Monday, August 5, 2013

Learning 1

God bless Fred Goring. He taught me how to learn. Fred worked for me as a mechanic for over twenty-five years and I witnessed him morph from a mechanic's helper to a master mechanic with little formal instruction. He learned so much by asking questions. Fred always began with, "Let me ask you this." Then he would ask the question. And another. And another. Once we stopped at the Caterpillar dealer for some parts. He asked the parts man a couple of questions until he didn't know the answer. "Hang on. I'll get the mechanic." We waited and Fred winked at me. The mechanic showed and he started in, one question after another, until I felt embarrassed. When we left I laughed. "Man, Fred you asked him enough questions." He smiled. "But he answered every one of them." "Didn't he realize he was training you to do his work?" "People love to tell you all they know. It's human nature. Somehow a person feels better showing people like me how smart they are. And I'm not doing his work, I'm doing mine. He knows that." He'd mastered the art of learning from others, and after decades of watching him pummel people with questions, I never heard anyone refuse him an answer. I sent him to classes and as usual he would flog the instructor with questions. I felt sorry for others in the classes, as they sat and quietly listened to Fred inquire about his specific issues. I learned the art of asking questions at the feet of the pro. I never acquired his skills, not to his level, but my question-asking certainly improved. I often begin this way: "You don't have to answer this if you don't want to, but..." And then I would pose the question. And another. And another. The prelude gave my mentor an exit, should she decide the question to be too sensitive. I work in real estate, and have asked questions such as these: "How much did you pay for it?" (That's public record anyway.) "Where did you get financing? What are the terms? How much are your taxes? How much do you weigh?" Okay, that last question crossed over. I've never asked it, just seeing if you're paying attention. Some of you may be thinking this sounds manipulative, but one merely asks questions of another. There is no pressure on the expert to answer the rookie's questions. Fred didn't just ask questions for the sake of talking either; each question reflected his focused thoughts. He always took time to thank the expert for his assistance upon finishing. Fred passed away a few years back and I sure miss him. He worked for me and yet taught me so much.
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