Anyone Can Learn Anything

Featured

Just recently I had cause to think about one of my favorite thoughts that I had long since tucked in the back of my brain. I had heard this particular statement in my past life from two different, but very noteworthy sources, both of whom I still admire and follow today. And throughout my early life, I had kept this idea more prominent in myself than of recent times.

But due to many lucky moments in my current world, I was brought back to it and am so glad to have circled the wagons around it again.

The first time I heard this expression, I was much younger and most likely much wiser than I am today. I was in the heart of my educational journey, off to the races in seeking ways to help students learn. I was seeking knowledge from all corners of my life and there I sat in the middle of a large conference auditorium for an opening day symposium targeting what I thought was a very intricate, important, and tantamount subject for all learners – that of . . . . innovation. The conference itself was called Innovations. The subject was Innovation. I was ready to rock and roll forward into an area of learning that I believed, and still believe, fuels everything new and exciting. Innovation. (Yet, today, I am not sure that the conference process I used to approach that subject was the best and brightest idea. A topic for a different post.)

I had my pen at the ready, to take notes like a fiend. I was sitting in the line of sight of the speaker, so I would not be distracted by the comings and goings of the crowd. I was alert, awake, and enthusiastic – because I knew what I heard was going to be, well, innovative. Game on!

The speaker walked on stage to a cursory round of applause. He carried a few notes and, of great interest to me, a guitar. As the crowd settled in, he began to strum and play and sing. Interspersed between the music, he would stop and chat a bit. He mentioned that he was going to tell us a few secrets about innovation and students and how to create opportunities for students to be innovative.

Again, game on for me.

And then he matter-of-factly stated his first rule. To my surprise, it did not seem or feel so overwhelmingly earthshaking in terms of enlightenment on innovation. It seemed a bit simple . . . or generic . . . or pedestrian. At the time.

He said is a bright brief voice that the first rule in setting up innovative learning opportunities for students is to make sure that everyone believed that anyone can learn anything, given the right circumstances. And he repeated that phrase time after time after time. Anyone can learn anything. Anyone. Anything. He mentioned that the term anyone included everyone including me. He mentioned that anything included everything that I could ever imagine. And more.

Anyone can learn anything, given the right circumstances.

I jotted it down frantically. I didn’t want to miss anything. He spoke passionately about this idea and said that even though he was moving on to another thought, if I only took away one idea, anyone can learn anything should be it.

Fast forward to a few months later, and I was working on a project that needed a tool. And as with most projects, it needed a tool but had to be cheap to free. As luck would have it, there was someone in the world who had the brilliant idea to create just that tool . . . for free. And as I investigated the tool source, I was more than a bit awe struck. Not just by the versatility and usefulness of the tool, but by the philosophy behind it. It was a philosophy I had heard before and recently. It was a phrase that I had heard and perhaps had not listen to as well as I should before and recently. The spin was a little different, but the essence was the same.

Anyone can learn anything if given the right tools. Anyone can learn anything. Anyone. Anything.

I had now heard that phrase twice in a short time frame. My only flaw was my failure to listen as well as I could the first time and run with that idea.

Though it has been quite a few years since that moment, I recall stopping what I was doing and shamefully shaking my head. At that moment, I knew that the quicker I recognized that anyone can learn anything given the right circumstances or the right tools, the faster I could become a more useful and helpful part of the world.

It took me a long time to take those words to heart for myself. There have been many times that my response when facing something new, challenging, difficult, unknown, seemingly impossible, or foolishly difficult has been to think that I am not smart enough, strong enough, wise enough, cunning enough (the list goes on an on here) to succeed. But then I harken back to those words.

Anyone can learn anything.

And I start looking for the the right circumstances and the right tools and once again, game on!

My early attempts at anything new, daunting, different, ridiculously challenging, whole-heartedly off my comfort chart sometimes have led to grand scale failures. Make that have often led to grand scale failures. But with each attempt, I learn something and nudge myself closer to my end goal. I am a learner who has been told that I can learn anything. What fun! And the more I focus on knowing that I can learn anything, the smaller the great big world of ours becomes.

Without a doubt, I believe that one of the greatest lessons out there for future generations is to become confident in knowing that they are best part of the anyone who can learn anything. My job for them is to help develop all the right circumstances and the best tools.

Game on.

I’m working on a colorful quilt that is above my ability. But anyone can learn anything, so onward I go.

