(RE) LEARNING TO _________ AGAIN
Have you had the chance to see the recent Joni Mitchell celebration at the Newport Jazz Festival? Grammy winner Brandi Carlisle pulled together an impressive number of musicians and lured Ms. Mitchell out for a full set for the first time since 2000, after a brain aneurysm in 2015 which resulted in the loss of her ability to play the guitar. Ms. Mitchell taught herself to play again by watching videos of others playing guitar. It is worth your time if you have not seen the recording.
I’ve a far less epic relearning ahead of me, but it has given me a moment to pause and consider how much of life is spent relearning.
I am about to relearn how to drive a car. My road to driving the first time was a mess. I failed my test once when I was in high school and mostly ignored driving because post-college I was living in Washington DC and then attending graduate school at in NYC. In both places one could get by rather easily without driving and the hassle of a car. After graduate school I was in job search mode, and I dedicated myself to learning to drive again. I passed and was able to obtain a license. Honestly, I had been afraid the entire time that I would have an MA and fail to get my driver’s license!
However, I then stayed in NYC for a decade before I moved to Oregon. I very rarely drove. So, when my license expired, I had to go through the process in my new state and was unenthusiastic. I have been able to get by fairly well without driving, but it does create situations where it limits my ability to be useful in emergencies and I find self-imposed limitations irritating.
Given that so much of my time is spent helping others set and realize goals I now find myself having to get out of my own ignore it and it will go away situation. As human beings much of our time is spent relearning. Some of these things are skills or practices that may have atrophied or altogether vanished.
In those situations, I try to engage smart and competent people to help me in waves. I may take another driving class before I subject those closest to me to the Russ Finkelstein Driving Experience (™), which I still hope to sell to a Six Flags or Disney near you. It mostly involves me getting the mirrors, music and maps perfectly aligned. Fun, right!?!? Similarly, when I stumble in my writing practice, I rely on my friend Matt to ensure that I get back on track. I think a sign of how seriously I take something is my push to engage an expert and friends to help me with critiques and accountability.
When I speak to people who have not had to search for a job for some time, they will mention how long it has been since they created a resume, interviewed, or networked to locate work. More people are open to engaging someone in (re)learning how to find work because the fear is so great, and they see the financial implications of doing this well.
Most of our relearning is less glamorous and occurs in isolation. It falls in the category of life lessons that we keep telling ourselves matter, but implement ineffectively, slowly or ignore altogether, for example:
-Do not use the following words to my partner/parent/etc. because it leads to a fight
-When I go to the supermarket hungry, I buy much more, and it ends up being less healthy food
-Take a few minutes after an unpleasant interaction before talking to someone else because you might take out your frustration on them
-Do not wait until the last minute to (file my taxes, make my flight, purchase a birthday gift) because it fills me with anxiety
-I need to practice a presentation / share a report with a colleague first to ensure I do my best work
You get the idea. These are a mix of things we do inside and outside of work that we know enable us to do better or be better. Perhaps we discuss some of this with a therapist or coach, but much of it remains something we know we need to do differently, but somehow have not instituted to be part of our life. Some of these lessons I’ve ‘relearned’ dozens of times. Why? Because many of them are small things that would make small improvements and therefore do not receive my full attention. I then forget quickly. We are all rather good at forgiving ourselves for these ‘smaller’ failings.
Does it matter if I buy extra chips when I go to the grocers hungry? Not in big ways, but it can of course bleed over into your gaining weight or feeling less able to be productive because you are so full from chips. Might it matter more if you have not learned that when you ask open-ended questions to your boss that you end up receiving lots of busywork? We might make a more determined effort to not repeat that error, but I speak to loads of people who suffer because they have not prioritized a manageable set of things to learn.
Take a moment to compile your relearning and select an accountability partner. My list for the fall currently includes:
-Re (learning to drive)
-Scheduling untouchable blocks of writing time each week
-Planning vacation dates at least six months in advance
-Cooking a batch of food to be used for the week during two hours on the weekend
-Giving myself at least two hours of reading time on every cross-country flight
I look forward to hearing all about yours.
—Russ Finkelstein [linkedin.com] is the opposite of your High School Guidance Counselor. A career coach, social entrepreneur, and advisor to founders, he is currently the Director of Coaching with the Roddenberry Fellowship, Coach-in-Residence with StartingBloc Fellowship, and a Co-Founder of Title8 a Legal Marketplace. He was a founder of the noted careers website Idealist.org and was chosen as a Generation Z Influencer by LinkedIn.