Learning Curves and Choice
I’m a fan of Sherlock Holmes, and am currently hooked on the TV series Elementary, set in New York City with Lucy Liu cast as Dr. Watson. In episode 18, after a hands-on learning frenzy at the side of the impatient and imperious Sherlock, Watson has her first solo case and goes into a tailspin when events get out of hand—
Watson: “Do I need to remind you that I made a mistake last night that got me arrested?”
Holmes: “Do I need to remind you that you made a discovery today that may solve both cases? Do you wish to mourn the former, or celebrate the latter?”
This morning I was talking with my girlfriend Stephanie. The conversation turned toward the subject of technology, social media, and our individual though similar experience of sometimes feeling not up to the task—somewhere between ten to forty years beyond the optimal age of grasping all the necessary knowledge, shortcuts, tips, and tricks of connecting to the wider world in order to share our work. Then Stephanie said,
“I can’t help but feel a teeny tiny twinge of shame and incompetence — the X, Y, and Z generations are so much more tech-savvy.”
Along with my nodded agreement, I had an insight. We are both on immense learning curves, pure beginners, slowly yet steadily doing our best to master what others ten to forty years younger have grown up with and been exposed to on an exponentially grander scale. My curve is registering tiny rises with long periods of plateaus, while Stephanie’s curve looks like an ascent of Everest since the recent publication of her book Your Spacious Self. Now she is supported by experts that are assisting her and “watching her back,” just like Sherlock assists the fledgling detective being born within Watson in the TV series.
Learning curves are everywhere—in our work, our relationships, our health—anywhere we embark on something new and/or challenging. Calm is foundational in choosing how to proceed. Do we turn away from the learning curve, mournfully listening to all of the voices that say we aren’t ready or able? Or do we celebrate the possibilities that come from new knowledge and rejoice that we are able to stretch beyond our comfort zone?
There’s also immense energy in calmly choosing a perspective, for it circles back to choosing one’s work, choosing love, choosing health—choosing with all you’ve got. Knowing the discomfort and stretching is worthwhile, meaningful, and yearned for deep inside of us, and knowing others out there in the vast interconnected world will benefit from our experience.
— Photograph of Mt. Everest © Barry Shapiro