I will be participating in the ALIA Information Online conference in Brisbane, Australia this month. One of the most interesting and enjoyable activities I will be participating in is a seven minute lightning talk on a topic having to do with the conference theme of be different, do different.
I like to think I know what it means to be different. I left public school in California after the 8th grade and spent the next two years in an alternative school (read “permission to smoke dope”). I helped my parents build two geodesic dome homes in Indiana before leaving home two weeks after my 18th birthday to return to California. Along the way I learned to bake, sew, embroider, and build treehouses — one of which I slept in during an Indiana winter (fully enclosed with a wood stove).
In foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California Gold Country, I achieved my GED, took classes at a community college, and eventually decided to go to library school. Along the way I became a commercial whitewater river guide, and soon led several private trips down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon.
Given this history, I believe I have an idea about what it means to be different. In looking back at what I think makes me different, I think it boils down to acquiring skills you’re not supposed to have. I’ve spent my life doing this. I’ve never let anyone dictate what skills I should or should not have. I’ve acquired every skill I could imagine wanting, from cooking to carpentry. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.
So in preparing for my talk, I gave a lot of thought to how we acquire skills and the barriers that stand in our way. One night, around 3am, I lay in bed wide awake while mapping the topography of skill acquisition in my mind. Lest I forget by morning, I got out of bed and sketched it (see image). The final diagram tracked it almost exactly. I will introduce the diagram and the various parts in the next post. Although you can’t all be there with me in Brisbane, you can follow along here at this blog.
Next up: The Topography of Skill Acquisition