Saturday, September 14, 2013

Individual Paces: Learning Curves

Each new skill requires a learning curve. And each individual will require a curve unique to him or herself. There is no shame in that. I've said this before (and perhaps if I say it enough, I'll more easily incorporate it into my own life):  there is nothing wrong with being a beginner.

"There's a first time for everything." As the saying goes.

I'd like to make a minor adjustment:  "There's a first time for everyone." In other words, everyone is a beginner at least once in their lives (and usually much more than that).

What may be a simple task for an experienced individual will be a complex endeavor for someone experiencing it for the first time.

For example:  Last week, I bought Photoshop CC for the purpose of creating novel covers and promotional material. I hadn't touched the program before in my life when I first opened it on my laptop. There were so many shiny buttons, and I had no clue what any of them were for. I had a basic understanding of what a layer was used for, and the most extensive things I'd ever done with a photo before were to resize, crop, and paint over it. Anyone who has used a simple paint program knows how much time I've probably wasted when changing my mind mid-paint.

I knew Photoshop CC would streamline my processes and provide me with more creative freedom, but I didn't know how. So I spent a week watching tutorial videos, reading how-to material, and practicing with my own photos. In a week, I went from knowing nothing about Photoshop to creating two series logos that I'm absolutely in love with. (I'll share those when the website goes live. X-3 )

But I have a shallow learning curve for creative expression.

On the other hand:  About two months ago, I was taught how to run a new kind of machine at my night job. I'd watched other operators from afar. I knew the number of responsibilities I would take on by learning this new machine, but I had no idea how to do any of those things. For two weeks, I was followed around by a trainer who helped me when I forgot important details and provided step-by-step instruction on how each task was to be done.

Two weeks ago, I stopped brining my cheat sheet. Last week I felt comfortable enough to make the decision to call maintenance when a problem arose.

Obviously, my learning curve regarding technical skills is much steeper than with creative ones.

But that's my individual style.

There's no shame in being a beginner and needing time to learn a new skill. The only shame to be had is when we try to push ourselves above the level at which we naturally gather, understand, and retain new information.

Asking for help when I needed it used to be very difficult for me. I wanted to be able to do everything on my own from the starting gate with minimal instruction. I don't learn most skills that way, and it caused more problems and frustration than swallowing my pride and asking for advice would have done.

In our desire for independence, we've forgotten that standing on our own power requires us to understand when our power alone isn't enough. Teachers would be unnecessary if we all came equipped with all the knowledge we would ever need. Trainers wouldn't exist if everyone who walked into the door of a company could do every job in it. School wouldn't be a word in our vocabulary.

Learning in an essential part of life. It's best to make peace with it and our individual style of doing so.

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