Running away to the circus. Why it could take a long time to learn the skills and aesthetics.

Patience is a virtue, but sometimes in short supply. It seems to take an age to learn to be good at something new. Sure, you can get the basics pretty quickly, but to be really good takes time. You need to try things out, make mistakes, do a bit of research and ask for some feedback, sometimes for years on end.

I saw a couple of circus performers at the weekend. One of them was very tall, the other very short, and they had a giant hula hoop that their whole act was based around. The tall one would be twirling it round her waist, then the shorter one would jump in and take over. They would climb on each others shoulders, run around, but the whole time, for around 12 minutes, the hoop was never still. They only made one mistake that i saw, and kept the hoop going even through that.

There were clearly two elements at play here; physical dexterity and aesthetic performance, because the act was more than simply technical. There was a whole joke running through it of one person looking disgruntled as the other one stole the hoop. Through facial expressions, body language and exaggerated gesture, the show played out.

The foundation was the physical ability to carry out the individual athletic elements, which were then joined together, and the narrative performance layer spread on top.

To be this good would take time. I could probably learn to twirl a hoop in a day or two, but i doubt i could do it whilst walking, and i certainly couldn’t do it whilst standing on my head. Let alone with my foot whilst standing on my head. Let alone whilst standing on someone else’s shoulders.

Some skills take a long time to master, something that we need to be aware of when we are designing training solutions. Some fixes are quick, whilst others are most certainly not. We need to build in time for reflection, for practice, for feedback, for coaching, for mistakes. We need to understand how much of the ‘performance’ is technical, how much aesthetic. Some things can be mastered technically very quickly, but to be really exceptionally good require an artistic input on top, which can take considerable effort.

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About julianstodd

A learning and development professional specialising in e-learning and learning technology.
This entry was posted in Learning, Skills and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Running away to the circus. Why it could take a long time to learn the skills and aesthetics.

  1. Pingback: Running Away From The Circus: Change In Two Dimensions | Julian Stodd's Learning Blog

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