On Experiential Learning in the Age of the Social

 Written whilst watching Kids on the Slope

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. And it seems the more I do, the more that it comes up. In reading Dear Mr. You, the talented Mary-Louise Parker’s discussion of the macho essences in her life, a thought stood out.

What are you going to do about it?

This got me thinking of our perceptions of failure, mistakes, and above all, how both of those concepts are foundational for our learning, well-being, and success. Consider this: I haven’t written a post on here in a while. That is true. Despite all my yearning and planning to do so. Having not done that for a while now, it became something of a mistake – what am I doing continuing to write? Is it worth it? Is it effective? What’s the point? Now quite quickly this can come off the rails of the discussion at hand, so I’m going to focus on the idea of mistakes.

What are you going to do about it

Of course, most of us grow up thinking that mistakes are indeed necessary to our growth, but how often is that embraced? Through mistakes we are afforded opportunity. In our current academic climate, and some might argue business and professional climate, mistakes are quickly made to be dismissed and repaired. The aim is perfection and performance, rather than learning. In aiming for perfect, we completely discount anything we might take from undertaking the task itself – an exam, a complicated project, or perhaps a dense, pointed chapter of reading. In working on performance, output is prioritized over anything otherwise.

Take for instance my previous example of writing blog posts. I very well know that I’m aiming for perfection in writing these. I can’t help it, I’m a humanist by training! Writing is what I do. However, the more that I focus on that as the goal of this endeavor, rather than my own education through discussion, I’ll rob myself entirely of the experience —  nevermind the learning behind it.

social kitsune

Compounding this is the effect of digital media and social representation. By no means am I against social media [generally speaking] and certainly not our technological advances, though that’s perhaps a discussion for a later date. Nonetheless, I think there is a constant feeling of eyes on you, a constant onlooker over your shoulder. That onlooker manifests in different ways for different people for different projects. Quite vexing, isn’t it?

By virtue of our being in the age of social media, we generally do indeed always have that onlooker. It’s a hard problem to rationalize. On one hand, we want to be able to share our art, our craft, our passion with others. On the other, there is a constant feed of oppression at our finger tips, constantly vying for our attention in all things, especially our art, our craft, our passion. Someone is always outdoing you, one-upping you, making it farther than you. The secret, however, is that this feed also routinely lies.

Now more than ever, this component of our experiences is important. It’s through this that we push through whatever the problem may be to make real improvement. Fortunately, this feed doesn’t often care about the final result, as it’s constantly trying to break apart an argument or point out areas that something isn’t as good as it could be.

[As an aside, I’d like to see you do better, Mx. Person who hasn’t had to sit down debating between blog topics for two weeks and editing a draft for a further week.]

The neat thing about all of this is that, with a slight perspective shift, you have a constant stream of experience points building up to make you level up that much faster.

It doesn’t matter what you felt,

what are you going to do

"The last was a statement and not a question that slapped me so hard I couldn't look in his face."

See, I knew this was eventually going to happen too. Too much lost in the theory and postulating and waffling and proselytizing.

Experiential learning requires experience to function appropriately. Of course. It’s in the name. But it’s shocking how much of the time that isn’t afforded. Much of the time, it seems that often we get lost in finding the end result, the best way, the reason why not, rather than seeing the forest for the trees and working to approach the end result.

“Of course,” you say. “We all do that,” you say. “Why wouldn’t we do such a thing,” you say. You may say those things, but do you? In true, Mary-Louise Parker style:

A .gif of Mary-Louise Parker's character Nancy Botwin smiling and saying "Try again. Fail Better."

For this is how we learn.

Underlying fox image in social mashup from amishgirlbrooklyn on DeviantArt.
Photos taken by me, from Dear Mr. You by Mary-Louise Parker.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *