Learning, Processes, Curves and Coffee
12 Aug 2020

Learning, Processes, Curves and Coffee

Post by Barry Nalley

Although I have approximately 28 years of military service, my career spanned almost 40 years.      As I sit, enjoying my coffee, thinking about it, I can ‘see‘ the tremendous changes our military services have progressed through.   When I joined the Marines during the Vietnam era we wore basic olive drab covering, better known to us as “green-weenie humilities”, and today, with a greater knowledge base and amazing technological advancements…  we can wear really cool stuff that helps us blend into almost any environment. During the Vietnam era Gunnery Sergeant Hathcock’s 2500 yard shot with a M2 .50 cal set up with a scope and on single shot was almost unbelievable, and broke a record almost 100 years old, and today, using the Gunny’s proven teaching base, along with the fantastic tech available… 6 military personnel, during conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, have surpassed that with kill shots ranging up to 3880 yards.   I’ve even seen 105mm Howitzer and 25mm Gatling gun shots of almost pin-point accuracy accomplished by the AC-130 Gunship from over 3 miles out from the target! It’s all part of a process; one of learning, improvement in technology, and a learning curve…

As children we were all exposed to an atmosphere that required constant learning.  We were taught to tie our shoes, to count, to brush our teeth, to ride our bikes, and to read and write. If we lacked proficiency we had ‘experiences’ that reminded us that we needed to learn quickly from our teachers, otherwise we’d be tripping over shoe laces, or learning about road rash from a fall off the bike…

Many of those tasks seemed unimportant, and taken individually, perhaps it was true, but they were part of the process of Learning.      When you learned as a child, it was for simple reasons.     You learned because it was fun, or accomplished a particular task because it pleased someone you were close to.   The amount of attention given each of those accomplishments varied with both outside influence and personal incentive!   As a child your home and family provided almost all of the influence and your desire to please was the incentive.     Developing from adolescence through the teens to adulthood… you became more susceptible to outside influences.  These influences had a sometimes startling effect on the attention paid to some seemingly unimportant tasks.   The interaction between the process of learning and influence is evident in even the smallest of tasks, such as brushing your teeth.   A parent might have begun brushing your tooth upon eruption and by the age of five you were doing it yourself.    You were too short to look into the mirror to be able to see what you were doing, so you mimicked your parents and brushed vigorously.   Perhaps you just wanted to ‘foam at the mouth’ like dad or mom…    At that time it was a game, but was still a learning process.  Later, you found that it helped keep the dentist out of your mouth…  By the time you were seven brushing had become a chore, but your parents said, “BRUSH,” so you brushed!   You felt brushing was a waste of time – particularly so, as you began losing your baby teeth.     At nine, you were an accomplished ‘tooth-brusher,’ at least when dad or mom was around.   Otherwise, the only time you really worked at it was two days before your next dental appointment.

Perhaps a filling or two later, at the age of twelve you made a major discovery – the opposite sex!    How interesting that this discovery should have had such an impact on the way you brushed your teeth.   Every morning and night, you looked into the mirror, grinned and grimaced at the image peering back and brushed regularly.    You did your best not to forget to brush your teeth because you didn’t want to end up shaking hands with your date in lieu of giving her a goodnight kiss.  Aside from that you probably found it extremely difficult to say hello to a potential date while holding your breath…    As you moved fully into the teenage years you became more aware of tooth decay, its causes and results.   You discovered that dental floss was the newest in preventive measures against bad breath.  You purchased a roll of dental floss, and during your enthusiastic experimentation, the floss tugged into tiny tourniquets which were harder than hell to undo. The painful purple fingers were an unexpected result of your efforts to protect your teeth…

As time passed, you may have realized that you had gathered quite a bit of knowledge connected with the simple act of brushing your teeth.     But more than that, many of the tasks you carried out as a child had an astounding effect on what you as an adult, do today.   Those childhood tasks helped set patterns for constant assimilation of facts and ideas.    The patterns of thought and growth became a small but important part of a continuing process that involves a real, always present, learning curve.   It is a process that starts at birth and continues until death. Brushing teeth is simple and brushing and flossing is better and less simple… working at the gum-line adds more to the equation. Understanding that the Dentist is also an important feature adds more…     All part of processes and with a learning curve.

Pulling a trigger and hitting a target or riding a bike without falling… Hitting the intended target or biking expertise on rough trails doesn’t make the pro BMX competitor or the successful sniper.

Sight picture, alignment, point of aim, breathing properly, self-discipline, knowing when to squeeze the trigger, while maintaining situational awareness, and staying concealed to stay alive, then returning to base to review and study.  Learning processes and staying with the “curve” with constant review and practice plus taking every advantage offered by newer technology…  Riding the bike without falling, or becoming a living successful sniper, just like caring for our teeth without ‘choking out’ our fingers, is so much more involved than pulling a trigger or being an ‘expert’ shot…. Again, it’s all part of a continuing process with a learning curve.

With that said, I’m going to go and fix myself another cup of really good coffee… knowing that making a great cup of coffee, like caring for our teeth, riding a bike well, or being a great sniper, isn’t simple, either…