Driving Lessons

My progress was slow after a couple of driving lessons. My driving instructor was simply unimpressed. I was still slow at shifting the gear correctly and often got confused on which way to move the gear stick. I was not happy about that. I still had more driving lessons to take though. For the sake of not embarrassing myself once again in front of the driving instructor, I decided to work on my gear shifting skills before the time for the following driving lesson came.


The interesting thing was that I had decided to practice gear shifting through visualization and not by actually getting into the car, holding the gear stick and moving it while holding down the clutch with my left foot. I had not heard before about visualization being used in practicing driving. Maybe it was, but I simply had never heard about it. I told myself to just give it a try and see the results. I did not expect much but thought to just give it a try.

Stunning Progress

Time for my following driving lesson came. I was stunned by my performance. I was able to make gear shifts rapidly and correctly without any hesitation or mistakes! I managed to surprise myself and my driving instructor who was impressed after having almost lost hope due to my poor performance and slow progress during the preceding driving lessons.

Visualization Technique

The way I had been practicing driving just before that lesson was by closing my eyes, imagining that my right hand was holding the gear stick and giving myself instructions on which gear to shift to by simply giving myself a number. So for instance I said to myself “first” and started to visualize myself moving my right hand while holding the gear stick to the place for the first gear. Then I said to myself “second” and visualized myself shifting the gear stick to the position of the second gear. Then I said “first” then “second” then “third” then “second” and so on each time visualizing myself making a gear shift. I did all that while closing my eyes in the comfort and safety of my own home. The results of such practice far exceeded my expectations as I have mentioned above.

Training of Trainers

Visualization can also be used by a trainer to prepare for a training session before actually delivering it. This technique can be used by experienced as well as novice trainers alike. It can be used more thoroughly by novice trainers though to help them overcome their fear of facing a live audience. The beauty of such technique is that it allows you to practice in a protected safe environment. Any mistakes you will make will not have negative consequences. This very concept of zero negative consequences gives you the courage and confidence to go in full force and perform superbly well during visualization. When the time comes for the real thing you feel as if you have done it before while in fact you had only been visualizing doing it.

Doing Vs. Visualizing

It makes almost no difference to the brain whether you are actually doing something or visualizing doing it. For the brain, the two have the same effect. Let’s say someone remembers a sad incident. This memory might cause him to cry. Or someone thinks about the negative possibilities of something bad happening, this can cause his whole physical body to be disturbed. A person who is afraid from heights might experience strong negative signs in his physical body just by visualizing himself getting close to the edge of a high building and falling. the physical body reacts to all such visualizations in a similar fashion to its reaction to them had they been actually happening in real life.

Your Turn

Visualization is a very powerful technique that can be used to practice just about almost anything within a comfortable, protected and safe environment. So next time you are working on improving a skill why not try having part of your practice in the form of visualization? You might just surprise yourself with the results in the same way I have during the time I was taking driving lessons.

Have you ever tried to practice something through visualization? If so, tell use about it.


Forceful Teaching

Programming Lessons

I remember having a friend who was very good in computer programming at a very early age. As he grew up so did his skill in programming. He then wanted to teach programming to his younger brother. He called me telling me with great frustration that he was completely baffled by his younger brother who resisted his repeated attempts to teach him computer programming. He said his younger brother was unable to do programming and failed to love it.

I tried to demystify the situation for my friend. I told him that he loved programming because he was good at it and that no one had attempted to shove it up his throughout. In contrast, his younger brother is forced to learn it and cannot see any merit in attempting it when his older brother, my friend, is so superior in programming to him. I believe also that the teaching methods my friend had been using were horrible to say the least.

Driving Lessons

I remember that this same friend of mine attempted, years later, to teach driving to an employee he had at his small software company. My friend called me complaining to me saying that that employee was very unready to learn driving and it was hopeless to attempt to teach him. My friend had been trying one time after the other to give him driving lessons but failed completely to teach him how to drive. In contrast to the first case of my friend attempting to teach programming to his unmotivated younger brother, the employee my friend was attempting to teach driving to was highly motivated and was actually eager to learn driving.

