Thursday, January 08, 2015

Comfortably Awkward

Learning is awkward. When you are a baby stumbling taking your first steps, there are lots of people showing delight at every movement and utterance. When you are a gangly teenager very aware of different parts of your body stretching and growing, you have fewer cheerleaders and perhaps even some malice from school 'buddies' figuring out how to behave themselves. You expect that at some point you will know. A bright shining light will come down through the clouds and illuminate all your doubts. As you get older you start twiddling your thumbs waiting for this light to arrive. Then you start to realise that no one knows. The 'experts' can even be the wrong place to look for the truth. We are all just figuring it out, and doing the best we can. As Warren Berger puts it, we are just honing 'A More Beautiful Question'.

In Jeffrey's guest post about lifelong learning, I really liked the idea of 'interval training' style learning. I think there are more similarities between the various types of physical, emotional and mental learning we do than we acknowledge. In 'Antifragile', Nassim Taleb makes the case for good stress. This is effectively what interval training/learning is. When you push yourself to the limits of what you can do in short bursts with periods of relaxation in between. If something is antifragile it actually benefits from stress. It is the same case that Christopher McDougall made in 'Born to Run' where by not pushing through some of the discomfort we have in running and trying to soften impacts (e.g. with cushioned shoes) we actually end up doing ourselves harm. Tim Ferriss aims to refine this approach by finding the highest impact, least time-consuming ways of exercising (he tries to do it with work, cooking and everything else too).

In realising that everyone is figuring things out, and becoming comfortable with periods of awkwardness, confusion, haze and doubt perhaps we can become more like brave babies learning than terrified teenagers. It also means we need to be more like the supporting parents to each other than the schoolyard bullies. We can be comfortably awkward.
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