Lessons Learnt from Learning a New Skill- Mentorship

 

rubik's cube

Photo Courtesy: Amazon.co.uk

I always wanted to know how to solve a Rubik’s cube. Watching my siblings and you-tube folks solve it so quickly made it look easy. I don’t know about you but one thing I have noticed with trying to learn a skill is that we tend to deceive ourselves that it would be an easy journey- may be it’s optimism or just sheer ignorance, but we do lie to ourselves a lot.

To learn a skill however we need to be brutally honest with ourselves. This means accepting that the task ahead of us would take time and commitment. It is never a walk in the park learning anything new.

The past few weeks have taught me that the learning experience doesn’t have to be so daunting or boring if the learner has a Mentor.

My mentor for this skill was my sister, she taught me how to solve the Rubik’s cube in 4 weeks. Just to be clear, it’s wasn’t easy. There are so many methods for solving a Rubik’s cube. She taught me using the Layer Method (you can learn about it here).

Her technique was different and unique because I didn’t have to memorise the algorithms, she turned each algorithm into a story, so all I had to do was to remember the story and off I fixed each layer of the cube (after several failed attempts).

Having a Mentor helps you learn a skill  a lot faster than you usually would because you are essentially walking in the footsteps of someone who has knowledge and experience in the skill you are about to learn. So you are made aware of potential pitfalls, so that when you do encounter them you can jump over each challenge

Benjamin Franklin once said, ‘Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn”. 

Not every Mentor might be as effective as my sister but the words of Benjamin Franklin stand true. Your Mentor has to engage you in the skill and cannot just force his/her ideas on you without watching you try it out- that’s the only way you to learn!

A Mentor must be adaptable and ready to listen to your difficulties. I remember the first week I started out, my Mentor would give me a task and watch me twist and turn the cube just so she could point out my errors. This was so helpful because I was involved in this skill right from the start, hence, I learned each stage faster.

You might wonder, how can one choose a Mentor? Some people naturally have their mentors available to them-it could be their sibling (like in my case) or a parent, or a friend who wants to help them learn a skill. If we are to choose our Mentors however, it goes without saying that we want to go for people who are knowledgeable in that skill and know how to teach it.

We also need to choose Mentors that know us well. Solving the Rubik’s cube was fun and less stressful for me because my Mentor was a sibling who knew me well and knew I would learn the algorithms faster with stories. When choosing a Mentor, it is important to look  for Mentors who have similar personalities with us, or personalities that are relatable, that makes it easier to take on board their suggestions.

Learning a new skill is not always that simple especially when learning it alone via help guides or online tutorials, because the author of these resources may not always explain things in a way that would be easy for us to learn. However, with a well suited Mentor by our side we can learn our new skill in less time and find the learning experience more enjoyable.

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Under Pressure 

Photo courtesy Volkswagen USA

I have never been more afraid than I was today; my two year old was trapped in the car with the car key locked inside, I stood outside the car in shock and panic and I thought of a hundred ways to break the glass without hurting my child. 

My Monday mornings are typically very busy, I work full time and take my pre-schooler to school first before driving to work. His school is not far from my office, but we live about an hour away, so we usually leave the house at about 6 am to beat Lagos traffic. My son Joshua is pretty much use to the routine, at first it was a hassle getting him up early, but these days he is up before I am.

The past couple of weeks have been particularly tiring for both of us, we wake up too late to sit down and have breakfast like a normal family. I decided it would be better to have breakfast in the car at Josh’s school car park- that way we beat the traffic and still have some quality time together before Josh goes in to school. Josh loves eating in the car anyway, so this little change in our routine was great. 

