As a tech person, and an entrepreneur, much of my learning has been focused on learning new tech, or how to run a business. Now that I have been in tech for 20 years, and running a business for 15, I can see that it’s time for something completely different (cue Monty Python’s Flying Circus theme song).
My natural tendency is to sit in front of a computer all day long, researching, writing, and processing information. Heck, one reason I enjoyed IT early on was being able to ignore people! But now with a lot of employees, offices in mulitple cities, client relationships to manage, and partners to work with, I now have to become a “people-person”. Some of you reading this may be scratching your head wondering what the problem is, but for a natural introvert, this is tough.
Figuring out how to become “better” is a huge challenge for me. What do I focus on? Better dad, husband, boss, business partner, friend, follower of Jesus? Health, fitness? With the benefit of “experience”, I can honestly say I need to work on all of these. So my initial push was to fix this body that I broke, in order to have a foundation on which to build all of the others.
The process of figuring out how to fix myself has lead me re-evaluate how I learn and as a result take up new ways of learning, and to resurrect some old ones but do them better. Here goes.
Learning from others
This just makes sense. Learning from others started for us all at birth, whether we wanted to or not. Some people embraced learning, other fought it. Regardless, everyone seems to have their own style. Self-learning is my chosen way, as sitting in seminars and classes just bores me to tears. Here are some ways that are currently working for me:
- Podcasts – Probably my current favourite way to learn. The best ones, in my opinion, are the podcasts where the podcaster interviews people who have done something specific, sometimes special, but not always. As i drive to work or travel on planes, trains, and busses, I do my listening. Currently, I probably listen to 10-15 podcasts a week. Most are very interesting, but I typically learning 1-2 important things each week. But that is plenty! Just trying to apply one new thing each week to my life is a real challenge.
- Books – The tried and true, books are once again becoming a staple in my learning diet. Here are two challenges I have with books: 1) The author is usually writing about something that worked for them, in a specific time and place, with a specific set of circumstances and people. Replicating this “success” if often impossible, as replicating those things can never be done again. 2) Most books are way too long to be valuable. The number of books with hundreds of pages that I have read that could be 25-50 pages is astounding.
- Blogs – Not my favourite, because most blogs are just opinions that others offer (not unlike this one), but there are some that provide value.
Learning on your own
There is nothing like trying it yourself to make it real. Over the years i have known many academics who consider themselves authorities in their field, and yet they have never taken their knowledge out of a classroom or a lab and tested it in the real world.
- Experience – Get out of your current world. Pick one new thing every few months and try it. A new exercise routine, a new supplement, a trip to a new place. Or better yet, do something you would never have thought of trying before. Smile at a complete stranger. Let someone in line in front of you. Give something important away. Breaking habits is the hardest part of the experience that you will attempt, but the most rewarding.
- Hack it – Approach everything as a test. One of the hardest things I have observed people doing is letting go of something they consider a non-negotiable. So, try something temporarily. View it as just a test to see the results, and leave yourself the freedom to go back to your old ways. Find shortcuts. Take a hackers approach to learning, like learning to speed-read.
- Apply nuggets from others – Not everything you learn has to be life changing. Just applying a little change, a little nugget, that you learn from someone else, can be simple. Yet when you add up many small changes, the difference can be profound.
- Share what you learn – Ok, we live in a world of oversharing, which I will confess that I don’t completely comprehend. So, I’m not encouraging you to share your deepest, darkest thoughts/secrets with the world, but if something works for you, share it with others. The act of putting something into a format that is clear to someone else is a great experience in and of itself, and often leads to refinement of your ideas and knowledge.
- Don’t assume others want to learn, or that they will agree with you – So this has been the hardest for me. I get excited when I learn something that i believe can help others, and I like to share it. But I will tell you, the number of times that I have had people verbally beat me down when I have said something that challenges their comfort zone is astounding. That leads me to my next point.
- The most closed minded are those closest to you – The people you have associated with in the past are likely those who agree with your old ideas, ways, and concepts. Most people aren’t open to learning from you. They may be open to learn from an “expert”, which you are not in their mind because they know you. I find it odd that people are more willing to learn from a complete stranger who they perceive is an expert, than someone they personally know and should be able to trust, and who likely has their best interest in mind.
To wrap up, here are a few things I hope you will take away from this:
- Go learn something new, and be intentional about it
- Try different methods until you figure out what works for you. This may change over time.
- Share with those willing to listen. It will help you refine your learning.