June 2022

Thoughts about…

Learning How to Learn

As far as I know, I’ve never actually met anyone with a photographic memory. It’s interesting, though, because I’ve been taking classes and courses and attending many non-traditional educational events and programs all of my life. Probably more so as I’ve gotten older. But what I’ve always found, regardless of subject matter or educational experience, is that most of my classmates either neglect to take notes, seldom ask questions, and/or volunteer to be the first to try the thing out. That’s always struck me as an odd way to learn. That is, not doing everything that you possibly could to retain the new knowledge being presented to you.

Even during guided tours, for example, I carry with me a small pad of paper to jot down notes and ideas relevant to the subject at hand. Or, I’ll carry a small digital recorder to store notes that I can later transfer to a physical notebook or document on my computer. If I don’t have an opportunity to take any notes during the experience, I’ll often record them afterwards with that same digital recorder.

Snowstorm in Hope Valley on May 8, 2022. © Jared Manninen

Now, I’m not saying that taking notes and asking questions is going to guarantee that you’ll become an expert on the subject. And, admittedly, I don’t always refer back to my notes or put them to use. But I do know that if don’t take any notes at all my chances of retaining anything from the experience lessen dramatically. So I’m that guy who scribbles everything down, asks a lot of questions, and volunteers to be the first in line.

What can I say? I love learn. But more importantly I know how to learn, which makes learning all the more fun.

My last day of cross-country skiing for the 2021/22 winter season on May 11, 2022. But what a day it was! © Jared Manninen

You’ve probably heard of the four styles of learning, which are auditory, visual, kinesthetic, and reading/writing. You may have also heard that most people tend to primarily benefit from one or two of those styles, and only slightly benefit from the other two or three.

But we’re all human and we all have a huge capacity to adapt and learn regardless of our preferences and propensities. So to say that we can only learn if … is to sell ourselves short.

The only “if” that truly matters when it comes to learning is that if you don’t get involved in your educational experience you’re not going to learn at all. Period. You can’t just sit in the back of the classroom or at the tail end of the pack, passively and half-heartedly participating and expect to learn the material. In that same vein, you’re also not going to become an expert just by reading a book or watching a YouTube video. So in order to truly absorb new information, you have to actively be engaged and immersed in the experience.

Lily Lake on May 15, 2022. © Jared Manninen

Again, don’t interpret what I’ve said above to mean that if you just take a bunch of notes and ask some questions you’re going to retain everything presented to you. Those are only a couple of pieces of the puzzle. And, in that example, I’m simply trying to illustrate that those are ways in which you can actively be engaged in the experience, particularly if we’re talking about a traditional classroom where the teacher lectures while using a visual aid such as a PowerPoint presentation. And then, for example, multiply that by the 100+ other students sitting next to you in the same lecture hall. In that type of environment, there just aren’t that many ways in which you can actively be engaged (at least while you’re sitting in the classroom).

But I digress.

The reason I believe that all of this is challenging for many people to embrace, especially as we get older, is that it does require you to set aside your ego and become the beginner once again. You have to be willing to embarrass yourself a little bit by asking a potentially silly question or by being the first to demonstrate the technique after only having witnessed it a few times. But who cares? The rewards and long-term benefits of immersing yourself in a learning experience far outweigh any potential psychological risks involved and efforts required to learn something new and of interest to you.

I also agree that being an active participant whether in the classroom, on a sports team, or at a job takes a lot of work. But that goes without saying. Life is hard work. But I find that, despite the amount of effort required to take the initiative, it’s actually a lot easier to play an active role in life versus being a passive participant. The reason being is that by taking initiative (i.e. being active) you’re living life on your own terms. Your mind, body, and spirit are able to work in partnership because you’re moving in a clear direction.

Heading up Luther Pass on May 28, 2022. © Jared Manninen

On the other hand, being passive means that you’re always reacting to situations and usually getting caught off guard as a result. The latter approach to life and learning requires exponentially more effort to overcome the situation in question. Basically, you’re just getting tossed around like a ship on the sea without a rudder.

So dig in and get your hands a little dirty. Don’t be afraid to demand more from your experience, but know that life is a two-way street. If you want more out of it, you have to be willing to give more. And remember that one of the many beautiful paradoxical aspects of life is that the more energy we expend doing the things that we love yields a great capacity of energy from which we can then expend. Simply put, that which we love not only takes but it also gives.

This phenomenon shouldn’t be viewed as some sort of banal financial transaction, however, where you’re guaranteed a great return on your investment. There’s no one-for-one trade-off in this risk versus reward equation. You simply have to have faith in the process of immersing yourself in the life experience.

Jobs Sister and Freel Peak on May 31, 2022. © Jared Manninen

You may already be aware of this little secret about learning but, if not, let me share it with you in closing. And let it be known that this experience has happened to me in just about every activity that I’ve ever participated in throughout my entire life. People who have information and skills, particularly in niche disciplines, love to share it will people who show passion for their discipline and an interest in receiving more knowledge.

Keep in mind that it’s not just about taking some notes and asking a couple of questions (although that’s a start!). You have to be willing to dive deep. But once you demonstrate your willingness to embrace the experience, oftentimes the instructor will reward that behavior by offering even more information and personalized feedback. Those instructors and experts want to know that their wisdom and knowledge will carry on well after they’re gone. More important, however, is that they have a gift to offer but it’s not for everyone. So they want to know that their gift is going to be received by the right type of person.

