Recording Life III: Hard earned skills

You never know when you won’t be able to do things you were able to do when you were younger. In this installment of the recording life posts, I am suggesting that it is important to document the skills you have worked hard to learn because you never know when you’ll be able to do them again. I created this video both because I’m not sure I’ll get the chance to perform or spin color guard equipment again or at least any time soon, and I know that one day these skills will leave me or at least be diminished. Remembering who we are is not just about having reminders of the experiences we’ve had, as I suggest in my post on Your Memory = You (, but it is also about remembering the physical skills and abilities that you have to work long and hard to develop.

In memory research the type of memory associated with skill learning is called implicit or non-declarative memory. One of the features of this type of memory is that it takes several repetitions to develop a memory trace. Think of learning to ride a bike, shoot a free throw, or play an instrument. When first learning these skills they seem impossible, but with good repetition and refinement we are able to do them without thinking. The without thinking aspect of implicit memory is what makes them ‘non-declarative’. They can become second nature because your brain and body become soft programmed to do them without requiring input from your conscious mind (thinking, attention, control).

I’ve always been interested in the transition from explicit instruction to implicit skill. When first learning you have to get instruction on how to do the fundamentals of a skill. Applying these instructions are necessarily explicit (i.e., someone or something has to ‘show or tell’ you how to do it). As part of the learning we have to think, control, and attend to every aspect of the skill we are trying to perform. Then as we increase the repetitions the fundamentals become more second nature and we are able to elaborate on the fundamental skills more easily. This transition from having the explicitly represent every muscle contraction and movement to being able to perform them all in concert in unique and improvisational ways takes a good teacher, hard work, and dedication to doing it ‘right’. I’m also very interested in how recruitment of brain networks changes as the skill becomes less explicit and more implicit.

What do you think? Can you think of particular skills that have been challenging for you to develop? Do you remember how to explicitly perform the fundamentals of that skill? Or have you forgotten the explicit details and are now left with only the implicit skill? In a later post I will argue that the best teachers are those that can represent for themselves the explicit ‘How’ of particular skills rather than being the best at performing the implicit skill itself. Leave your thoughts in the comments below. Thank you for your time and thoughts!


memory systems tree

One response to “Recording Life III: Hard earned skills

  1. Enjoyed the post – and the fact that you’re starting to integrate experiences over time (the dynamics). Here’s something that you might enjoy contemplating (not selling anything – just sharing) – check it out if you like. It shows how our attitudes and feelings change over time as we learn new skills directly related to our jobs. And – it enables you to predict and deal with various “career crises.” It’s fun, intuitive, easy to learn, FREE – and you’re welcome to comment. Best of luck to you. ~ CCJ

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