September 29, 2014

Being Different, Part 3: The Plain of Suckitude

In previous posts I discussed what “being different” meant to me and sketched out my “topography of skill acquisition” in which the first stage of the journey was “The Plain of Suckitude”. Now I will explain what I mean by that.

When acquiring a new skill, everyone begins on this plain. It is flat, since when you are on the plain you have the distinct impression that you are not gaining any altitude. You can’t do the skill well, if at all. You don’t quite understand it yet. You fail time and again. If you are trying to sew, you stick your finger with the needle. If you are trying to learn how to ride a bike, you fall. If you are trying to ski, you crash. Repeatedly, and sometimes spectacularly. In a word, you suck. And worse, you know it and you know that everyone around you knows it.

This is part of what makes this stage of skill acquisition so dangerous. You are provided all sorts of reasons why you should quit. You hate being clumsy. You hate people seeing you fail. You hate feeling unskilled. You hate almost everything about it. You begin to hear the siren song of quitting. You may even beging to justify quitting. “I never really wanted to learn this all that much anyway” you may think to yourself. And you have just entered the most dangerous part of all.

If you give in, you will die here. You will never come back. Whatever skill you tried to achieve you must forever do without, because you tried it once and failed. Very, very few people ever revisit the site of their failure. This is why it is so important to not let yourself die here, and it is why the last post in the series will discuss ways to prevent such a tragedy.

Next Up: The Elevator of Enlightenment

Image courtesy of Sean MacEntee, CC-BY 2.0

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Roy Tennant About Roy Tennant

Roy Tennant is a Senior Program Officer for OCLC Research. He is the owner of the Web4Lib and XML4Lib electronic discussions, and the creator and editor of Current Cites, a current awareness newsletter published every month since 1990. His books include "Technology in Libraries: Essays in Honor of Anne Grodzins Lipow" (2008), "Managing the Digital Library" (2004), "XML in Libraries" (2002), "Practical HTML: A Self-Paced Tutorial" (1996), and "Crossing the Internet Threshold: An Instructional Handbook" (1993). Roy wrote a monthly column on digital libraries for Library Journal for a decade and has written numerous articles in other professional journals. In 2003, he received the American Library Association's LITA/Library Hi Tech Award for Excellence in Communication for Continuing Education. Follow him on Twitter @rtennant.

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