Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Shortcut to Brilliance?

Learn Anything in 20 Hours with This Four Step Method

No, I lied.  There are no shortcuts to brilliance.  There are ample shortcuts, however, that can stimulate forward movement in our learning experiences.  I haven't read Josh Kaufman's book, The First 20 Hours, but I will.  There's nothing too off-center when it comes to learning theory and the advancement of personal knowledge.  This isn't at all off-center.  Kaufman, having read that it takes 10,000 hours to master a new activity, was daunted by the prospect of 5 full years of focused learning.  He chose to find a better way.  I spent my life finding ways to help students learn faster, better, more easily, and without bloodshed.  It's a worthy goal.

The key to Kaufman's plan (and the one I discovered worked best in almost every situation) is TASK ANALYSIS.  If you're already tired of hearing me ramble on about this, watch the video and listen to Kaufman do it.  You need to learn this if you're ever going to do any learning or teaching (training) with any level of success.

[Photo courtesy of my daughter, the lovely Jessica Culnan]
Kaitlin's process will begin with her growing taller than the cello.

Task Analysis involves truly looking at the end result first.  Really looking at it and figuring out what it is you want to do.  He calls it "deconstructing the skill".  Same difference.  If you can see clearly the end result and take it apart, you can see some of the steps leading to it that you'll need to master in order to move forward.  Each of those will also required "deconstruction" (analysis) to their smallest components.  At each step, you'll recognize your current level of mastery and begin to build from there.

If you want to learn to ride, what does riding look like?  What is involved with the idiocy of throwing your feeble humanness on top of a not-at-all feeble monster of a critter with a mind of its own?  Well, obviously you need to be able to climb well enough to get there, right?  That takes at least a modicum of lower body strength.  What is like that in your experience?  Climbing stairs comes to mind.  So does riding a bike (which horseback riding is "just like" according to many instructors).  Can you do those?  If not, what do you have to do to get to those skills?  Walking, knee bends, maybe some core exercises like ab crunches would probably do the trick.

That's simplistic, but I'm going to stay here in Simpleville for a bit.  How do you know if you're mastering the stepping-stone skills?  Can you tell whether the ab crunches are working?  Sure!  Do you look and feel stronger through that area of your body?  BINGO!

Time passes, and now you can walk, climb, sit upright, and possibly balance well enough not to fall off when the animal starts moving.  Is that all there is to riding?  No way.  So you watch videos of people doing it, and you analyze them for the minor details.  Where is the rider's leg and what is it doing?  Where are his hands?  How is his back moving?  Can you come up with ways to emulate those without being on a horse?  Find a nice core ball, an upholstered chair arm, a flight of stairs, and you're in business.

Not exactly what I was picturing when I did the analysis, but
there are steps I can take to Make It So.

It's not hard to do a task analysis, as you can see.  Kaufman takes it one step further and says you need to practice each step for 20 hours.  That's a good idea.  In the simple case of getting on a horse's back, you probably already have many of the steps mastered and aren't aware of them.  So what you might need to do 20 hours' work on is actually getting on and off a horse.  That's where a good beginner instructor comes in and I walk out.  You'll need eyes on the ground to tell you when you're messing up and in danger of being on the ground with those eyes.

All of this is easily applicable to higher levels of riding and to training your horse.  Figure out what you want it to look like (not physically...you're not going to analyze your 14.3hh Pintabian into a Dutch Warmblood or yourself into Olympic Village) and what it would take to get there.  Figure out which skills and abilities your horse has and which it needs work on.  Start from step one and move forward, making sure not to skip the quizzes and tests along the way that check your progress, and if you give your effort an "F", be sure to redo that part of the course.  No cheating!

The key, however, harking back to last week's post, is ABILITY.  You and your horse have some, not all, of the ability you would like to apply to this project.  Be honest in your assessment and don't get angry if one or the other of you hits a wall.  Do what you can; enjoy what you do; move forward until you can't go any further, then move sideways.  Sideways is good.  Think of the process as a maze.  Sometimes one of those side passages will lead to an even bigger forward movement.  Nothing is ever wasted except the energy you put into whining and complaining and wishing.

1 comment:

Susan Schreyer said...

I was just thinking about the process of learning and how important it is to be able to recognize one's successes and improvement in order to progress. Desire and enthusiasm go a long way to maintaining the persistence necessary to succeed, and breaking a goal down into tasks where you can see progress goes a long way to maintaining the desire and enthusiasm.
Thanks for ferreting out this book. Sounds like he's got a bead on learning. I'll check it out.