Again I told my friend that perhaps the failure was not due to the poor readiness of that employee but rather to the method he used in teaching him. My friend was unable to swallow this up about himself being the reason behind this failure to learn but then started to accept it as a possibility.


It is worth noting that years later this friend of mine started delivering programming courses at training centers and I believe he was good at it.

Lessons Learnt

This shows that someone who is bad at teaching can improve with time and repeated practice. Good trainers, I believe, are made not born. Another lesson learnt from these two stories about my friend is that it takes a combination of high trainee motivation and trainer skill to create a successful and enjoyable learning experience.

What other lessons can you deduct from these stories of my friend and his attempts to teach others?

Learning from Fresh Learners

New Learners Vs. Experienced People

Sometimes it is better to learn something from someone who is himself a new learner of that thing rather than to learn it from someone who is highly experienced in it. The reasoning behind this is that the highly experienced person might have reached the level of carrying out the skill without consciously thinking about how he actually carries it out. A new learner of the skill however would still be performing it while being totally conscious of how he is doing it.

Driving Question

I remember during the time when I was first learning how to drive I was once sitting with my uncle and my cousin. My uncle had been driving for years and was a highly experienced driver. My cousin, on the other hand, was a novice driver who had just learnt driving recently. I had some question about a common maneuver in driving which I can’t recall right now. Instead of asking my experienced uncle about it I asked my cousin how it was done. My uncle was surprised that I was not directing my question about driving to him and was instead asking my cousin who was still a novice driver and had just learnt driving recently.

I believe my uncle even got a bit offended by that. He was unaware that the reason behind my skipping him and asking my less experienced cousin was due to the fact that my cousin is a fresh learner of driving and would thus be able to remember and be fully aware of how such a common maneuver is done step by step. A new learner of a skill might also be carrying it out in an easier way than an experienced person. Learning the easy way from a new learner could also be better than starting by attempting to carry out such skill by following a more complex or difficult method that would require a higher skill level.

Language Learning

Another example I remember was an Indonesian guy who came to Egypt and was trying to learn Arabic words. Instead of learning from adults he set about learning from children. Children were better able to explain to him the meaning of words in a simple and straightforward manner.

Learning from Peers

When learning a new skill it is totally OK to attempt to learn some of its basics from someone who has just been learning it so that he could be fully aware of how things are done in an easy way and could be able to explain them in a clear manner. This gives us a clue into why learning from peers can give great results.

Has there been anything you have attempted to learn from fresh learners of that thing? What was it? How did you go about learning it?

Learning in a Protected Environment

One way of improving one’s skill or overcoming resistance to performing something perceived as being difficult by a person is to first attempt doing it in a protected environment or in a slighter way.

Overcoming Shyness

For instance, a person who is afraid to speak in front of a live audience can first try speaking in front of his friends. He may then try speaking repeatedly in front of a small audience. After many repetitions that are stress free speaking in front of a small audience with confidence this person can then move on to speaking in front of a larger audience.

The repeated experiences he had speaking in front of his friends and in front of a small audience will help build his confidence with in a protected environment. If on the other hand he had went directly from total shyness to facing a large audience from the first time this may have caused him extreme phobia and would not have helped him overcome his fear nor gain any positive experience to build his confidence.

Learning Driving

Another example is when taking driving lessons. One should learn first in a protected area or on side streets that have low traffic. Mastery of driving should be gained on such streets first. After a good period of time and practice driving on such low traffic streets one can then move ahead to drive in more busy streets. The reason behind this is not just to avoid fatal accidents but also to allow the learner to gain skill in the basic driving techniques without being overwhelmed by too much to deal with at the same time.

Learning a New Language

A third example is when learning a new language. It is a good idea that a teacher would first use a controlled set of vocabulary before widening it up to a larger set so that the student can be able to absorb the language and handle it in a manageable way rather than being overwhelmed from the beginning with an endless flow of unintelligible new vocabulary.

Complex and Difficult Things

Although not everything that needs to be learned must be learnt in a protected environment first for best results, yet there exists many things that do. Mostly such things are those that are complex or difficult and for which the learner has great resistance towards or fear from attempting to do.

What have you managed to learn in the past using the protected environment method and eventually became proficient in?