Who Wants To Be Novice?

Posted by Hakan Erman

It was one of those closed circuit motorcycle training days and I was on duty. Attendees were riders from different ages who were willing to pay and spend time to get better in riding. The definition of better riding can be surprisingly diverse but they sure were not the beginners type.

We were working on their braking skills. They all owned motorcycles and rode them for thousands of kilometres, so they already knew how to stop a bike. But trainings are about improving so we were suggesting some ideas to stop faster and in control. When we have to do things different than we are used to, even slightly, we go novice. This is because, instead of automatic, unconscious reactions, we turn to the problem solving, searching in our brain for the best tool. Conscious reactions work slowly, hesitate, protect. the conscious part of the brain questions and needs to be convinced. Conscious level is novice level: the only way we learn anything.

Yet, the participants were furious when they failed to do something right. When they heard “next time try to keep your upper body relaxed” for the second time, they were getting angry with themselves, which presented itself with even more tense upper body!

Some people can deal with this vicious circle but many can’t and give up trying. They apply the exact same braking technique in every trial. They hate being novice, stop the learning process and are ready to move on to something where they are already competently good.

Competence is a by product of the novice attitude. It is the only way for progress. And competence demand the “unconscious” reaction, the instinct drive that make no time between identifying and executing.

In the light of harsh realities of our times, it is really shocking that our current education system is from the 19th century. Back then it seemed like a good idea to put young people in rooms, silence them and make them memorise certain things, put them on exams, fail or pass and assume they would be ready for anything for the rest of their lives. Information given at schools are already out of date by the time they are brought to  classrooms. But the more problematic and damaging is the attitude of schools towards the process of learning. In a world where we must keep learning new skills even to keep afloat, students are led to believe that learning is done only at schools and it ends with graduation. As motorcycle competence stops with a certificate… of competence.

I tend to favour the novice rider and try to be one. Learning is fun when I embrace my mistakes with a smile. Fun makes learning a game which you want more of. Those who love their jobs, often say that they are amazed when they are also get paid for doing it. Just imagine loving learning.

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