There are three general approaches to dealing with life's challenges: trial and error, rules of thumb, and algorithms. Trial and error involves trying different methods in practice, learning from mistakes and succeses. For instance, if you are handed 5 keys only one of which opens a particular lock, you may try one key at a time and put aside those keys which have failed to work until the right key is identified. Though this system may work with a few keys it is certainly not the ideal method when you have one thousand keys and a time limit, and certainly ineffective - even hazardous - when dealing with life's multi-leveled complex issues.
At the other extreme are algorithms. These are very neat formulae that yield precise answers to problems. Maths and physics equations are good examples. Unfortunately, there are no formulae for most of life's dynamic challenges. There is no formula for child rearing that ensures that parents succeed in raising healthy, polite, and productive children. Nor is there a conflict resolution theory that can guarantee the resolution of conflict. In both examples there are way too many variables at play that cannot be factored into one's calculations.
The 'rule of thumb' approach involves the application of general principles or strategies that are likely to make problem solving more effective and efficient. It is visible in the way many people solve jigsaw puzzles when they first find the straight ended edge pieces and then gather pieces of similar colours into piles. There are no maths equations for solving jigsaw puzzles, and trial and error on its own would be tediously time consuming. The rule of thumb approach, however, lies between the poles of randomness and precision.
Though all three methods have there place in life and are often used in combination, it is the rule of thumb mentality that is most realistic and effective. Individuals who have algorithms for every occasion tend to be highly intellectual and systematic but unrealistic, callous, or repeatedly frustrated by failure. Those who dive into the deep end in a trial and error manner may be action oriented but are typically reckless, sloppy and inefficient. It is the rule of thumb person who has the right balance of solid strategy and the ability to adapt to the feedback of experience.
It is with this 'rule of thumb' in mind that I approach the challenge of learning to skateboard. My first task is thus to identify the general elements needed to master the craft. Here's what I've discerned so far:
- Muscle strength
- An understanding of the basic principles of kinesiology (the science of the body's movement)
- A grasp of basic principles of sport psychology
- Observations and tips from other skateboarders
- The pavement of a systematic path to learning tricks
- A focus on only one or two tricks per week/ fortnight
- Practice, practice, practice!
Each element has many details which I shall explore in the next set of entries. I understand that this is certainly not the conventional way that skaters learn to skate. But who's interested in being conventional? I just want to succeed. Furthermore, applying abstract theory in practice provides me with a sense of wholeness in that the chasm between my head and feet is bridged...