Learning the Lessons

The last several months have been quite an experience in learning new things. Wearing masks, mastering Zoom calls, checking in to work remotely.

With everyone at home (those who can stay at home), the amount of screen time access has been huge. Explosive even. If you look at online shopping, online streaming of programs, and social media platforms, it’s obvious that people are looking for ways to keep their minds busy.

And I was too. Until I overcommitted.

In March of 2020, my email started blowing up with free webinars. Then free classes. Then pay-for-sessions classes. All of a sudden, I could take every writing class I ever imagined I would want to take and I could sit in on all the conferences I’ve been missing because they involved travel.

It was like a firehose of learning opportunities. And I wanted it all.

I was like a kid with a sweet tooth at the dessert buffet. I’ll have some of that, some of that, and some of that!

And I did sign up for lots of classes, webinars, for coaching, for meetings. You name it, if I thought it was interesting, I was “in.”

An actual gratitude entry in my daily diary.

But then I discovered Zoom fatigue. And that I didn’t always want to be staring at the screen.

And days started melting into each other and suddenly, in at least one of my classes and coaching adventures, I couldn’t keep up. I couldn’t keep track.

I had a desk calendar, but I think I lost a month or two in the middle of wildfire season and distance learning along with the adaptation that comes with teleworking.

Whole weeks suddenly disappeared into the black hole that is this year of pandemic and restriction. Cancellations of anything in person became the norm.

But the Zoom calls and the webinars never got cancelled.

And since I was at home, I never had a “conflict” that would prevent me from attending. Or did I?

Most of the webinars and classes I signed up for are now tapering off, even as the government here tightens the restrictions related to the “second wave” of COVID-19.

I was talking to the spouse the other day about my classes and webinars and projects.

“I didn’t finish that class,” I said. That was the class that would teach me how to complete a novel in 90 days. I didn’t get the novel done. I felt guilty.

“Yes, but did you learn anything?” He was sincere in asking.

I had to think about it.

I did learn something. Of course, I picked up a few tips here and there on how to write this or how to write that. Or how to better use this or that.

But what I really learned from all this is not to sign up for everything. Be selective in how you use your time. Allow for quiet. Allow for the screen to be off. Don’t sign up for something just because you’ve read that author and you like his or her book. They don’t have the magic potion.

No one can teach a student who is not ready—either due to lack of attention, competing priorities, or just plain confusion at when the next milestone is due. And some teachers aren’t all that good at teaching.

I’ve had marvelous teachers in the past.

But anyone can tell you that if the student signs up for too many credits, the student will likely fail at all of it. Priorities are important. Selective focus is important. Turning the screen off and just taking some time to think or rest—that too, is important.

And focusing on one thing at a time is fine. Because you might actually finish that one thing, and you might do it well. Selective. Focus.

Lesson learned.

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