Trying Something New (Part II)

Trying Something New: Our Zone of Proximal Development

Last week I briefly mentioned the term: Zone of Proximal Development. If you didn’t read last week’s post, read it here.

This term is often used in an educational context. Actually, when I was getting my educational certificate from university is when I first encountered this term. To me, this term has always fascinated me because it is the term we use when we are trying to get students to reach their potential. Another term often associated with this is scaffolding. Scaffolding is where we help students learn a process by modeling it for them, doing it with them, guiding them, and then eventually letting them do it by themselves.  I find this method to be very useful, especially over here in China and a great way to teach writing to my students in China.

This is how we commonly see the Zone of Proximal Development.

If I was to use an analogy, imagine you’re a kid and that there is a jar of cookies on the top shelf of the kitchen. Now, you can’t reach those cookies right now, you’re too short. However, if you stand on your tippy toes, you’ll be able to reach the jar of cookies and finally satiate your sweet tooth. The jar of cookies is the Zone of Proximal Development. The action of standing on your tippy toes symbolizes effort. In anything we want to achieve, we need to put in the effort. How much effort that requires depends on our level of expertise at it. For example, writing is relatively easy for me because I have been writing for years now. On the other hand, coding is horrendous and making websites is difficult which is why this website isn’t where I want it to be yet, and I apologize if the formatting of it seems off right now. I promise I’ll get it fixed in time.

Anyway, I mention the Zone of Proximal Development because it is how we develop children, but it is also how we develop as adults. Rather, it should be an idea and concept we understand fully as adults. It’s a zone that we have for ourselves that we should be able to recognize and identify at all times. How far can we push ourselves to grow? How much is too much? This line, or zone in this analogy, is vital for our success and can even make life-and-death as well.

If we are not growing, we are stagnating. That could be a life maxim. Actually, that’s not even accurate. In truth, a more accurate statement may be something like this which comes from Steve Siebold in his book Mental Toughness Secrets of the World Class “You’re either growing or dying. Stagnation does not exist in the universe.” This idea that we cannot stagnate, we can either grow or die is amazing. It means that if we aren’t trying to improve ourselves, we are simply just withering away (eventually). That’s why it’s so important to try something new.

Last week, I talked with you all about how I am trying something new every week. Those activities ranged from salsa classes to learning Spanish to making a video! Well, this past week I also tried something new, or rather, I went to something I’ve never been to before: A Movie Film Awards night. It was a night like the Oscars with the Red Carpet rolled out for all of the people there. And Below you’ll see some pictures from the event.

Me and my actor and actress on the red carpet. The awards won are on the right.
Acceptance speech for Best Male Actor from Gazo Sabore (Steve Hawkins). So happy to have him win!

Short-Film Results

I am sad to say that I didn’t win Best Director or Best Film, but that’s okay because it is my first time doing something like this. And, actually, the people who won both had five years or more of experience, so it is only natural that they win. However, what I do consider a win in my book are the awards that my leading actor and actress took home. For her first role ever, my lead actress took home the “Most Outstanding Achievement” award, and my lead actor took home “Best Male Actor” award. Both of these wins I consider wins of my own because it was my script that they acted out. This movie you’ll be able to see on June 1st at 10:30 p.m. Beijing Time live on YouTube. Tune in!

Finally, hat brings me to the new thing I am doing this week—a premiere on YouTube. I have never tried one of these before, and I hope it is successful, but please log in and watch the film as it premieres on Youtube and I will be online at this time as well being able to interact with all of you as well. The one thing I will apologize for in advance is the background noise and wind noise in some of the shots, this, believe it or not, is quite reduced from the actual sound that had accompanied the footage and was part of the process in developing the video.

But What About the Zone of Proximal Development?

Well, this whole undertaking of producing a movie was an incredible experience like I mentioned before. Many times, I had thought about just quitting, but if I would have quit, then I would have died (to use the analogy from earlier). Because I stuck it out, I was able to learn new skills that I can now utilize in other aspects of my life. No one guided me in the ability to edit a movie, I learned, mainly from YouTube and Google (and how incredible it is to think that we have this technology at our fingertips.) The ability to edit a video is something many people take for granted, and although I am not a professional, I hope you still can enjoy the piece and the symbolism behind it.

I use this Zone of Proximal Development to push myself harder at the gym. This includes trying out different exercises, increasing weight that I can push, but never putting myself in harm’s way with too much weight (I’ve had that happen before and it’s not a pleasant experience). As summer comes this way, I want to travel again, and am thinking of where to go (recommendations are welcome) and as I travel, I will continue learning more stuff about myself. For the first time in years I have gone on a solid cut in order to trim some body fat while retaining muscle. Diets like these never last long, but it’s nice knowing that I have the will power (if I want) to be able to do that. I have gone to church now the past three Sundays in a row, which is more church than I have ever gone to in my life. My spiritual life is now much greater than it ever has been and I owe my colleague, Sebastian, to thank for that as he came into my life in a very rough patch and helped me through some stuff. But, now, I’m living life. More importantly, I’m loving life and the new challenges that I put myself in by constantly pushing myself into my personal Zone of Proximal Development.  

Now, of course, a word of caution. This doesn’t mean that we seize every new opportunity that is presented before us. That would be foolish. We can’t say yes to everything. We shouldn’t do everything. For example, I can’t swim, so I will never go surfing, but, like in the situation with the film, if there is a task that would be difficult to achieve, yet you are capable of achieving it, well, I say “Just do it!” That’s how I have lived my ever since I’ve been twenty-five, but really only now coming to the grips of that concept. When I was 25, I made the craziest decision of my life and just booked a one-way ticket to Santiago, Chile to go teach English there for a year. I didn’t have a job lined up. I didn’t have any friends that I knew. I couldn’t really speak the language. I only had four nights in a hostel and some money. Despite all of that, I made it work. Knowing that I can do that, that I can survive in unknown territory, now makes me more comfortable while traveling and visiting new places, while gathering new experiences, while doing anything. And now, I’m here, in China having an amazingly easy job that allows me to continue writing consistently, in the best shape I’ve ever been in, and I get to see some of my friends from Chile (who have since come to China as well) occasionally. In essence, I am completely happy with my life right now, and as I continue to keep pushing myself, as I continue to grow, I know that that happiness will only expand as I eventually find the place I wish to settle in, find the person who I wish to settle with, and tackle another new obstacle of life called raising a family.

My friends and I on the red carpet. From Chile to China they are always supporting me.

In closing, when faced with a daunting situation and what may seem a hopeless situation, don’t give up. Run towards that fight and crush it. As Henry Ford once said, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right.”

Remember, once again, to tune into the premiere of my short film, Saturday, June 1st at 10:30 p.m. Bejing-time. Cheers Mate, I’ll see you there! Here is the link:

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