Upper Truckee River on June 3, 2022. © Jared Manninen

Since it encompasses the entire year, I’ll continue mentioning that the Tahoe Institute for Natural Science (TINS) is hosting the 2022 Tahoe Wildflower Big Year. If you live in the Tahoe area or even if you’re just visiting, consider signing up on iNaturalist for the project. iNaturalist is essentially a naturalism-based website that enables you to upload your nature-related “observations.” Your citizen science images and data then contribute to research performed by professionals.

Even if you don’t participate in the Tahoe wildflower project, sign up and start uploading observations from your neighborhood (wherever that may be). It’s super fun as it feels a lot like treasure hunting. I can’t tell you how many cool and helpful people I’ve met on the website, as well as the sheer amount of knowledge I’ve gained about the Tahoe region. As I’ve probably mentioned before, posting on iNat has effectively replaced most of my social media needs. No politics. No photos of peoples’ lunch. And no stupid memes 🙂

Miscellaneous Projects

The following are three projects with which I’ve recently been involved. Click the images to read their captions for more information about each project.

For those of you who are interested, you can listen to the Children of the Pioneers songs performed by Rick Mitchell and fellow musicians at the Pioneers of the Children YouTube channel.

If you want to learn more about the Donner Summit Historical Society’s annual fundraiser (guided tours), visit the Donner Party Hike website.

Late Season XC Skiing

It’s been a wet spring at Lake Tahoe. We received a couple of snowstorms at the beginning of May, and then some short bouts of drizzling rain toward the end and into the beginning of June. Crossing my fingers that we have a less severe wildfire season this summer.

That said, I made two more cross-country skiing vlogs at the beginning of May. Here they are and, unless I get really crazy, xc ski vlog #33 was my official last day of skiing for the 2021/22 winter season. The final tally was 108 days of cross-country skiing. There’s no question that I could’ve skied more but with this being the 2022 Tahoe Wildflower Big Year, I’ve been out logging plant identifications every free minute I have 🙂

My Bizarre Connection to Top Gun: Maverick

Top Gun: Maverick finally arrived in theaters this year! I loved watching the original movie growing up, and this second installment is a total blast. However, I’m not that big of a Top Gun fan. Rather, I had an interesting and humorous experience thanks to the second movie. Basically, the production company filmed scenes for Top Gun: Maverick at Lake Tahoe back in December of 2018. As a result, I captured a bunch of photos (albeit lower-resolution) of Tom Cruise filming a climactic winter scene for the movie near my home.

The linked article is more of a recap of the information that I gathered about the scene and speculation on my part (well before seeing the actual movie), as well as all of my photos. The video, on the other hand, is a humorous tale (that I narrate) about my experience capturing the photos. I actually wrote that short story for Lake Tahoe Community College’s annual journal, The Kokanee (2019).

Click the above thumbnail to read my behind-the-scenes article (including all of my photos) of how I captured images of Tom Cruise Filming Top Gun: Maverick in December of 2018 at Washoe Meadows State Park. © Jared Manninen

Tahoe Trail Guide Articles

Here are some Tahoe Trail Guide articles for you to browse in your spare time 🙂

Thanks for being a part of my life. Until next time…

-Jared Manninen

Tahoe Trail Guide is an online resource for hiking, backpacking, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing in the Lake Tahoe region. In addition to trail data, I offer backcountry “how-to” articles and information about the local and natural history of Tahoe. Tahoe Swag is a collection of art and design products I create based on my love of the outdoors and appreciation for Lake Tahoe and the surrounding Sierra Nevada Mountains.

If you like any of the images I post in these newsletters, please contact me. I’d be more than happy to upload them to my RedBubble account so that you can order prints and other merchandise featuring the images.

A Note about Patreon and PayPal…

Patreon (orange button) is an online platform for providing financial support to creators who provide quality digital content that’s otherwise free. I offer various subscription tiers starting at $3. And all subscription tiers from $6 and up will receive original artwork after six consecutive months of contributions. The button directly below the Patreon button is a way in which to provide a one-time payment via PayPal (if subscriptions aren’t your thing).

My newsletters here on JaredManninen.com, the articles that I publish on Tahoe Trail Guide, and the videos I upload to YouTube will always be free. But if you’re interested in contributing to the health and longevity of my websites and YouTube channel, consider subscribing. Even a little goes a long way 🙂

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Last Month’s Newsletter (aka Recap in Video Format!)

To broaden my audience and get more mileage out of these newsletters, I’ve begun to adapt them into short videos for YouTube. Here’s my first attempt at translating one (May 2022) into a video format. I hadn’t originally considered presenting these newsletters in this format, so this one is mostly a glorified slideshow. However, I’d like to eventually incorporate more short video clips into these videos since I often capture video of nature when I’m outdoors (but don’t use the footage anywhere else). Essentially, I want to make two different presentations with a minimal amount of extra work rather than just creating a 1-to-1 adaptation of these text and photo versions of my newsletters.

Categories: Newsletters
Tags: #2022

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