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Water Great Reminder to Keep Learning

Can you remember when you first learnt to drive? How many lessons did you have? Did you pass first time, or did it take a few more attempts? Have you kept a clean license since then or do you admit to a few bumps, scrapes, dings to the bodywork and even more ‘damage’ to your licence?

I have been reminded a lot of my experience of learning to drive recently. One such reminder comes from my eldest daughter who, having recently applied for her provisional licence, is counting the days to her 17th birthday when she can finally get behind the wheel of a car. (Yikes!!!!)

Another reminder comes from a most unexpected source; ME! As a driver, I would never be complacent, but I am proud of my record. Aged 17 I passed my test on the first attempt. I have never accrued a single point on my licence and, aside from my car being stolen a few years back, have never made a claim on my insurance.

Yet this counts for nothing now that I am learning how to steer a boat. Now whilst I didn’t expect it to be a doddle, I didn’t expect it to be that demanding either. I mean, if I can drive safely in the Middle East (those who’ve lived there will know EXACTLY what I mean) for 5 years, then surely a 55 foot boat traversing the canals of the UK should be relatively straight forward?


You see there are two fundamental differences (aside from the little detail of being on water instead of a road):
  1. You are steering from the back, in fact from a very long way back!
  2. Instead of turning the wheel in the direction you want to go, you are moving the tiller in the direction that you don’t want to go.
Sound easy? Well it's not.

Gone is the ease of familiarity, the intuitiveness of knowing exactly what you need to do. In its place is having to really think, to work out what you need to do. In fact, instead of a quiet confidence comes a very, very loud uncertainty.

I am lucky, I have a very patient, logical and experienced instructor. Yet when I hear him confidently express analogies of sweeping with a broom I am plunged further into complete and utter confusion. I can see that, to my oracle of wisdom, thoughts of sweeping mean they know exactly when and where to turn the tiller, but for me I am wondering if I missed a spot and if a mop and bucket will be more useful?!

I nervously try and find a way to make it work for me; I crave a technique for turning the tiller that doesn’t plow the boat full speed into the nearest canal bank. Finally, I begin to make progress and to find a way to start to make sense of this strange new world. But confident I am not.

I realise how much I have to learn, how much of a gap there is between what I want to do and what I am currently capable of. To put it into the parlance of training, I am very much consciously incompetent.

Yet it is this very realisation that is my light bulb moment. My fear and my uncertainty are in fact very valuable friends right now. Why? Because they remind me of how it feels to be learning a new skill; how it feels when the teacher possesses ample amounts of hard won confidence and the pupil experiences unexpected uncertainty.

You see this is what is repeated day in, day out in the training room. For us trainers, the training room is our second home and we are talking about subjects we are passionate about. Remembering what it feels like to be the uncertain participant is actually a priceless experience – it means that we can truly understand and empathise with what the people in front of us are about to go through.

So my challenge for you is to find ways to experience new things, where the skills you currently have do not fully equip you for what you now face. Look for that experience, remember that feeling and apply it every time you walk to the front of a training room.

Enjoy and good luck :-)

December 2 2015Frances Ferguson

Frances Ferguson

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