn and own something new, you need to be putting in at least 3 months of effort as per the phrase from Jon-Pat which I started this piece with. If you do not you’re just trying the idea out with no real commitment to achieving it.

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