Summer is my time to catch up on reading, and one of my favorite books from the past few months has been The First 20 Hours: How To Learn Anything… Fast! by Josh Kaufman. Josh writes about rapid skill acquisition, and how anyone can become competent at a new skill quickly by giving it focused attention. Like Josh, there is a mountain of things I’d like to do, but never seem to find the time or the energy to get good enough at any of them. Reading this book made me think a lot about how I teach broadcast meteorology at Lyndon State, and how I can help students get better, faster.
One of the things that Kaufman touches on in the book is the difference between learning and training. With the explosion of information online, learning anything on the internet is getting easier and easier. People are very open to sharing information on the things they love. Learning about chroma-key ad-lib essential in becoming a successful broadcast meteorologist. Every student who has aspirations of doing weather on local television news should have an instructor on campus with some experience in the field. At the very least, a budding broadcaster should be able to get some meaningful performance feedback from a meteorologist through an internship.
I see so many demo tapes of mets with great potential that just didn’t get it right in college. Maybe they never smiled.. ever. Maybe they have some vocal issues. I wonder why no one ever told them to do otherwise. All that comes with learning, and that is where skill acquisition starts. In order to begin getting good at anything, you need to know the right way to do it first, and then get fast feedback along the way.
Learning a skill however, is just a small piece of the puzzle. The other, larger and more important piece is training. You need to practice to get better. You need to practice a lot. I tell my students at the beginning of the year that learning broadcast meteorology is a lot like running a marathon. You can learn how to run, how to pace yourself, but don’t plan to roll out of bed the day of the race and use that information to make it the entire 26.2 miles. Again, I see a lot of demo tapes that look like they tried to run a marathon without the training, usually on the last day of their internship. Back when I was in college I was the same way, which is why I teach at Lyndon today and try to help other broadcast mets from going down that same painful path.
Many issues that plague new broadcast meteorologists are fixed very simply and easily with practice. Most fast talkers do so because they are nervous. I could tell a met over and over that they are talking too fast, but it’s only when they become more comfortable through live, weekly weathercasts are they able to truly shake the bad habit. Things get easier the more often you do something. It’s the same if you are learning to draw, play golf, or ad-lib weather information in front of a chroma-key wall during a live newscast.
When you are looking for a good college broadcast meteorology program, make sure you are getting the right amount of learning and training. At Lyndon State we have one semester in our classroom studio, a second semester with both classroom and live TV elements, and then a full year of live, thirty-minute newscasts. There are many great programs out there, and you need to find the one that is going to be right for you.
If you are looking to learn more about rapid skill acquisition, I highly recommend that you pick up Josh Kaufman’s The First 20 Hours. He’ll walk you through the process of picking up new skills and show you how he used those steps to learn some new skills himself. It’s inspired me to learn the ukulele this summer! I’ve only just started but it’s been a lot of fun, and Josh’s approach to skill acquisition has made it that much more rewarding. What do you want to learn?