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Rediscovering the Magic of Learning Something New

A successful and experienced advertising executive in the Philippines enrolled in one of our courses to "travel" and to boost her chances of landing a job in Europe. It was then she rediscovered the beauty of being a beginner at something again.

The pandemic has forced us to reduce our mobility. It has driven us to work from home, confine ourselves indoors, and, sadly, stay away from each other. The uncertainty of the situation has discouraged most of us to plan for travels or resume movement in common spaces, like restaurants, salons, cinemas, offices, schools and gyms.

I myself have been working from home for the past one and half year. And though I have no major complaints about my situation, I miss the times when my activities, relations and spaces were clearly defined throughout a day. Despite its myriad benefits, staying most of the time at home has truly chipped away at my social skills and has negatively affected my mental health.

Because I missed traveling and got excited about the possibility of moving to a new country when conditions improve, I decided to enroll in a language course. I was thrilled to relive the experience of being "somewhere else" and sharing the experience with family, friends and strangers. I also wanted to add a skill that would give me a competitive advantage and would facilitate my eventual move to Europe.

At the same time, I was scared, because I didn't know anything about the language. I never self-studied nor immersed myself in its culture. Admittedly, I was more afraid of not doing well and looking silly, because it had been a while since I was a beginner at something. As a high-level executive in my company, I was no longer used to not knowing what to do and not being in control. I was not ready to take missteps and make a fool of myself in the process.

It makes us realize the value of progressive learning and the joy of delayed gratification, in a world where everything seems to be within instant reach.

I was intimidated by the idea of having a teacher. In my company, I train people and assign tasks to my reports. I was not ready to answer to an exigent authority figure, asking me questions I might not know the answers to. I was daunted by the idea of having someone criticize my responses and correct me in front of friends and, worse, people I don't know.

I am horrified with not instantly being good at it. Living in a modern world, I have gotten used to having solutions and answers quickly. I need to speak, I will call. I need information, I will Google. I need food, I will order. But learning a new language was not like installing an app on my brain, nor updating my cerebral software. I needed to actually study, make time and practice. It would take a while before I could consider myself proficient and fluent in this new language, and that baffles me.

And this is where the magic is. Every manager or corporate executive, should take up a new language, or a new skill for that matter. It presents an opportunity to challenge ourselves and breakout of our comfort zones. It provides us an alternative situation where we can be what we can’t be at work.

It gives us a chance to be acceptably naive, make mistakes and question fundamentals. It offers a chance to learn again under the tutelage of a qualified teacher, outside executive schools, training rooms or learning programs. It makes us realize the value of progressive learning and the joy of delayed gratification, in a world where everything seems to be within instant reach.

I felt scared; and I think it was what made the experience beautiful.

*Images are for illustrative purposes only.