Just is Anything BUT “Just”!!

What I’ve discovered over the years of fleshing out this idea of breaking down a skill set into its constituent verb-based parts, is that ‘Just’ is anything but ‘Just.’  How many times have you gone to learn something new or tried to change your behavior in some way, and heard that insidious little word.  “Just….”   

Some examples of stupid sh*t that is difficult, but made to sound super-easy to do:

  • Stick shift driving – “just” let off the clutch and press down on the gas, well yeah, at the same time!!
  • Golf – “just” hit the ball straight
  • Fear of heights – “just” don’t look down!
  • Carpentry – “just” hit the nail with the hammer
  • Waterskiing – “just” keep your legs together while you’re standing up – no problem!!
  • Trying to lose weight – “just” don’t eat so much – wanna’ another piece of this stratospherically tasty chocolate cake??
  • Snow skiing – “just” turn.  Turn!!!!  TURN!!!
  • Bad memories – “just” stop thinking about it! 
  • Kiteboarding – “just” lean back, do a power stroke, and stand up – uh huh!!  Yeah right!!  That’s how I launched myself 10 feet into the air with the greatest of ease – TWICE!! And then quit!!  (see “My Kiteboarding Ah-Ha Moment” post)
  • Snowboarding – I alluded to this in one of my earlier posts, (see “Testing, Testing RSTP Theory – Snowboarding, PART 2a – Using the carpet lift on the bunny slope”).  One would think, and virtually every instructor would lead you to believe, that riding the absurdly non-threatening bunny slope carpet lift is not even worth mentioning to the student.  “Just get on and ride to the top!!” 

The word “Just” implies that what you’re about to do is no big deal – easey-peasey!!  And worse, it hints at the possibility that there’s something a little bit wrong with you for not being able to do something that is clearly sooooo very easy to do!!  For the record, I’m calling, “Bullshi*t!” 

The first time I took a stab at figuring out a better way to transfer skill was related to cleaning up the dishes after cooking a meal.  I had never given dishwashing much thought.  When I was considerably younger, I had worked as a server and dishwasher every night for several months at a nursing home before heading off to college.  I was driven by my desire to get outta’ there every night as fast as I could to get on with critical task of, well…. being a relatively free, single 20 year old!!  I had gotten realllllly good at doing the dishes!!  I was efficient, I was effective!!  I had made distinctions that I didn’t even realize were distinctions (see “Distinguishing Distinctions – A Definition”).

A friend noted to me that, despite her many years of cleaning dishes, she still had no clue how to do it well.  That’s when I realized that there were distinctions; that there were approaches to any task or skill that were good, and there were approaches that were less than “good.”  And, the possibility that maybe there was a methodical way to teach (eg “transfer” in my new language) those distinctions. 

Before my friend’s comment, I would have said, you “just” dive in and do it, and in no time flat, you have clean dishes and a sparkling kitchen.  Now I know, there is no “just” in doing anything.  There are distinctions made with everything that we do, some more effective and/or efficient than others in achieving a desired outcome.

When I got down to looking at all the distinctions I’d made in something so mundane seeming as washing dishes, I was shocked by how many there actually were.  Here are a few, in only a very loose beginning-to-end order…

  • Batch process at every step along the way
  • Bring everything to the sink area first
  • Put away all the food
  • Warm/hot water matters
  • Stacking like items in the sink while water runs; and from biggest to smallest
  • Presoaking is critical
  • Repeated soaking is necessary – keep filling in with dishes to be soaking while rinsing others
  • Rinse the dishes going into the dishwasher before doing any dishes that need handwashing (typically they need more time to soak because those are usually the things that have the most stuck-on food)
  • Rinse like items, then put them in the dishwasher
  • Hand wash from cleanest to dirtiest
  • Wash like items together
  • Cleanup last, from furthest out location in the kitchen to the closest
  • Presoak anything stuck on the flat surfaces – squeeze water onto them and let it sit while continuing cleaning

A lot of distinctions!!  And there are probably many more.  BUT, and this is a huge but – with what I know about speed-cleaning up a kitchen, my little family of 3 would have Thanksgiving dinner clean up, from start to finish, in 30 minutes!!  Not too shabby!!  There must be something significant to this RSTP thing!!   

See the “The Problem with ‘Just'”

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