When mariner was in his thirties, he took courses in sociology and psychology. He became interested in how an individual chooses lifestyle, career and hobbies. Certainly fate itself dictates a great number of choices, often choices that may not fit one’s emotion, talent or physical profile. Still, one becomes aware that certain ways of learning, certain mental and physical skills perform more easily when compared to other people’s profiles.
To demonstrate clearly how an individual is different from another in how they learn and what comes more easily to them, mariner cites three extreme examples of individual skills that demonstrate the differences each of us may have from others.
Alonzo Clemens was a perfectly normal human. Unfortunately, he had a severe accident which damaged his brain. He is no longer a normal individual; he is a savant. Hand him a lump of clay and in minutes he will miraculously produce a perfect replica of any creature, his favorite being horses. Alonzo’s brain easily speaks through his hands.
Alma Deutscher, is a normal British eleven year old musical prodigy. She played the piano and violin at 3; Alma wrote an opera for a full symphony orchestra at age 11 – including the music for each instrument in the orchestra. It was performed to raves. One could say that Alma’s brain is wired to understand and produce music – not a small skill and one where hearing is critical.
Marilu Henner is a well-known actress. She also is one of thirteen known people worldwide with Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory, or H-SAM. Marilu has full retention of her entire life complete with dates, what she did on a given day, and everyone she spoke to on that day. Marilu’s brain is wired like a database; parsing information is her special ability. This phenomenon does not interfere with other emotional or physical experiences. Mariner selected Marilu as an example from AARP magazine. You can read this article at:
We plain folk aren’t mental superstars but it is important to realize that each of us has a discerning skill and aptitude that makes each of us special. It makes for an easier life if we are conscious of our specialties; this makes it easier to select our job, hobby, and leverage the special way that each of us learns.
There are a number of characteristics that can help us identify our abilities. For example, each of us tends to learn more easily with one sense over the others. Some find it easier to learn by touching or doing; some find it easier to learn by hearing; some find it easier to learn by watching; some by reading, etc. In the AARP article, Marilu suggests to review the day’s experiences by replaying them mentally, using our brain’s image of what we did that day, will noticeably improve our memory. Mariner, for example, learns best using sight; at the end of the day he should run a set of images through his brain that will serve as memory anchors.
Another aspect of learning is how our brains solve problems. Some will be better at solving procedural problems; others will be better at comparative solutions and others may understand solutions better if they have a broad perspective of the issue.
An old pop-psych description mariner has referenced before is the what-how-why description of arriving at solutions. Which is the most informative question you ask yourself when confronted with a situation that needs a solution?
What do I do? How do I do this? Why do I do this?
Combining the favored sense for learning with the manner by which we solve problems is a simple description of our individual aptitude. Those who learn best by touch or hands-on engagement coupled with ‘what do I do’ have an aptitude that excels at sequential activities, i.e, bookkeeping, woodworking, and construction among many examples. If we pair hearing and ‘how do I do this’ we likely will be better than average managers where talking and comparative reasoning are important. If we pair sight and ‘why do I do this’ it may be easier to ponder less defined solutions associated with science or cause and effect speculations.
Mariner has a life experience he tells about the time when he was a supervisor of programmers. In large computer systems, there are millions of lines of code so the code is divided into appropriate functions and each is overseen by a supervisor and a team of programmers. A situation arose where mariner was to receive an additional function from another supervisor. He visited the other supervisor to learn what the new function was about; this involved understanding the logic of the code – a very procedural style of logic. The supervisor sat down at the computer and described in rapid succession sixteen steps required to manage the function. Mariner, not being so glib as an intensely ‘what’ person at procedure, learned absolutely nothing about the meaning of the sixteen steps. The supervisor went through the steps again and a third time. Mariner was as ignorant as he was before the supervisor started. The supervisor asked mariner how he ever got a job as a supervisor and said as much to our manager. Fortunately, our manager was wise to our different aptitudes and dismissed the situation. Mariner later sat down with the code manual, read through the code a few times and understood what the function was about.
The important lesson in this life experience is to not judge people as inferior because they don’t have the same aptitude and skill experience as you.
We are amazed when people with very special aptitudes perform. A common example is the person who can do instant math. They stand at the front of an audience and outperform calculators. They seem not to do mental calculation; in fact they don’t. The brain intuitively knows the answer. A similar example is the memory experts who in real time can learn and recite massive amounts of detail like the first names of everyone in an auditorium. True, these specialists have honed techniques that help. However, we with all the techniques in the world could not compete with them.
A way to tell if you are in line with your aptitude is when you know solutions without calculating; another way to say that is you know intuitively: It seems so easy; why does everyone have trouble with this? I could do this job in my sleep; I feel good about myself when I exercise my aptitude. Athletes talk about being in the zone. The brain takes over and controls muscle and skeleton without conscious effort and performs better than if the athlete were thinking about his actions. Michael Jordon recounted his basketball shot at the last second in a close game: “I wasn’t worried about making the basket; I knew I would make it.” Each of us has a zone of some kind.
Enjoy learning who you are. You are unique.