I have a friend who picked up dancing and immediately jumped into taking as many classes as he could. He was at the studio five nights a week, taking 2-3 classes a night. He wanted to learn as much as he could in six months.
Six months later, despite taking many intermediate and advanced classes, he still could not execute the basic movements cleanly. He only had a few moves that he remembered and could lead. His posture and body organization was a mess. At the end of six months, he had a beginner skillset with an intermediate ego.
This guy didn’t need more classes. He needed feedback. He needed to practice what he had learned. He needed feedback from his partners and perhaps guidance from professionals hosting practice sessions. He needed active discussion with honest practice partners.*
This is exactly what I crave in my dance community because I need all those things too. I don’t want more classes and workshops. I need time to work on what I already know. I need to work on the things I learned in my private lessons but haven’t integrated or refined in my social dancing.
We don’t need more classes. We need more practicas with active discussion and feedback between partners.
People can only absorb so much information at a time. Information overload is fatal to effective learning. If you can’t retain it or execute it, it’s useless. In some cases, we create delusions of learning where people only retain information on a very shallow level. They can recite what they learned, but can’t execute it smoothly for 10 minutes on the dance floor with a variety of partners.
I fully believe that the true learning doesn’t happen in a class; it happens on the social floor. It happens when you are practicing with a partner. It happens during your experimentation and exploration.
We don’t learn by listening to a lecture. We learn by taking things into our own hands and practicing… and discovering what feels best to us… and adjusting based on the result we get from that experimentation. And with a partner, you get the benefit of direct feedback.
The best practices of learning apply whether you are learning how to tackle an opponent, design a logo or do the mambo. Learn new information. Then dedicate time to playing with it, experimenting with it and integrating it. Seek out feedback, make adjustments and experiment some more.
And as any learning professional can tell you, that is where the true magic, the big epiphanies, and the real learning happens.
* Feedback and discussion isn’t one-way teaching. Regardless of skill level, both people should seek feedback from others in any learning environment. Make no assumptions!
It’s a major dilemma every time. You see someone struggling and you can see exactly what the problem is. Do you say anything or not?
There is an unfortunate “best practice” of life that says that if you haven’t been asked for your advice, keep it to yourself.
My big struggle is keeping my mouth shut. The more skilled, knowledgable, experienced and wiser we get, the more we want to help the struggling, confused and oblivious ones, right?
*sigh* It’s not our job to tell others how to fix their lives. Not unless they ASK for our help, guidance or advice. And doesn’t it seem like those who need it most are the ones who don’t think anything is wrong?
That’s when I realized the value of asking for guidance even when I don’t think I need it. Even though I usually welcome uninvited feedback, I also actively seek it out. Everyone has something to teach you. Matthew Ferry advises us to find the person you resist most because that person has the most to teach you. I believe he is right.
As a partner dancer, I dance with a lot of people who can give me immediate feedback. Even though I’m pretty confident as a dancer, I frequently ask for input on what I’m doing and how I feel to them. Thank goodness I do that… Shockingly, it turns out I’m not perfect.
If someone out there is living the life (or mastering the skill) you dream of having, ASK them how they do it. ASK for their expertise. ASK for their recommendations. Most people LOVE offering advice and will do so kindly and compassionately. Everyone loves to share their “secrets” to success.
With the exception of this blog, which ironically, is filled with uninvited advice, I’m really working on asking more and saying less. Which can be painfully hard to do, especially when you feel like you’re really starting to figure things out. The reality is that I still have SO much to learn.
The best part? When more people embrace asking, those with a wealth of knowledge and experience can finally offer the help they long to give.