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Near Miss Learning

Near Miss Learning

I heard a new term this week I’d like to share with you, “near miss learning.” Imagine driving when you start dozing off, then suddenly you’re startled awake and jerk the wheel toward safety… thankfully avoiding the oncoming danger. That is the near miss. The learning part happens when you need to drive again when tired and you start taking precautions to avoid catastrophe. You might have some coffee, open a window, bring along a passenger to keep you company, make a hands-free phone call, or simply wait until you’re rested before you hit the road.

I had my most profound near miss learning moment when I was diagnosed with cancer. After my doctor broke the news we started talking about my daily habits. I was not exercising consistently, had an OK but not great diet, enjoyed a glass or two of wine every night, and didn’t sleep well. Like the near miss car incident,  I jerked my life toward a new path. I started making better health decisions, and consequently it wasn’t long before I realized that every good decision I made inspired me to want to make other good decisions. I know I was lucky with my diagnosis and I’m grateful every day for the opportunities I have. Learning from that moment was POWERFUL

Today, we’re traveling on the bumpy, dangerous and uncertain pandemic road. The main question is will we learn? As a native Californian, I’ve learned to prepare for an earthquake, which means I have a limited supply of canned foods and water to weather an emergency (among other things). And more recently I’ve had to prepare for wildfires. That means I need a to-go bag ready with a checklist of items I want to grab before heading out the door when my husband and I get the warning to evacuate (it’s happened twice in the past two years). It’s ironic that a year ago I was being evacuated from my home and today I’m being forced to stay inside. It goes to show just how unpredictable life can be and why it’s so important to prepare. 

What an opportunity! We have been forced into a chance to learn from this life-altering pandemic. Whether you’re just now paying attention to the topic of epidemics or not, we now all know epidemiologists have been warning about a pandemic for years. For them it was never a question of if, but when. Some nations heeded the warning and others didn’t. I fear the same is happening with our planet as well. All climatologists agree the planet is warming and life as we know it today will be unsustainable if we don’t take radical action now. Will this pandemic finally be the siren that wakes us up as a society that we can’t wait for the water to lap on our ankles from climate change before we are again forced to take emergency action? I can’t even begin to fathom what that emergency action would begin to look like. 

It’s my hope, however, that we will soon be able to breathe a sigh of relief from this pandemic, understanding full well that it will take each of us different lengths of time before we can feel the emotional release of the exhale. I also recognize that not everybody will be able to do so. And I pray that once we can exhale that we all take a giant inhale of gratitude for our fortune and take concerns for our world/planet much more seriously. We need to learn from this “near miss” we’re all experiencing. If we don’t learn anything from this, then we’re all a bunch of __________. (Insert insulting adjective of your choice.) 

I hope I’m not being naive when I say, “World, we will get through this. We will learn from this. And we will offer a better planet for future generations because of this.”

Image: Steve Johnson

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4 years ago

Hello Miss Val, I was recently introduced to your teachings on “Embracing the Suck” from a friend with an Audibles share. I’ll be honest and tell you I never finished the full book but I have listened to that chapter for at least 3 commutes home from work. In the space that I am in now I love the introduction of the “near miss learning” concept. As a nurse in the Detroit Metro area I’ve asked myself and God, “Where were we headed individually and as a people that You had to jerk us like this?”, “Were we in such… Read more »