On this day we were having French toast. I usually move to the back seat to seat next to Josh who is in his car seat eating to reduce potential spills. I could easily let one of his teachers feed him instead, but Josh would somehow end up not eating his breakfast. It was drizzling that morning so it was a bit chilly, the car windows were up and the air conditioner was off. Josh had just finished his first toast and was half way through his hot chocolate. I could see he was sweating; the car was getting a bit hot. I could easily have shuffled myself back to the driver’s seat if I had on trousers however I didn’t want to risk tearing my skirt, so I got out of the car to turn on the air conditioner which would only come on if the car was on. The moment I got out, I realised I had made a mistake. I heard the car lock behind me. I tried to open the door but it was locked. My head went blank and I pulled at the door handle repeatedly expecting a different result each time. I stopped and looked into the now misty glass. Josh was looking back at me with no expression. I could feel the tears coming, I was hardly breathing and felt faint. I wanted to call for help but the car park was empty, the security man was somewhere outside the compound, far from the scene. I weighed my options, I scanned the car park in search of a stone, big enough to break the car glass, I looked at Josh again he had come out of his car seat and was attempting to open the door. It wasn’t opening. I started panicking, my car was only 6 months old and I was still trying to understand how the lock system worked. I had left the smart key in the ignition in the hope of turning it on with my foot on the pedal from the driver’s seat. However, by getting out of the car, it had automatically locked itself.

 I scanned the car park again, nothing had changed; we were alone. I didn’t want to leave my son in the car while I went for help. So I told him, “Josh, Mummy needs you to get the key to open the car, come grab the stirring wheel.” I pointed to the driver’s seat. He quickly shuffled forward and sat on the driver’s seat, “I need you to pull out the key” I said to him slowly, loud enough for him to hear me. He looked at the key and looked  back at me, I nodded “Yes, pull it out” He put his little hand around the key and pulled. It didn’t respond. He kept trying to pull out the key repeatedly with both hands, the key wasn’t budging. Josh’s school uniform was soaked in his own sweat, I worried that he might suffocate if I didn’t break the glass. Just then, I saw the security guard and another parent standing a few meters away. At that point I didn’t know whether I could trust my son or let someone break the window and possibly hurt my son in the process. The security guard was already standing next to me, I couldn’t  hear what he was saying, I told he and the parent not to worry. They obviously did not believe me because the parent ran into the school to get help. I decided that I had to ignore them and trust my little boy could do this. 

“Josh you can do this, pull it harder” I said repeatedly to him. After trying for about 2 long minutes the key suddenly came out and Josh pulled the door handle to give me the key- the car was still locked. 

He looked at me with fear in his eyes, “You’ve been such a good boy, stay calm.” I said to him trying not to cry. “On the key I need you to press the last button to open the door.”  Josh whose attention was wearing off pressed the first button and the boot opened. I shook my head, “Baby, the third one.” I kept saying desperate for the car to open. 

The Car suddenly unlocked, I pulled the door handle immediately, yanking it wide open, picked up my son and gave him the tightest hug and filled his face with kisses. 

We stood outside in the rain as I cried and thanked God that my son had miraculously saved the day. 

Driving in Lagos

Someone once told me that if you can drive in Lagos, you can drive anywhere else in the world. For a long time I believed those words because it is only logical that if you can do something in the hardest or toughest conditions, you can do it when things are easier. In the past few weeks I have decided to re-evaluate whether this is true. 

What makes driving in Lagos truly challenging is quite complex and difficult to explain. One reason I say this is the fact that there are too many cars and not enough roads; hence most of your driving experience is spent in traffic (‘go slow’), and I have to say that driving in traffic is an art. It is a story of near misses and dodging of  potholes, danfos (commercial busses) , and broken down vehicles. It is one of patience when there is grid-lock and gruesome aggression when the traffic eases up. 

There is also the competing modes of transport. In some parts of Lagos okadas (motorcycles), kekes (Nigerian rickshaws) commercially  operate simultaneously as well as danfos, let us not forget the occasional bicycle rider. What this means is that the average Lagos Motorist has a lot to pay attention to; you can not make sharp turns or fail to horn or use your pointer( “traffigator”), You have to communicate effectively with your lights to not only other private cars but other road users (pedestrians inclusive) to avoid accidents.

