Tag Archives: Learning

What Are Your Limits?

What can’t you do? If you’re a child of my children‘s generation, you’ve probably been told since you were born that you can do anything. You have no limits. Does anyone really believe that’s true – that there isn’t anything we can’t do if we try really hard and practice a lot?

As you know if you’ve spent any time in this space, I play golf. I’m not horrible at it although I’m far from really good. I do practice and I might just try too hard. That said, there are shots I just can’t hit and never will be able to despite knowing how to do so and practicing them (you go ahead and hit that 225-yard shot over water and a bunker into a tight pin on a narrow green without landing in trouble).

Knowing your limits is important both in life and in business. We all want to help the team but learning to say “no” when you’re asked to take on more work than you can possibly do well really IS helping. Everyone hits the wall at some point and taking on too many projects or work that you’re not qualified to do well is a great way to hit it bang on.

Many ski areas have signs that remind you to ski within your limits. There is a sign at Bethpage Black, a golf course which has hosted the U.S. Open, that, in essence, asks you to know your limitations as a golfer and respect them.

Many people want to learn and to grow. Most people want to take on a new challenge. While you do need to push your limits to do this, at the same time, you need to be conscious of your abilities and approach any new goals appropriately. In golf or skiing, we can take lessons. How many businesspeople invest in courses to improve their skills?

In skiing and riding, we wear protective gear. The problem is that sometimes we get a false sense of security and push too far. In business, we rely on data from dodgy sources or only those surveys that tell us what we want to hear to give us that same false sense. Instead of recognizing the limits of the information, we believe it.

I’ve been playing the guitar since I was 10. I still can’t play like Clapton or Page despite well over 10,000 hours of practice. It may be some sort of physical ability I don’t have which they do. Then again, I probably have some mental abilities that have let me learn many skills they don’t have. Learning what you can and can’t do even with practice, instruction, and perseverance is key, and accepting those limitations, disheartening as it can be, can help make you better, not worse. Does that make sense?

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Filed under Helpful Hints, Reality checks, Thinking Aloud

Want To Learn Something? Teach It!

As we’ve discussed before here on the screed, I went to school way back in the last century to become a teacher.

English: A teacher and young pupils at The Bri...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To do so where I went to school you had to major in both your field of choice (English in my case) as well as in Education. You studied the information you were going to teach as well as the teaching process itself.

There was a flaw of sorts in that education. English majors do not spend a lot of time on grammar or spelling (even if we do get beaten up about it by our professors). We teachers-in-training had to take a course in philology which other English majors didn’t, but in general our subject matter learning wasn’t much different from our peers who weren’t getting teaching licenses. I hasten to add we DID have to take a lot of courses about how to teach but they were for anyone becoming a teacher no matter the subject area.  What I didn’t quite understand at the time was something that I’ve since learned:

If you want to learn something, teach it.

A fairly sizable part of what we do in business is teach. It may be that we need to develop staff or it may be that we’re trying to educate a potential customer about our product. Either way, we’re teaching. The funny thing is that you discover immediately that it’s impossible to educate someone about the subject if you don’t fully understand it yourself.  You find the holes in your knowledge base.  Many of us have had teachers who we thought were one chapter ahead of the class in terms of their knowledge.  It’s the same in business – I’m sure you’ve had the experience of a salesperson who knew less that you did about a product or who couldn’t answer a question without running for an information sheet.

So today’s business point is this:  if you want to understand a topic or a product fully, prepare a lesson plan about it as if you were going to teach a class on it.  You’ll learn a great deal about it as you flesh out the various outlines.  This works for almost anything – it’s almost impossible to explain something if you don’t understand it.  Then let me know what you think!

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Where Did You Learn This Stuff?

From time to time I chat with folks who are just starting their professional lives. One of the things many of them discover pretty early on in their job searches is that they have spent a lot of money obtaining a degree that might not qualify them to do much. This isn’t something new: my degrees are in English and Education which have, on the surface, very little to do with a career in traditional and digital media, sales, and sports.

The question I get asked a lot is “how did you get to where you are?” – what was my career path, etc. Inevitably, the specific knowledge one needs to advance down a particular road comes up and then the question becomes “where did you learn this stuff?”. Good question, and not as simple an answer as you’d think. Continue reading

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Filed under Helpful Hints, Reality checks