Monday, December 14, 2015

Piloting Your Way Through The Danger Zone: A Look at Learning to be a Jedi

Learning has many variables and paths that you might follow as you travel to mastery of a skill. The skill could be one of mathematics, problem solving, or even being a pilot or a Jedi. As you learn the new activity or skill you travel about the graphic above.
While this graphic is only a learning model, we can see three distinct zones that could yield interesting thoughts as one analyzes the concept of learning.
The first phase is the Beginner Zone.
Here you find yourself excited to learn and with so little knowledge of the topic that you don't even know what transferable skills or talents apply to this learning quest. With this said, you may underestimate what you know and how much there is to know on the topic. You will be fixated on acquiring knowledge and teachers to guide you.
The second phase is the Danger Zone.
As time or as expertise grows, you will transition into the danger zone. Here, some students believe they no longer need their teacher or sensei. They believe they are better and more knowledgeable than the master that trained them. You can see this zone characterized in the movie Star Wars, Attack of the Clones where Anakin Skywalker (soon to be Darth Vader) began to believe he was better than the Jedi Expert and Sensei Obi Wan. This misunderstanding cost him his hand and led him to the dark side.  We also see this Danger Zone in aviation around the 250 hour of experience mark. At this point a lot of pilots begin to feel too comfortable in the airplane. They skip checklists and tend to get a little gutsy with their personal flight limits. Sooner or later, it catches up to them and they are either scared straight or wind up as an National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) report. The Federal Aviation Administration accidents statistics also support the danger found in this zone. In the work place or on the conference scene this zone is demonstrated by the "know it alls" that want the world to see that they are "experts" with out the understanding to realize what they do not know on the topic. The point is if you do not recognize this phase it could cost you your hand, your career, or your life. 
The third phase is the Expert Zone.
At some level of maturity the learner realizes that what he or she knows is only a trace of the knowledge that exist in the area of study. This "humblization" of the learner allows them to transition to the Expert Zone. In Malcolm Gladwell 2008 book "Outliers," he wrote that "ten thousand hours is the magic number of greatness." Now we know that not everyone will be an virtuoso at everything by 10,000 hours but I would contend that they stand a good chance of being in the expert zone. They know many if not most of the areas of the body of knowledge (BOK) and they can see that there is so much to learn about each of those elements of that BOK. They continue to strive to learn and grow in the topic as they travel this zone.

Where are you with the items your are studying. Are you in the Danger Zone in any of your pursuits?

May the force be with you on your learning journey and be safe young Jedi. 


  1. A very good article and true indeed!!

  2. Humblization...if that's a word I never heard it...sound like one I'd have made up though.

  3. Sid, every now and then when you cant find quite the word you are looking for you have to get creative and make it up.
    Have a great holiday!

  4. Very precise and well written,thanks.

  5. I really like this. It portrays how some of our floor veterans act. The only issue I have is I think the chart is a missing line...the true dark side. The expert that learned the wrong way. Shon, I know you know what I'm talking about. They have learned and developed how to use their skills and talents only to unknowingly be using them for the dark side or as I like to say "reactivity”. I'm fighting the dark side and I am no Jedi...

  6. Good article. Learning is a key step for continous improvement and understanding the different learning phases and pitfalls will help us with the transition to the expert zone, where we all strive to be.