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Becoming a Learner - Page 4
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Page 4: Talented Untalented People

Back to our three people under the microscope from the previous page. Have you your piece of paper handy? Remember each of them felt they had no talents. What is the truth about them?
Part 1: The Right Frame of Mind
- Is a people person, gets on well and easily with people
- Is a listener and is therefore appreciated by people
- Understands needs and the products he sells
- Is willing to venture out on new things (skating, even though not followed up)
- Was a collector and probably learnt about countries and stamps
- Likes to use his mind on puzzles

- Shows concern for people
- Is able to handle paperwork and money
- Is willing to learn something new (knitting, even though only beginning)

- Knows about plant care
- Is able to persevere with a particular hobby
- Knows things about gardening
Note that last thing in particular. Both Eden and Chris used to do things (which they no longer do) which reveal things about them.

Both Chris and Cameron are good with people but neither of them would probably admit to it. Chris is good generally and Cameron is good in a one to one context with someone she knows.  

Each of them have embarked on something new at some point but none of them would consider it was starting on a learning venture – though it was!  Chris learnt about stamps, Cameron is learning about knitting, and Eden has learnt about plants, gardens and painting.

It doesn’t matter what ‘it’ was, but even if you only did it for a short while it was still something you learnt about.

The truth is that most of us have some abilities or talents and if we used them, almost certainly it involved us learning something.

Example 1: As a boy I made model airplanes. Initially they were plastic ones in kit form that needed the pieces gluing together. The peak of my achievement was making a wide span glider that was made up from balsa wood pieces and tissue paper. I had to learn how to pin out the pieces on the drawings, often after cutting them to shape, then gluing them together to form the structure of the plane, then covering it with tissue paper, dampening it so it shrunk taut, then painting it with ‘dope’ to harden and toughen it. The end product was brilliant.  That was years ago and I don’t know that I have the perseverance (or eyesight) to be able to do that now -  but I did it then!

Example 2: My brother-in-law, fairly late in life, started making model ships – big ones with incredible detail. I had never dreamt he could do something like that!  Years before, he and my sister took up archery. They were the last people on earth, I thought to do something like that, but they became good. The lesson? You never know what you can do and it’s never too late to learn something new.

And so...

What these things show us is that all of us are capable of learning something new. We may allow the past to dominate the present and inhibit us from starting out on something different, but with a little help and encouragement, we can do it!
Success Stories
Let’s look at one particular case history and see what it teaches us.

Jamie didn’t lack self-esteem. Jamie was full of confidence, but Jamie wasn’t super clever. Jamie went to a school that wasn’t very good at the basics, but nevertheless she did all right, got the required number of GCSEs and then A-levels – maybe with a bit of a struggle.

Jamie decided she wanted to be a lawyer and go to Cambridge to get her degree. She was told that was a bit unlikely but she insisted on applying and as a safety measure, put down another two Uni’s. Cambridge turned her down outright and she was disappointed.
The other two offered her conditional places, and when she just scraped the right number of points, accepted one of them. The first year was easy with a great social life but the second year was tough. She didn’t realise it but she didn’t have sufficient essay writing skills, sufficient research skills, or a sufficiently analytic mind to handle it. At the end of that year she dropped out. Somewhat disillusioned she got a job working in a local office pushing paper.

One of the partners in the firm where she worked spotted Jamie’s abilities and sat down and talked to her about her history. “You clearly have certain abilities otherwise you wouldn’t have got the exam grades you did,” he observed. “Yes, but I flunked out at Uni so I’m not that good,” she responded. “From what you’ve told me you weren’t very good at essays and it sounds more like your school really didn’t ground you sufficiently in that area. Why don’t you do an adult college course on essay writing and see how you get on?”

Jamie wasn’t very keen but eventually gave way to his encouragement and started on a ten week course at a nearby Adult Learning Centre. Three months later the Partner stopped her in the corridor in the office and said, “What’s happened to you? You’ve been walking around just recently with a new spring in your step!”  Jamie looked embarrassed. “Well, you won’t believe it but I’ve really enjoyed that essay writing course and what’s more now it’s finished I’ve joined a writer’s group and we meet fortnightly to share our writing and I’m really enjoying it!”

To cut a long story short, Jamie, a number of years later, has had several books published and with her newly bolstered confidence, took some law courses at night school and is now practice manager for a large local firm of solicitors. We won’t tell you about the half a dozen other things she also is now involved in because that would embarrass her.
4. Perseverance can mean simply changing streams and trying something else, perhaps building up an area of weakness in you.

5. There’s a big world of possibilities out there and you never know what it is that is suddenly going to ring your bells.

6. If necessary, try this, try that, don’t give up immediately, push on, get help, push on and only when you are sure it’s not for you, move on to something else.

7. All the way along, maintain the attitude of a learner. You never know where it might take you!

Remember, you DO have talent: it’s just about recognising it.  Enough? Enough for the moment.

So what can we learn from Jamie?

1. Recognise your ability level, don’t aim too high but also don’t aim too low!

2. If you fall at one of the fences, get up and try again, possibly at something else!

3. Failure in one area doesn’t mean you are a failure generally; it just means that particular thing wasn’t for you.