Random Rants: Learning and Problem Solving
I remember when someone asked how I learned about education. I told him I didn’t go to school so he said “you just researched on your own” my response was “I resent that” and thats a strong word but I do.
That learning something is about researching and reading, that thats the whole and entirety of learning is an idea pervaded by our schools. Whatever I learned whether it be little or great in anything has come from action. It was teaching my daughters, friends, students and myself. Books were the fuel for insight or inspiration. New ideas to try out. Books and research are a means to an end not an end in itself.
Action is everything, you cant know anything without action. You don’t know anything unless you can actually do it. I cant stand this culture of knowledge and bookishness. This memorization of facts, and recitation of them. People talk about investing but don’t invest, talk about meditation but don’t consistently meditate. They talk about learning and teaching but they don’t apply it.
I love conversation but this constant talking and reading without action is so weak. This standardization, this generalization. Just so dumb. I want to write in a way that is uplifting and puts down our education system to bring them up. To show the silliness of it all.
You have so many skills at your disposal, don’t just focus on the weaknesses. Improve them, or use your strengths to your advantage. Improve your strengths. Set up situations that work into your strengths. Change your environment to suit your strengths.
Even the simplest situation comes under the scope of problem solving. Say for example you’re reading or listening to something interesting and a friend or boyfriend or girlfriendd keeps interrupting you. How do you handle this situation? You can actually use problem solving methods for this.
You start with asking what is the outcome you want. Not to get interrupted and to not piss the other person off. Then you list the possible types of solutions, not to be confused with the solution. For example 1 type of solution is changing what you say and/or how you say it. Another is a way to not put yourself in that situation to begin with. Another is perhaps body language. Another is affecting interruptions in future situations. Another is changing your mindset about the interruptions i.e not feeling annoyed (which we won’t get into but it’s a fun one).
I’ve tried so many retarded solutions to this problem. I would annoy that person when they were reading so they could see how it feels lol. I’d be a dick about it (this was a rly bad solution), I’d act visibly annoyed or like I didn’t care (this didn’t work), I’d go somewhere where I can be private (this works but short term bandaid)
You can 1) think of ways of avoiding the situation to begin with, 2) improve the situation while you’re in it, or improving future situations.
Hopefully you already see all the different possibilities answering this question opens up. The right questions lead to more creative solutions. Now you can list the possible types of actions you would take. The obvious type of action is changing what you say and how you say it and when you say it. The only other type of solution is changing how close you’re to that person when you don’t want to be interrupted.
This is a mechanical way of making creativity. It demystifies it. So you know you must either find a way to avoid the situation, improve the situation now or improve future situations. This is probably a situation where you never had a good idea of what to do but I bet you can easily think of 5+ different possible solutions to the problem.
You can ask which type of solution has the least/most impact. Avoiding the situation, improving the situation, improving future situations. That too abstract of a question? We can use a problem solving method of making the question more concrete. We will compare 2 possible solutions. Which has greater impact, avoiding the situation by only reading outside of the house and/or when that person leaves or improving future situations by having a conversation about it?
These 2 questions are about the same exact thing but the 1st is really difficult and the second is extremely easy. Why? We don’t do well with abstract questions but whats good is that abstract questions can often be made concrete which just means relating them to experience.
Some types of solutions have greater impact then others and now you know what type of solution to focus on. You can also compare the future example to a present one. What’s more impactful saying something now that stops the person from interrupting me without pissing them off or saying something now that stops the person from interrupting me in future situations by talking about it.
Pretty easy once again. Now we know you must say something to stop this from happening in future situations. This can be accomplished many ways, you can say it before or after or during the event. There is literally no restriction. You can bring it up at any point.
What you say it and how you say it is a personal thing, It’s where understanding your dynamic with that person comes into play. I cant answer that for you. There are infinite possible combinations of things you can say and how you can say it. With infinite different subtle emotional responses. This is where I cant help you.
You can ask when will the person least likely react negatively to the situation. If I brought it up right before I was about to do the thing, during the event (this is unlikely and takes the most amount of skill) at some random time before speaking generally. Bringing it up some time afterwards and saying that it annoys you?
This is a pretty mundane situation but its a simple way to highlight these methods and these are real problems you’ve probably faced. These ideas can be used anywhere. Understanding what you want to acccomplish, how it could possibly be accomplished, what types of solutions there are and which one(s) can have the most impact.
If your solution works than the process is over but if it doesn’t and this cant be exaggerated in importance then you must go to the other part of the process. You don’t give up and say this is hopeless, or blame me for giving you a shitty method, this is where the real work begins.
High level problem solving IS NOT about thinking up a great idea in your head and then having it work perfectly and problem solved. To create a truly good solution you need experience and that usually means a lot of failures, mediocre results, great results and everywhere in between. When a solution doesn’t work the next step in the process is reflection, gathering info, modifying the solution and trying again (much more on this later)
You can skip to changing/modifying the solution if you want, which can be fine if you’re confident in the new the different method or too unskilled in the other methods to even attempt them. You’ll know if this is the case if when reading this you subconsciously thought (I’m too lazy to do all that shit).
It isn’t necessary or even recommended at the beginning to try to use all the methods in conjuction. You start out small and work your way up like anything before getting into the advanced moves. Even if you come up with a shitty solution, fail, try another one, fail, try another fail. You’ll be improving. You’ll learn through experience what works and what doesn’t. You’ll be reflecting on the situation subconsciously. After trying so many different things so many times it’s impossible not to see the different results different actions get.
The only problem solving process that’s negative is creating a solution and not trying it out or trying the same solution over and over and over again expecting a different result. Or being on autopilot without any consideration there is even a possible solution. It’s OK to try the same solution multiple times especially if it leads to even slightly different results. Not if it constantly leads to the same results.
There are so many ways to refine this process there is so much more nuance to it. I’m speaking in generalities. When I say you don’t want to piss the other person off. Some people you don’t mind pissing off a little or even a decent amount. It really depends on your situation and feeling towards that person and who you are. There are no clear cut right or wrongs. Treating it like it is makes it easier though.
Then there is a literal sign you can put up a thing on your desk or something that signals to another person that you’re not to be disturbed without you saying anything. This is a visual form of communication. Another example is wearing headphones, with or without music on. It signals to the other person to leave you alone.
The amount of complexity and nuance is fascinating to me because it shows me the amount of precision and optimization there can be. I'll leave you with these words of caution:
"The data for any situation is infinite. So what you do is you go through the motions of thinking about what you will do about this. But worriers are people, who think of all the variables beyond their control of what might happen. Choice is the act of hesitation we make before making a decision"
- Alan Watts
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