The Long And The Short Of It

30 October 2020

This is a phrase which fascinated me when I was quite young and first heard it. To my logical mind it made no sense. Something was either long, or short. As the years passed, I got to meet a few different people, some of whom were excessive in their verbosity whilst others were just naturally succinct in their responses. In fact I was accused of using long, maybe ‘complicated’ words and phrases! But I found that it really depended very much on who and what was being talked about. I once heard a great story, which is this.

Two priests are near a church and are standing by the side of the road, holding up a sign which reads: ‘The End is Near! Turn yourself around now, before it’s too late!’ A car speeds by and the driver yells out “Leave me alone, you religious nuts!” Suddenly, from around the next bend they hear screeching tyres and a big splash. “Do you think,” says one priest to the other, “we should just put up a sign that says ‘Bridge Out’ instead?”

But equally, there are times when a full and detailed explanation is not just needed, it is vital. This is why all good training is important. So many times, especially nowadays, I hear of folk who have come from school, college or university into a job and they think they know it all. Sadly that is rarely the case. They do have much to learn and this can only come from experience and really good training. When I passed my driving test (at the second attempt!) I was politely told “you have been taught to pass a driving test – now you must learn to drive”. After that I was then taught by a very skilled driver who had been in the army. He drove cars, buses, lorries, tanks – you name it, he drove it. He rode motor-bikes too. I learned road-craft, to anticipate, to be aware of what was going on around me. That person was my eldest brother. A few years later, circumstances meant I had to use a small motor-bike instead of a car. A good friend, with his huge Kawasaki 650cc bike, then taught me extra skills, like extra awareness of other road users, etc. My dear mother was just horrified at me riding my small 80cc bike, but our local vicar assured her I would be fine. I was, because I had been given proper training.

Where I am now, the Carers are dealing with people, some with conditions that are difficult to manage. These inmates are being cared for very well, but this requires specialist skills along with detailed training. I couldn’t do it, but the folk here do a really excellent job. But each to their own, as the saying goes. For example, I am not skilled with cooking food, but others are. A friend of mine made some lovely dish for a neighbour of theirs and is going to give them a training session on just how to create this particular meal. To do so though will require strict attention to detail regarding all of the ingredients, preparing and cooking etc. Just giving a brief outline on what is required simply will not do. It amazes me how some people can seemingly throw ingredients together and a while later there is this beautiful meal – it is magic!  

I have been told that whilst many can do, not everyone can teach. It requires patience and understanding, also the willingness to learn. That applies both to the learner and the teacher. When I was being taught to teach, I was shown a proper process, which is to firstly deliver the training, secondly sit down and review it by deciding what went well, what could have been done better and what needs changing. Thirdly make the changes. Then return to stage one, continuing to deliver, review and refine. This must be done every single time, over and over again. The worst teachers are the ones with a laminated lesson plan!

I have said quite a few times now about computers and how useful they can be. What helps us use them is basic training like turning them off properly, and most definitely not treating them like a light! I am also a great believer in keyboard short-cuts, they can make a difference in getting work done. Right now I am using a program (or app, if you prefer) to write and store notes. There are some occasions when I want to either make the text larger, make it bold, all of these things. These can be done with the aid of a computer mouse, but there are a range of keyboard shortcuts that can and do enable you to do these things without taking hands away from the keyboard.

But to begin with, I used this app just as it was, without bothering to learn about any keyboard short-cuts. I went the long way round to do what I wanted. So only now am I learning these quicker ways to achieve what I am after. I realise that a few folk can get annoyed, especially if they realise what time they might have saved themselves, but these days I try not to get annoyed when that happens. We all have to learn and often the best way is through making mistakes. They are not mistakes, you see. It does not matter if you get there by going the long way round to begin with and then take the quicker route later. A friend of mine, ex-RAF ground crew, believes the same. We go ‘by the book’ to start with and only when we understand what we are doing and how it can often impact on other things, do we learn and use a short-cut. But only when it is safe to do so. I am reminded that in the Microsoft Windows, deleting a file etc puts it into the Recycle Bin. The MacBook Pro by Apple has the same, but on their system it is called Trash. Without that in place, just deleting the file instantly can lead to a few tears! It’s a safety net, just in case we delete a file by mistake. But with the Recycle Bin or Trash there, a deleted item can be easily restored.

The dictionary definition of ‘the long and the short of it’ is “Used when making a statement that is brief and that tells someone only the most important parts of something.” We see this in action every day, when we read news articles. They will usually have a headline, giving us an idea as to what the article is about. So,I guess I could put down more on this subject, but the long and short of it is that I think I’ve written enough about that phrase!

I have already included a fun item earlier, so I’ll leave you with what I think is a lovely quote: “Make your life journey exciting, educational, entertaining and enlightening.” ~ Srinivas Arka

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