Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Kaufman: Rapid Acquisition Learning Excercise

Written by: on May 19, 2014

For this last week, a goal was to focus on practicing a “new” skill for twenty hours in hopes of acquiring at least rudimentary capability with that skill.  The idea for this endeavor arose from the text, “The First 20 Hours: How To Learn Anything…Fast” by Josh Kaufman.

My initial idea had been to add-in a fourth ball to my already learned ability to juggle three balls in a circle.  This notion seemed like something both challenging and accomplishable.  However, my idea was not to be; life had something different in store for me.

This last week my middle school daughter was given the assignment of needing to build a catapult (during home, not during classroom hours) that needed to comply with a concerning amount of schematic specifications and needed to catapult a one-inch wooden block at least twenty feet.  By the nature of how these things work, my daughter’s project became my own and I have spent a lot (add as much emphasis as you would like to “a lot” and I think you’ll get the picture) of time this week learning the eminently marketable new skill — he thought, wryly — of creating a working small-scale replica of a medieval siege tool.

It is important to note that while I have a reasonable amount of tools available and some miniscule level of common sense and skill in navigating projects such as this, my daughter’s assignment was for all practical purposes a brand new undertaking.

First, my daughter and I began with the “deconstructing” portion about which Kaufman writes.  Everything was broken-down into individual components of what we needed to purchase and what steps needed to be taken once those purchases were made (ie. how to put the contraption together).

The second step that Kaufman discussed that is part of the process of his rapid inculcation is the “learning” phase.  Through our deconstructing phase, much of the learning we needed to have about what the measurements should be, what the completed design would actually look like, how the machine was supposed to work if done correctly were already learned.  As well, thankfully, I had and knew how to use the tools we required for the project – though it had been some time since utilizing all of them and certainly not for something like this, so there was a definite sense of learning happening in the doing.

The next step Kaufman notes as necessary to the process is “removing.”  The idea of removing speaks simply to erasing mental barriers one has to engaging well with this new endeavor.  In this case, for me, the saying “necessity is the mother of invention” proved true.  I didn’t desire doing something like this of my own accord, but for the sake of my daughter and her assignment I/we did it.  I am glad we did.

Finally, we engaged in perhaps Kaufman’s most important requirement to give rapid skill acquisition the opportunity to occur – that is, “practicing.”  As Kaufman promotes, seemingly somewhat arbitrarily, we  practiced for at least twenty hours.  In fact, with the multiple layers involved in a project like this, we went some over that time requirement.

Finally, we now have managed to get the catapult built and are in process of staining the wood.  I found the process of building the catapult somewhat self-satisfying in the sense that I could simply get it done.  At this point in my life, building two-feet-plus contraptions out of two-by-fours is not my norm.  As well, I had to drill and smooth out perfectly rounded holes in three of the two-by-fours, had to make multiple recalibrations that included unscrewing and rescrewing, extra sanding, diverging from the plans suggested cutting, etc.  Quite taxing mentally wondering whether all the work would be for naught in the end.

After finishing the building portion of the catapult, we had to move into the testing phrase.   Here we also had to make further modifications to the cup that holds the projectile in order for the projectile to be able to fly far enough.  We brainstormed a number of other possible modifications before alighting on the simplest of them all – changing the way the holding cup was structured.  We made the modifications and it worked!  Now the projectile flies much farther than the necessary requirements.

Overall, this has given me further confidence in my ability to see projects like this through.  In this case, it has also been a reminder to me that though I am very glad to have the skills I need to do this kind of building and also that I have the tools that allow such building to be done more easily than not – if I had only had manual rather than electric hand-tools I don’t believe the project would have been completed anywhere near on time – this particular skill-set is not one at this point in my life that I want to enhance further than I have already been able to learn it.  I think I am called more into building the structures of relationship, structures of the mind and heart and soul rather than to building physical structures.

I’m thankful we engaged in this twenty-hour rapid acquisition exercise, but I’m also thankful it’s over.  However, I am also glad to know the specific steps to this process of learning and believe that I will utilize them again with seeking to learn a skill that arises a bit more from my own volitional and vocational inclinations.

About the Author

Clint Baldwin

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