Overcome "Learning Lethargy"

Posted on by Sudd

As I get older and busier in my company, I find myself constantly fighting what I call “learning lethargy;” which is the feeling that it just takes too much work to learn something new.

I suspect this is a fairly common feeling, especially as we get older. In almost every class I hear:

I suspect that there are bio-chemical changes in the brain which make learning easier for the young than the not-so-young. This is like exercising: It was a lot easier when we were younger, but no less important now; even if it isn’t as easy.

I discovered this lethargy in myself as we’ve been assembling our new studio. We’ve added a ton of new gear; from big things like cameras, remote lighting consoles, digital recorders and switchers to smaller things like signal converters and video streaming systems.

In the past, I would have been pouring over the manuals learning every new button and function. Now, I work with my engineering team to make sure the gear we are putting in will enable me to do the kind of productions I want to do, but I’m not spending every waking hour reading the manuals.

Partly this is due to my being busy in other areas of the company, partly its due to having an amazing team of people that I get to work with every day, but partly, too, is the fact that its harder to get excited by all of this new stuff because I know that pretty soon, it will be old stuff and I’ll have new “new stuff” to learn.

In the same way, experienced editors tell me that it gets harder for them to get excited about new projects because, after awhile, many projects start to look the same.

The difficulty with this condition is that it becomes very easy to slip into the trap of thinking that we know everything we need to know to do our job. This can be a fast line to unemployment.

Like it or not, our industry is built on a foundation of change. Ever-present and accelerating change. We need to find ways to recharge our enthusiasm for learning so we don’t end up sitting by the side of the road watching the world pass us by.

The older we get, the more we know. On the other hand, in many cases, the older we get the more we need to forget. I will never need to use my hard-won knowledge on how to thread and set-up 2″ quad video tape recorders. Or how to properly align and switch between prime lenses in a rotating lens turret.

(Though I do reserve the right to complain that “the youngsters of today don’t know how hard it was back in the ‘Good Old Days’.” Not that this complaining will do me any good.)

Each of us, I suspect, likes hanging on to obsolete knowledge simply because it was so darn hard to learn in the first place. We consider it a badge of honor simply to know it.

Still, don’t let the accumulation of a lifetime of memories prevent you from finding new ways to get excited about learning something new each day. Success in our industry demands creativity, organization, a solid understanding of today’s technology and an enthusiastic approach to figuring out what the heck is going on for tomorrow.

Oh, and remember to always stay on time and on budget.

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7 Responses to Overcome "Learning Lethargy"

  1. Kevin Murphy says:

    I created my first website at age 71 (8 years ago), and started using FCPX a few years after that. Learning has been a constant part of my work during that time — your training programs have certainly helped to ease that process. Problem solving — a definite learning process — has been important, especially this past year, when my most expensive Mac ever has been a recurring problem that has required lots of time with Tech Support, trying to make it work reliably. I have seen some of my chronological peers shut down their learning processes regarding new technology, and the like, and worry about that tendency, because I believe that it is a step toward a more permanent shut-down, and I hope to avoid that until my on/off switch is finally toggled.

  2. Ray Naylor says:

    As an adult, I’ve always loved learning new things, things that I was really interested in, which I think is the important thing. I’ve been retired a year now (I was in social work most of my work life), and it’s given me a lot of time to learn new things. In the last year O have been learning Final Cut Pro (Larry, most due to your excellent trainings), Logic, more about songwriting. I also produce and host an internet TV show called “The Performing Songwriter”. This has required me to learn a bunch of stuff, for example, lighting, camera placement, audio, etc. Now I’m learning how to use YouTube for the most benefit. All this on a “shoestring” (hey, I’m on Social Security!). Steven Covey, I think, said the best way to learn something is to teach it. So now I’m in the middle of putting together and uploading a tutorial series called ‘How To Promote Your Music Using Video, A Shoestring Approach. I’m more busy than when I was working, and I’m loving it.

  3. Patrick Flaherty says:

    It’s nice to see you weigh in on the this concept. It is something that I struggle with all the time and for as much as I let the lethargy be the saboteur in my taking time to learn new things there is a guilt about taking the time to learn because it becomes procrastination for me. I have actually put your tutorials on my calendar and I get distracted from following my scheduled “learning time”. The other part of this is that if we took these moments of learning as part of our daily discipline like that of a writer who puts aside 3-4 hours a day to write then I think it could feel more like an accomplishment rather than a drudgery. The other part for me is that over the years I have filled binders with articles about technology and updates and I am hard pressed to visit the information more than a few times. I wish sometimes these articles would self destruct on their own when they where no longer relevant. Another aspect of keeping up with technology is if someone would come up with a search engine that I could adapt to the way I think because it certainly would help me keep up with learning new things. Then the kicker would be if the information would adapt to my knowledge base. This would be a step in the right direction for those of us who want maximum benefit in the most economic way both financially and personal time usage. Learning should be part of our way of doing business.

  4. Fred H, Nesbitt Jr says:

    Our brain must be like a hard drive…When it gets full…earlier date gets pushed out…

  5. Erik Keller says:

    I beg to differ. The only thing that’s hard for me is going “back” (as in re-learn) to Avid or Premiere from FCP X (I’m always tempted to feed a filmstrip into one of the remaining slots on my Mac when opening up one of these programs). Interestingly, it seems I “unlearned” a lot about programs using the filmstrip analogy, although I started editing with the early versions of Premiere (1.5, I think) and Avid (no idea what they called it then; it came on a prepared Mac and we were forbidden to swap HDs). I guess I moved on since I started to use FCP X for real projects. 😉

  6. Billy Walker says:

    I think a fundamental problem as you get older, in my case anyway at 60 years of age, is it is difficult to really get passionate on anything anymore. I still learn like crazy through sites such as this one but the passion for life in general is certainly not what it once was. In talking with other old folks it seems to be fairly common.

    My love for learning new stuff is still present but the passion for most everything seems to have changed substantially. Maybe such is life?

  7. Ruth Ratliff says:

    Thank you for this article Larry! I just recently started video blogging for my voice studio – what a huge learning curve! I am subscribed to your tutorials, thankfully, and appreciate the methodical way that you instruct in Final Cut. Shooting and editing the videos is just one part of it though. Between trying to figure out the way Google interfaces with YouTube, starting a YouTube channel, creating channel art, video intros, marketing, etc., etc., I have been spending the equivalent of a part time job at my computer for weeks. I used to think I was fairly computer literate, but obviously many things have changed since I was in the workforce in the 80’s and 90’s. The creative potential is amazing though, and despite the frustrations of keeping up with all the changes, I am loving it!

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