Foundations of Amateur Radio When failure doesn't matter ... The other day I read a message from Theodore KS5I who has been around the block a couple of times. He recalls the excitement he experienced when he was first licensed in 1967, the year I was born. He described that at the time transistors were just coming into their own and it was so wonderful to be learning about them. The closing sentence sealed it for me: Theodore wrote: Perhaps, its time for some of us more mature operators to release the past so our hands are free to grab hold of the future and share the enthusiasm of those who look ahead with the same hope and excitement that we had so many years ago.. It's that level of enthusiasm that our hobby needs to foster and develop. The landscape we live in is changing all the time, but new adventures are always just around the corner. They might not look like what was available 50 years ago, or last year, or even yesterday, but they too have their place in the pursuit of amateur radio. Learning is a lifelong activity. If you stop learning, you - as Theodore eloquently puts it - just die. Learning can be scary. Educator Eduardo Briceño talks about the learning zone and the performance zone. The learning zone is when the goal is to improve, concentrating on what we've not yet mastered and the expectation is that mistakes will happen. The performance zone on the other hand is when we do something as best as we can. We concentrate on what we already know and try to minimise mistakes. Amateur radio can operate in either of those zones, doing a contest and going hard can be a performance zone activity, do what we do, do it fast and avoid mistakes. We could also see our activities as a learning zone. We try new things, some will work and some will fail. If we're doing a contest as a learning activity, what skill do you want to master? Is it handing off the QSO, taking the log, recognising a callsign, knowing the CQ zones, matching prefixes to countries and antenna directions, picking the right band, managing battery life or recognising the band conditions? Pick one of those skills and try different things, expect mistakes and learn from them. Over time the thing you practised will be a new skill you've mastered, ready for use when you're going hell for leather in the CQ WW making contacts left right and centre to the envy of your peers. Of course, this doesn't just apply to contesting. For me it's currently about electronics, about figuring out how stuff works and how to apply that to my shack. For you it might be something else in the myriad of options that the 1000 hobbies that amateur radio represents. Life is about growing. Amateur radio is a journey, not a destination. Closing off your options because valves are no longer in vogue and Allstar isn't real radio is just a recipe for stagnation. If you have a dozen minutes to spare, check out Eduardo Briceño's TED talk: How to get better at the things you care about One final point. If you're new to this adventure, your license still wet, then you don't know what you don't know, so you'll spend lots of time in the learning zone. Don't be afraid, it's a great place to be and a wonderful way to explore the hobby in all its variety. I'm Onno VK6FLAB To listen to the podcast, visit the website: http://podcasts.vk6flab.com/. You can also use your podcast tool of choice and search for my callsign, VK6FLAB. Full instructions on how to listen are here: https://podcasts.vk6flab.com/about/help All podcast transcripts are collated and edited in an annual volume which you can find by searching for my callsign on your local Amazon store, or visit my author page: http://amazon.com/author/owh. Volume 7 is out now. Feel free to get in touch directly via email: firstname.lastname@example.org, follow on twitter: @VK6FLAB (http://twitter.com/vk6flab/) or check the website for more: http://vk6flab.com/ If you'd like to join a weekly net for new and returning amateurs, check out the details at http://ftroop.vk6flab.com/, the net runs every week on Saturday, from 00:00 to 01:00 UTC on Echolink, IRLP, AllStar Link and 2m FM via various repeaters.