There is also the number of trucks in Lagos. For a long time, I remember avoiding roads that had too many big trucks and tankers. I soon realised that the only way to avoid them was to move out of Lagos; they are everywhere. The hardest part about driving next to an average 7.5 tonne truck in Lagos is the ‘road-bullying’. These truck drivers are in a mad rush and will do anything to get you out of the way. With a lot of horning you can overcome your fear and overtake a truck (but please don’t overtake them on a bend).

For the most part driving in Lagos is tough, however just because you can drive in Lagos does not make you a better driver, in contrast I think you become a horrible driver. The driving environment in Lagos does not foster good driving habits, such as, waiting at a zebra crossing, or giving way for traffic on the left. It is almost impossible to observe any of these traffic paradigms because of the fear of causing an accident when you slow down suddenly or the simple fact that there is just too much traffic to slow down any further.

Driving in Lagos is no guarantee that driving anywhere else will be easier, for the most part it is harder to drive else where because there is a lot more to driving than just competing for space, road raging and horning!lagos-traffic

Sincere

It is the first day of the month and she is feeling really positive, so she set out as usual by herself looking for money

she was only nine, but she had mastered the trade quite well. She will stand at the road side and wait for the traffic lights to turn red.That was how her mother did. ‘Just watch the cars, aim for the shinny ones’ she’ll say.

Amina saw the lights turn yellow then red and she made her way to the first car, it was a shinny red car, she walked to the drivers side trying to peer into it. She found that making eye contact often helped, on this occasion however she was nervous because this car had tinted windows.

‘Please give me some money, I don’t have any money, Please, Please’ she spoke to the Driver leaning against the car, she was sure he could see her. She could see her reflection on the window; her brown curly hair flying wildly from an old pony tail, her top was torn at the sleeves, and her face was covered in filth.

The driver moved forward, he was trying to get her off his car.

She stepped back spontaneously and walked away, ‘what a waste of time’ she thought. She  looked at the next car, it was an old raggedy van. The driver seemed old and poor, she could not decide whether it was worth the effort begging this man. She looked back at the traffic light and saw that she only had about 30 seconds till it turned green. So she gave the van a chance, ‘please give me some…’ the driver stopped her mid way into her chant and threw two green notes at her. There were twenty Naira notes. She jumped at them like a hungry dog. ‘Thank you sir’ she said with excitement in her voice. ‘God bless madam and the family’ she kept thanking him as he drove off.

In that moment Amina learned a weird lesson, it was not about the car as mother had taught her, but it was about whether the giver was sincere or not.

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This is a response to today’s one-word prompt ‘sincere’, make sure you participate before the day runs out.

Grandma

‘I just can not believe he would do such a thing! I’m so angry…’ her voice trailed off. I had been eavesdropping for three minutes and I still did not know what made mum so mad. I knew it had something to do with Dad, it always did. She was talking with Grandma but I could only hear her voice. Grandma was soft spoken, even in regular conversations you had to read her lips to understand what she was saying. From where I was standing, on the landing I could only see Mum, the living room door was barely open. 

The phone rang suddenly.

‘Hello. Yes. Speaking. I would be right there’ Mum hung up. ‘That was the Police’ she said frantically. I could see mum pacing around the room likely looking for her hand bag. ‘Take care of Elsa for me.’ She said hurriedly, the front door shut loudly behind her.

I tip-toed back upstairs, but Grandma was already at the living room door trying to make sense of why I was walking funny. ‘What are you doing up at this time?’ She whispered.

‘I-I just wanted some water, good night Grandma.’ I started for the stairs again, running through them in twos.

‘Elsa darling, since you are up you might as well have some tea with your favourite Granny’ She said looking up at me.

I knew what ’tea’ meant and I did not want to be a part of this.

‘Err I don’t want tea.. you were right I should be asleep’

‘Nonsense my child, come come back down Elsa’ she motioned with her hands  ‘ I’m going to put the kettle on’.