Perfect / Not Perfect

I am not perfect.

In fact, I often believe that I am so far from it and that its target is way too small and the journey is beyond too tough.  Because I make a million mistakes . . . all the time.  And each mistake is bigger and larger and more daunting than the one before it. 

And I don’t seem to learn from my mistakes.  Too many times, I make a mistake, understand the mistake, live another day, and make the same mistake again, repeating the cycle more times that I can count. 

On top of that, it is not easy to personally or publicly admit that I make fantastic, blunderous mistakes. 

Hmmm . . . well, check that. There are some mistakes that are easy to own.  I spent quite a bit of an evening not too long ago ripping out all kinds of mistakes in a quilt that I am building.  I did not see them until I was a long piece down the mistake trail, which meant that not only was I required to spent time undoing what I had wrongly done, but I had hours of time to ponder out the origin, cause, and cure of my errors. And from my boisterous grunts and growls, (meant to alert those within earshot that I was upset), my family knew I was so.

Likewise mistakes with my recent construction project are easy to own.  I am a newbie to building, to using power tools, to measuring, cutting, and hammering pieces of wood together.  My expectations on how perfect I should be are skewed to the lower end.  Thus admitting that I make tons of mistakes is rather easy.  Besides that, construction mistakes are something that are easy to see and difficult to hide.  Admitting them is a matter of course rather than a matter of being honest and forthright.

It is everything else that fits into the box called mistakes that I find hard to admit.  The list of those types of errors is a list that grows day by day.  I fail to be empathetic.  I fail to curb my vocabulary, choosing words that harm way more than words that help.  I fail to complete and keep my promises.  I make mistakes in terms of what I think, gravitating towards thoughts that generate negativity quickly rather than positivity slowly.  I think things, say things, and do things that I shouldn’t.  It can be and is embarrassing.

Recently, after reading some news story about a senseless murder, I thought and said that the perpetrator “should be shot and I’d be happy to do it.” Not only did I think it, I said it. To hell with justice, a fair trial, to wading through facts and fiction, I read a few paragraphs and spouted off as if I was in the know about it. I went directly from non-violent to violent in a flash of a moment. Mistake.

I also had it in my mind that I was smart enough and bright enough to figure out the immigration issue, the next steps with the Mueller Report, climate change, and the workings of social security – generally all by myself. Big mistake.

Finally, I thought that my solutions to everything that was happening within my immediate family, friends, community, tri-county area, state, and the near midwest were spot on correct.  And sharing those solutions was a good to great idea.  Well, big huge mistake.  All wrong. 

While ripping out those quilting mistakes, I had time to think about it.  All of it.

I am not perfect.

Yet, there is much in the world around me that actually is perfect, that has no mistake.

Rain. The Forest. Animals. The Sky. The Ocean. Time. Stars. The Solar System. Math. Plants. Color. Wind. Ice. Mountains. Apples. I could go on and on and on.  And it is actually a great list to generate – a list of everything one considers perfect.

Horses running in a field – perfect.  Light bouncing off a hillside – perfect.  Twenty-four hours in every day, every week, month, year – perfect.  Gravity keeping everything in place – perfect.

I’ll let it be known that I have worked on the perfect/imperfect list many times.  And my result is always a lopsided list, showing me that there is by far more perfect in my world, than imperfect. 

And as much as I would like to add my name to the perfect list, I can not.  In fact, every time I spend time wondering about the perfect/ not perfect list, I have never made the cut. I think I am imperfect by design.  Making mistakes, being well less than perfect creates a great balance in my world. I always have a lot to work on.  I have much to improve.  Much to change. A lot to consider.

I keep up my hope by seeking the thoughts of others in terms of mistakes, failures, imperfection / perfection.  

Wayne Gretzky – “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”

Henry Ford – “The only real mistake is one from which we learn nothing.”

Maya Angelou – “Every mistake is just another lesson.”

Sandra Day O’Connor – “No one learns more about a problem than the person at the bottom.”

I would be a wise woman if I put these types of inspirational thoughts in front of me at all times to remind me that everything is possible, even perfection.  But, as you might expect, I often fail to do so. Thus, the journey continues.

In the meantime, my deepest apologies for all the mistakes I have made today alone, and an advance apology for the mistakes I will make tomorrow.

IMG_7831

Nature always manages to be Perfect!