How’s your forgettory?
Learning a new skill over the long haul
My wife and I have recently returned from a lovely relaxing holiday with some close friends to their villa in Spain on the sunny Costa Blanca. Now, whenever anyone talks about visiting Spain my thoughts are immediately filled with memories of a Monty Python “Travel Agent” sketch featuring a place called Torremolinos and a beer known as Watney’s Red Barrel! (See Monty Python – Travel Agent Sketch).
It was after our first visit to Spain a few years ago that I decided that I would like to learn Spanish. This wasn’t the first time I’d had that idea, but this time I also had a strategy. When chatting with my son a few months previously we had talked about “life hacks” and a free smartphone app called “Duolingo” which was recommended for those wishing to learn a new language. It features a series of graduated memory exercises that are repeated daily and are designed to help make learning fun.
It’s hard to stay motivated when learning online, so we made Duolingo so fun that people would prefer picking up new skills over playing a game.
Now, some people seem to be blessed with a good memory and can recall names and places, song lyrics and place names with ease. I am not one of those people. In fact, I would put it this way – that I have a really excellent forgettory.
“I have a great forgettory. If you want something forgetting, let me know and I’ll forget it for you.”
~ Roger Fairhead
A few years ago, I had another challenge to embrace when Lou said to me: “Would you be able to play bass next weekend“. Well, I love music, and I love playing music. I’ve been playing an instrument for as long as I can remember, from starting piano lessons at 5 and then violin at 8, and turning my hand to playing keyboard, strumming an acoustic guitar and playing the harmonica along the way too.
Whenever I listen to music I love listening to a rich bass part and have always wanted to have the opportunity to play bass regularly. I had a bass guitar and an old combo-amp, and I had even played in a few gigs more than 10 years previously, so I immediately embraced the opportunity. It wasn’t until after I had obtained a copy of the music that we would be playing and started to practice that I remembered: we don’t use music on stage. Not only would I have to learn the pieces, I would have to remember them to be able to play them on stage without music!
Dr Stephen Covey talks about this in the “Law of the Farm”. Here he considers a popular approach of last-minute cramming to pass a test, and discusses how that would work on a farm.
For example, did you ever “cram” in school – goof off during the semester, then spend all night before the big test trying to cram a semester’s worth of learning into your head? Can you imagine forgetting to plant in the spring, flaking out all summer, and hitting it hard in the fall – ripping the soil up, throwing in the seeds, watering, cultivating – and expecting to get a bountiful harvest overnight?
~ Dr Stephen Covey
My passion for music and my eagerness to play bass led me to confront my self-doubt and to start working diligently to learn the pieces, and to memorise them to be able to perform on stage. On one of my early outings, a member of the audience asked the sound crew to turn the bass up because they couldn’t hear it, only to discover that “the bassist isn’t playing” because I was struggling to remember my part. However, I persevered and found ways to help me remember my part, and I now play regularly throughout the year!
John Maxwell refers to this as the “Law of Process” in the 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership”.
Leaders develop daily, not in a day. What matters most is what you do day by day over the long haul.
~ John Maxwell
Here he asserts that Leadership skills can be learned. Anyone can improve their leadership skills if they work hard and understand the law of the farm.
When I was studying at university I knew that I would never pass an exam by cramming for a few days and expect to have a good result with my forgettory. That could work for some and they would obtain a qualification, but for many, they would lack an education. For me, I knew that I was unable to just cram for an exam, and I would have to rely on an education in order to pass any exam.
“It is the capacity to develop and improve their skills that distinguishes leaders from their followers.”
~ Bennis and Nanus
For the past few years, I have been consistent with building a daily routine which includes practising bass and using Duolingo to learn Spanish and apparently, I now have a fluency of 46% in Spanish!
Why not take a moment to think about what skills you need to improve. It may not involve playing a new instrument or learning a new language, but what can you do daily to help make sure that improvement becomes a part of your life, and is evident in your daily performance.
The problem is that most people overestimate the importance of events and underestimate the power of processes. If you want power then rely on a process.
~ John Maxwell
About Roger Fairhead
Roger is a Leadership specialist and uses the PRIZE Winning Leadership model to help leaders improve their effectiveness and that of their teams, through remote and on-site delivery of keynotes, group training events and individual coaching sessions.
He is the author of several books including "PRIZE Winning Leadership" and “Personal Productivity Planner”, a Chartered Engineer, a Fellow of the Institute of Leadership and Management and a Director of the Global Leadership Network UK with extensive experience in Project Management and Sales.
“He is articulate, tracks complex issues with ease and has an incredible gift for raising pearls of wisdom out of the murky depths of people and process.” His passion is to help people to learn effective leadership skills to lead their teams to capitalize on their strengths and passions to realize their dreams.
Roger also invests into the dreams of families in the world’s underserved communities to offer them small loans that empower them to invest in their future, to provide for their families and give back to their communities.