Learn By Doing
February 25, 2020
I did not know how to swim till I was in my mid-30s . I was a late starter and I only pushed myself to learn because I wanted to join my kids in the swimming pool.
When I started, my instructor gave me lots of tips on different swimming strokes and breathing techniques. All very good in theory and in the shallow pool. The moment I got into the long pool with the deep end, fear gripped me. The only way I overcame this resistance and became a decent swimmer was by actually doing full lengths, clumsily at first, but slowly improving with practice.
Swimming is a physical skill. No amount of theory and guidance from the instructor is good enough unless I commit to the actual “doing” . I learnt swimming by actually swimming !!
Anything that is in the nature of a physical activity-Swimming, Driving, Cooking, Running etc..- its intuitive, learning can happen only by doing.
What about soft skills that rely less on the physical aspects and require commitment of our cognitive faculties? Writing, Public Speaking, Mindfulness, Meditation, Networking, Leadership etc. The learning process is less self-evident. Many people struggle with the learning process.
I have had my share of struggles too.
When it came to soft skills, I had this impression that I needed to first gain knowledge to learn any soft skill. I would watch videos, read books thinking that somehow just by knowing what needs to be done, I could learn and develop.
I was very wrong. The focus had to be on actual “Doing” more than gaining knowledge.
Let me give a recent example. For the longest time, I wanted to write and express myself. I felt I was not ready because I was not trained. So I went and bought 2 Books to read about how to write better !!. Unfortunately, reading about writing did not help me write.
I learnt how to write by actually free writing 500 words every day without fail on random ideas, themes. Initially the writing was labored and clunky. Slowly with practice, I became more comfortable. I learnt how to write by actually writing.
In my library, I have books on Public Speaking, Meditation, Networking etc… Now that I am thinking about this, I even have a book on how to run a Marathon!!!
The message I give myself and everyone else. Developing any soft skill starts with affirmative action more than the knowledge of ‘how to” that comes from Books and other material out there on the world wide web. Books and other material can help improve the quality of the skill one is learning.
So , If you want to become a better public speaker, go join Toastmasters first (its free and safe) and get speaking. You can also listen to Ted talks or read books on how to be better at public speaking, but, that can come later.
Similarly, if you want to learn meditation, take the help of an expert who will teach you how to meditate by making you sit and meditate.
If you are keen to learn a new skill. Just start by doing. It’s that simple.