April 15, 2014

Being Different, Part 4: The Elevator of Enlightenment

In the previous post, I introduced the Plain of Suckitude, which is where we all suck at some new skill until, suddenly, we don’t. When you arrive at the “ah ha!” moment of a new skill, it is when muscle memory takes over, or when the mental grooves are finally deep enough that you suddenly “get it”.

Suddenly, you aren’t falling, or dropping a stitch, or smashing your finger with the hammer.

You have reached the Elevator of Enlightenment. It is an elevator because it only goes straight up. One moment you are on the Plain of Suckitude and the next you aren’t. You may still be shaky with this new skill, but you have crossed a line that is the essential event to add this skill to your personal repertoire. From here on it’s all about sharpening your new skill. And that’s up next.

But a few more words about this pivotal moment. Some people reach their point of supreme frustration just prior to the breakthrough. I believe this is because you are so close you can feel it, but you still aren’t quite there. As a father, I soon came to learn that when one of my daughters become the most frustrated was also the time just before her breakthrough. I learned to be patient, as I knew that she would soon be on the Elevator of Enlightenment, and off the Plain of Suckitude forever — for that particular skill at least. But if she allowed herself to give up she would never leave the Plain. And believe me, you want to — or should.

So one of the lessons to take away from this is that if you are feeling extremely frustrated about your failed attempts to learn a new skill, that may be a good indicator that you are close to a breakthrough. Give it just a few more shots and see if you can’t break through the frustration and make it to the next stage. Because that makes all the difference. More later on how to survive until the Elevator saves you.

Next up: The Long Incline of Experience.

Photo courtesy Ricardo Diaz, CC BY 2.0 license.

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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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