Learning how to Learn 2


Among the many famous, witty quotes for which Wilde is known, there’s at least one that seems to ring true for me. He said: “Nothing that is worth knowing can be taught.”

I’m not saying (nor do I suspect Oscar was, either) that a parent can’t do their best to deliver helpful, valuable information to a child, or that a teacher can’t at least try to teach a student. Heck, I know I certainly try very hard to teach my own son, as well as my students, just like my father and all my former teachers tried their hardest to teach me. The problem, however, lies in that mystery wherein information doesn’t appear to “stick” nearly as well when it’s taught. Instead, it appears to land on fertile ground with greater frequency when it’s experienced.

While this concept has repeated itself in my life too many times to admit (embarrassingly), I’ll illustrate it’s truth by examining a point in time when I was first starting out as a young drummer. Back then, I was told by my teachers that I was “too intellectual” behind the drum kit. “Not enough feeling”…”Lacking in soul”…”Nothing that others could dance to”. My response was usually the same. “Yeah, whatever…beat it.” And then I’d get back to practicing all the cool things that I wanted to play.

Well, it turns out they were right — every one of them — although I wouldn’t find out until much later…the hard way.

In 1992, I joined a band called Skin Deep, and this band already had a huge track record: they were a finalist in the Yamaha Soundcheck competition; they’d appeared on stage opening for some really big acts (Van Halen, for example); and they had recorded and released some of the best music the Atlanta scene had ever heard — all this before any of them had reached drinking age — and I had some really big shoes to fill since former drummer Rob Clayton bailed on the situation a year prior.

Long story short, I was suddenly required to play with simplicity…with soul…with real feeling. And it was harder than I’d ever imagined. Out of nowhere I was in a position where all my “cool speedy chops” and other such drum-istic nonsense meant very little, if anything. And all at once, it occurred to me that I’d been working on all the wrong stuff the whole time…I’d been listening to all the wrong stuff the whole time…I’d been avoiding all the wrong stuff the whole time.

Others tried to tell me. Teachers tried to teach me. The signs were there all along. But, you see, that information was worth knowing — and, as Wilde said, that which is worth knowing cannot be taught. Nope. I had to experience it in order to find the truth.

And this process appears to embed itself at a really early age: tell a young boy not to stick his finger in a wall socket, and he might listen…maybe. But, if that same young boy decides to actually try it?

Yeah…I think Oscar was right.

How ’bout you?

-Tom

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2 thoughts on “Learning how to Learn