Learning Through Stories: How Did You Learn To Drive?
Today begins the fourth round of the Learning Through Stories project on the Brilliant Blog. (See here and here for stories from the first, second, and third rounds.) A lot of scientific research—and our own experience—demonstrates that we understand and remember material best when it’s presented to us as a narrative, or when we tell our own story about it. So, once a week, I invite you to share your stories of where and when and how you learned something in particular. And I’ll be asking you to do one additional, perhaps challenging thing that is nevertheless the key to the exercise: to draw out a generalizable lesson from your story that could apply to the learning of other things, and could be used by people other than yourself.
The question this week is: “Where, when, and how did you learn to drive a car?” Write your answer below, and try to include as many details about when, where, and how it happened, as well as what lesson you can draw from it. I’ll start:
I learned how to drive a car when I was 16, but I didn’t learn how to drive a stick shift until I was in my mid-twenties and my then-boyfriend (now husband) bought a used white Volkswagen Fox—with a manual transmission. After finalizing the sale, we headed to a nearby parking lot for my first lesson.
Now, in an earlier round of Learning Through Stories devoted to learning how to ride a bike, I and many other contributors noted that learning from someone you love (usually fathers in the case of bike riding) can inspire a trust and confidence that makes mastery possible. But—and I bet many of you have experienced this, too—learning from someone you love can also make things more difficult at times. I probably should have taken lessons from a driving school, because every time I messed up—and I did continually—I got irritated at my boyfriend for trying to help me, no matter how gently he did it.
In any case, I did finally get the hang of it, and was so proud of myself. I got a little over-confident, in fact, and was promptly punished for it: the car started stalling out again. I was confused: Hadn’t I just been doing this right? What changed?
What changed is that I had started to get careless, pay less attention to what I was doing. I had to go back and be an absolute beginner again, staying conscious of every step. There’s no shortcut to learning: we move slowly from halting deliberateness to smooth automaticity, and only repeated practice gets us there—as much as we’d like to jump ahead and assume we’ve got it down cold.
OK, now your turn: How and when and where did you learn to drive?