How role models might help us learn how to deal with difficulty

A branch from the European horse chestnut tree with flowers and leaves
Branch of a European Horse Chestnut, drawn by me.

Like many of you, I have been unsettled by the news of war in Ukraine. And I almost didn't want to send out this week's newsletter. Because what could I offer at such a time? I had written this article on learning to be creative. But as I read through it again, I found that this applies to learning any life skill, including learning to be kind and dealing with adversity.

So, am sending this to you, because if there is talk of war and despair - there also has to be the talk of kindness, support, and resourcefulness. First of all, if you want to donate, here's an article listing the different organizations seeking donations to help Ukraine.

And now on to learning what we want to learn.

The times and challenges we are facing these days involve walking into new and uncharted areas. And it may seem like there's no map for where we want to go and we need to make up a path as we go along. And this may be daunting. How do we go forward then?

An answer might come from the book Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise, by Ericsson and Pool. It is an excellent book with practical advice on how to master a skill.

Learning from Role Models

Ericsson studied how people become experts. He looked at areas where some measures of mastery exist, for example, classical music, chess, and athletics. And based on his research, he defined principles of Deliberate Practice to help master a skill.

For areas where objective measures of expertise may not be available, like creative areas, he gave the following advice,

First, identify the expert performers, then figure out what they do that makes them so good, then come up with training techniques that allow you to do it too.

In short, determine your role models, and do the things they do. So if you want to learn anything, determine your role models, learn from them on how they do things, and try those out in your work. And you can have role models for different purposes, for example, in how someone communicates, or how someone solves problems, how someone leads, how someone deals with difficult times, how someone supports others, etc.

So even if there aren't any maps, there are definitely toolsets, skills, and practices that can help us navigate new territories much better. And we can learn these from our role models who may have done similar things in our area or another area.

My role models are people who have been voices of kindness in difficult times and who have faced difficult moments but worked through them with grace, giving, and receiving help.

What would you like to learn? Who are/could be your role models? How do they do what they do?

Thank you!