Learning about learning

How do you feel when you have to learn something new? Do you feel a sense of excitement, or do you encounter an initial sense of negativity that stays with you for a long time?

For many people, especially those of the younger generation, learning a new skill comes with a sense of aspiration and idealism. They see the skill and what it can offer to their lives, not just in terms of the skill and direct benefits itself, but also for the fame and recognition. For example, someone wishing to take up singing has ideas of being able to make it big as a singer-songwriter, and being the object of attention of millions in a big arena.

The unfortunate thing with learning a skill – if you can call it unfortunate at all – is that it takes time to do well. Skills take time to be familiar with, to acquire, and to refine, so that every action benefits. A lot of people go for the product and not the process, because they want to end-gain, to get to the final product immediately, because they are hungry for the success. This means they short-cut their way to the end, without any idea of how they’ve achieved it.

You see this in young children. When they are asked to do a piece of writing, for example, and are not willing to do it, they fill a piece of paper with words – perhaps written not very nicely, as a form of protest – and will insist they have completed it, when the paper is full of words, without any form of whether what they have written is of substance and neat. They have gone for the product, in order to complete it, rather than think of the process.

Perhaps it is a good idea to learn little craft skills to subconsciously learn the life skills of patience and practice. Rather than discover – when the stakes are too high – that one has chosen to do something ambitious without having the will or aptitude for it, it may be prudent to do little artistic skills, slightly less ambitious tasks in order to develop the patience and willingness to graft, and develop a mental framework of what it takes to learn a skill. If you’re ever on the Brighton seafront, you will find a myriad of ideas just looking at the craft shops around you. Try candle-making, or perhaps making your own shampoo. Try learning to play the guitar with a few chords. Try knitting, or join a weekend cookery class. There are many things you can try. Not only will you make many friends and meet like-minded people, at the same time you will learn about learning – it is a skill that will benefit you for life!