Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Confidence in Learning

I recently heard a wonderful story retold from a book called "Landmarks" by Margaret Silf. In this story a woman is hiking late one afternon in the Welsh hill country when a storm blows in upon her. As she nears a barren peak, the wind starts to gale and storm clouds begin to boil in the dark sky. She continues to climb higher and at the very top she finds a solitary triangulation stone, a landmark that marks the highest point of her walk. As the wind gains intensity, she finds it hard to stand upright in the increasing gale, and she ducks behind the tall flat stone for shelter. The wind whips around it, gathers strength, and gusts furiously. There on the top of that rocky point, pushed dangerously from all directions by the gale force wind, she finds it hard to keep her balance, crouched down behind the stone.

Then it occurs to her, that her position behind the stone is not the best place to weather that storm. So she moves in front of the stone and lies on it, with her back against its flat, smooth surface. As the wind blows harder and harder into her face, it only blows her more firmly onto that stable stone, and she can watch the storm come in and pass with the confidence that she will not be swept off that peak by the wind and not be harmed by it.

Margaret Silf asks 'what is that stone?' For some people it might be faith, or truth, or maybe it could be learning. What gives us confidence when things are unpredictable around us? What do we use as our triangulation stone? And is it something that we hide behind or that we lean against as we face whatever our environment blows towards us? When it comes to our learning, we are the experts; that can only give confidence when we know how to apply it in many different and sometimes unpredictable situations.

I have the pleasure to work and interact with a group of young professionals in our organization, and sometimes they want for support from other levels of management, and they are curious about how they can weather the changes they see all around them (aren't we all?) Yet, we are learning so much about how to manage our environments (both natural and institutional). Can we notice this more, value it more, apply it more? Can this be our triangulation stone - can we find confidence in learning?