Taking Steps toward Improving the Learning Process

Step 3:  Circle your mistakes

This is actually a rather involved process.  In Math, the right answer is the “write” answer.  You use the pointy part of the pencil.  When you make a mistake, you use the blunt end, the eraser part.  This is the exception rather than the rule and the sooner you come to realize that, the better off you’ll be.  In the rest of life, the pointy part of the pencil indicates something that must change.  When you tried your new activity or study, you found areas that you could improve.  Did you write them down?  It has everything to do with how you handle mistakes and failures.  Do not get them confused with each other.  A mistake is not a character flaw.  It is nothing more and nothing less than a single action that can be improved to stream line a process.  A mistake is not a character flaw.  It is nothing more and no…oops.  See?  I say to myself, “Self?  you must read what you write before you repeat yourself.”  And I reply, “Good Idea!”  A failure is when you press that big red button and release all the nuclear war heads.  A failure is a FINAL act.  A mistake is a pot hole in a process.  It’s like the difference between the 2 guys that were learning to parachute.  The 1st one jumped out of the plane, yelled, “Geroni…” and hit the ground before he could deploy his chute.  The 2nd one jumped out of the plane, yelled “Geronimo!” but had not packed his chute so it did not deploy when he pulled the rip cord.  He splattered all over the drop zone.  Which was the mistake and which was the failure?  Well, since the 1st one, though he jumped out the plane, was not airborne, it was a mistake.  He got up and dusted himself off and tried again.  The 2nd one thought he didn’t need lessons and jumped out at 10,000 feet.  That was a failure.  There was really no 2nd chance to get it right.

When you circle your mistake, you don’t say to yourself that you’ve failed there and you will fail there forever.  That would be just silly.  But you don’t repeat it over and over ad infinitum either.  That would be practicing making a mistake.  Mistakes come naturally; you don’t have to practice them.  Once you have figured out where the difficulty lies, then you analyze it to see exactly what needs to be done to fix this mistake.  Take the soccer player.  “I CAN’T DRIBBLE!  IT’S IMPOSSIBLE!” Oh?  What is impossible?  Can you dribble with your Right Foot?  Can you dribble with your Left?  Can you change directions?  Can you alternate feet when you dribble?  Do you kick it so hard that it gets too far away from you and the opponent intercepts it?  Do you keep over running the ball?  There are exercises and drills you can do to improve each and every one of those imperfections.  In history, if you can’t remember the dates, assign them to a song that you can remember.  In English, picture the story as a movie that you have to describe to your best friend.  You won’t get the characters mixed up, and you will notice things like the setting, the plot, the basic premise of the story–the protagonist and the antagonist.  See?  Once you know EXACTLY what the problem is, it’s just a matter of using the tools you have to fill that little pot hole before it swallows your car.

At this point you have come to the complex part of the process:  namely, analyzing the situation to figure out exactly what the problem is.  There are several aspects to a problem.  It can be physical–coordinating between different limbs or between different participants, a different body movement that is not one that a person naturally does during the course of the day, or something that requires a more refined skill.  For example, coordinating the left and right hands on guitar or piano, coordinating a football play among the 11 players on the field, eye/hand coordination on a video game (who really uses their thumbs that much in a regular day?!), or a martial artist that has worked on his forms to the point where the camera man requests he slow down so the camera can pick up the movement. It can be perceptual where you change the angle and direction, you change the focus, you change the size.  Examples of this is the difference between the sculptor and the painter, or taking a look at the bigger picture instead of the small details and the reverse, or the scene in the movie where Ant Man is about to be struck by the train, then the camera pulls back and the toy train falls off the table.  Another aspect is the emotional/spiritual aspect: how do you feel about what you have to do?  The child won’t take swimming lessons because he had a bad experience in a bath tub.  And don’t forget the mental aspect.  Does this problem involve finding patterns?  a mental process that takes you from point A to point B?  Does it require focus even amidst distractions?  Distinguishing differences?  Memory?  The thing that must be foremost is that the solution to the problem, to fix the mistake, to make the process smoother, cannot be a one time solution!  It must be transferable to other areas in your life.

To review then:

  1. Find out what you know
  2. Make an attempt
  3. Circle your mistakes and analyze the situation

Is it physical?  perceptual? emotional/spiritual? mental?

Tomorrow we will take the 1st steps in solving the problems.

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