Grandma seemed so small looking down at her from the top of the stairs. Something in her eyes made me scared of disobeying her quiet order.

I began the descent one step at a time. Grandma watched me patiently with a weird smile. She held her left hand toward me. When I reached the final step, I took her out stretched hand and looked into her eyes and that was the last thing I remembered.

 

I could hear the toads croaking and see the birds flying indistinctly from tree to tree. I could barely see, I was lying on dirt in my pyjamas under a tree. The sun was not out yet but the forest was awake. I searched around for Grandma, she was not with me. ‘Grandma’ I got on my feet, my head was spinning, it was difficult to focus. ‘Grandma’ I shouted this time. I looked up at the tree I was under and realised that I knew it, it was not far from the house. Getting my skewed bearing in check, I began walking in the general direction of the house. I could not understand what was I doing here, how did I get here? I soon noticed that the ground became really wet, and uncomfortable, I looked down and realised I was walking in mud. I panicked and I tried to run back to the tree but I could not see it. So I stopped. I considered the possibility that I was dreaming. I slapped myself and pinched my nose and closed my eyes, nothing seemed to wake me up. Suddenly, I saw the torch light. ‘Grand Ma?’ I whispered walking toward the light.  

‘Elsa, Elsa’ I could hear her old raspy voice. She pointed her torch at me. It felt like she was holding two torchlights. I used my elbows to block out the light. ‘Oh my goodness Elsa I thought I had lost you’ Grandma picked me up and gave me the tightest hug. Just then, I realised Mum was standing next to her, ‘Elsa you cannot just run away like that’ Mum yelled, she seemed upset and not as pleased to see me, something was wrong. ‘I did not run away Mum, Grandma… she brought me here, and, and…’ the more I explained the more I felt stupid, I could feel Mum’s burning stare on me. ‘What Elsa is trying to say is that she is sorry and would not behave like that again, would you Elsa?’ Grandma cut in. I looked back at Grandma. I could not understand what was happening, why was she lying like she was not the one who brought me to the forest, how did she get back to the house so quickly, how many minutes had I been knocked out?

‘Grandma why did you bring me here?’ I raised my voice at her and she just stared at me like I was crazy. ‘Let’s get you home Elsa, we would talk about this in the morning’ Mum said holding my arm tightly and pulling me away from Grandma.

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I decided to try my hands on thriller. I have come to appreciate that it is hard to gauge fear. There are just too many questions a Writer has to ask, the most important I think is, ‘how lost do you want your reader to be?’ I usually enjoy leaving the end of my stories as open as possible- incase I want a sequel, or to elicit various interpretations from the reader. With ‘Grandma’ I am still undecided, I’ll leave it to you, would you want a sequel, were you confused? I’ll really appreciate your comments.

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Time will tell

Tick tock tick tock.

Seconds turn into minutes,

Minutes into hours,

Hours into days.

Waiting- Just waiting for inspiration.

Waiting for the motivation.

Waiting for the kick.

It is hot and humid, my brain is fried.

I must meet the deadline, so I try. 

First draft, not good enough,

Second, too quirky,

Third… May be I’m not that blocked.

I’m going to write about this. Write about now. Write about how I feel.

Write about how hard it is to write when you’re time bound. 

Pour out my thoughts just hoping for some order. 

Waiting, believing my writer’s block will be over. 

But with things like this I know; only Time will tell

She knew she’d have to run alone, she always knew.

She did not know how sad it would be actually doing it.

It’s been several years coming, her income was low, and drugs were high.

 

What sort of mother abandons her daughter? She thought. The fight was internal, one she knew she would not win.

They soon arrived at the orphanage; she nudged the little girl to the door.

 

A day had passed but she could still hear her calling, ‘mum’, ‘mum’, ‘mum’

She kept telling herself this was the best decision, and soon she believed it.

 

This was my attempt at a 100-word story. Did you figure out what was going on?Let’s know your take on this. #SometimesLessisMore.