A Lesson about Learning

love to learn pencil signage on wall near walking manOne of my favourite quotes about learning:

“In times of change the learners shall inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.”
Eric Hoffer.

So true and so relevant for those old arrogant, ignorant dinosaurs who stopped actively learning twenty years ago because they already know everything. The day we stop learning is the day we start going backwards.

It’s been said many times that we live in the information age and without doubt, we do. The Internet has made sure of that. If you want access to information about pretty much anything, then it’s only a search engine click away. The virtual classroom of 2008 is bigger than ever and allows us to learn like never before.

Or does it?

Surely more information equals more learning right?

Well you might think so but the answer is, not necessarily. In fact, not often. Curiously, some of us seem pretty determined to not learn – just take a look around at what’s going on in our very educated, clever world at the moment. Or maybe even take a peek in the mirror.

If you’re a regular to this site or sites like this, then there’s a fair chance that you’re all about self improvement; creating a new and improved version of you. A better life and a better you. The question you need to ask yourself is:

“Am I genuinely learning (changing, adapting, improving, doing different, creating different outcomes) or am I merely exposing myself to more and more information that I typically don’t use?”

Learning equals Change

If the most desirable consequence of learning is positive change (I’m talking about learning in relation to personal growth here), then it would seem that many of us have learned nothing for a long time. We have read lots, heard lots, watched lots and learned nothing. Could it be that many of us read self-help books, trawl websites such as this one, attend seminars, listen to CDs, watch DVDs and then do nothing with the acquired (and often, paid for) information? Could we be people who don’t actually learn much at all? If results are a reflection of what we’ve learned, then some of us definitely need to polish up our ‘learning skills’.

“But Craig, I read and study, I attend workshops, I do courses and I even put your articles up on my fridge.” Well that’s nice, but do you consistently and diligently apply that information and create different results in your life? Hello? Are you there?

Too much info, too little learning

Does reading self-help stuff (books, websites, magazines, journals), hearing (motivators, preachers, teachers, CDs), watching (DVDs, Webinars) and attending (classes, workshops, seminars, university) necessarily translate to learning? No. Sometimes it just translates to… reading, hearing, watching and attending. Does sitting in countless workshops, courses and programs year in, year out, necessarily equate to personal growth? No. Sometimes it just equates to more personal debt. After all, personal development can be expensive. We all know people who consume self-help material voraciously but rarely learn anything. Their life reality never seems to change and neither do they. Sometimes we are those people.

You, only better.

So when it comes to creating the new and improved version of you (you, only better), what is genuine learning about?

It’s about having a new understanding, perspective and mindset. It’s about changing, evolving, growing, adapting and creating better outcomes. It’s about doing different to create different. It’s about reading, hearing, watching and then applying! Doing something with that information to create positive change. It’s about taking the theory and making it a reality in your life.

It’s in the doing that we learn.

Memorising a whole bunch of stuff ain’t learning; that’s memorising. A nice party trick but ain’t gonna change your reality for the better. Some people recite motivational crap all day, but they don’t actually live it. Therefore, they haven’t learned. They are not students, they are self-help parrots. Like a teeny weeny Anthony Robbins without the money. Or the height. Or teeth.

Stop it Craig.

So why do we visit sites like this?

Well mostly, we come here because in some way, we want more than we have right now; more health, more happiness, more wealth, more joy, more satisfaction, more fun, more peace, more excitement and more hope. That’s a no-brainer. On a certain level we are all the same in terms of our desire for ‘more’. When we understand that the real indicator of learning is change, then we can quickly establish whether or not we’re learning. If the result of your reading, hearing, watching, researching and attending is that you are changing your behaviours and habits and therefore creating better results in your life, then you’re learning.

If you’re not, then you need to learn to learn.

Students of convenience

It’s been said (okay, I said it) that we are often students of convenience – we’ll learn what we want to learn; what doesn’t challenge us too much, what doesn’t make us uncomfortable and what doesn’t inconvenience us. Many people don’t learn (as well or as often as they could), not because they can’t but because (on some level) they don’t want it enough. Learning is often a painful, messy, time-consuming, impractical, exhausting and inconvenient process – and we all hate being inconvenienced. Too often we’re pleasure junkies and the truth is that some lessons simply are neither fun or easy. We say that we want to learn but when we’re totally honest about it, so often we’re simply going through the motions.

Simulated learning; looks like learning, but isn’t.

When I give a corporate presentation I can usually spot the non-learners before I open my mouth. They generally have their arms crossed (defensive body language) and an ‘I-don’t-wanna-be-here’ look on their face. For some reason best known to them, they have decided that they can’t learn anything from me. And they don’t. Funny that. It doesn’t matter what’s about to come out of my mouth, they have made a decision (consciously or not) to not learn anything from me.

If you’re in a seminar, workshop or some other learning situation and the majority of the people are learning something and you’re not, then there’s a few possibilities:

1. You’re a genius and you know it all.
2. You’re not an auditory learner (see definitions below).
3. You don’t really want to learn.
4. You’re getting in your own way. Again.
5. You don’t want to be wrong or embarrassed.
6. You don’t apply what you hear.
7. You don’t want to have to re-wire your thinking or disturb your current ‘program’.
8. You don’t want someone to teach you something which challenges your current beliefs (this is very common).
9. You’re not prepared to get uncomfortable or deal with the ‘inconvenience’ of it all.

The difference between people who genuinely want to learn and people who don’t:

1. The questions they ask – people who want to learn ask genuine questions, people who don’t, make statements or say nothing. People who want to learn are almost child-like; excited, open-minded, ready.

2. Their body language – arms crossed, body angled away from the speaker, disinterested facial expressions, constantly looking around the room… probably not interested in learning.

3. Their attitude – you can discern someone’s attitude without talking to them. The guy who’s constantly talking through the presentation for example. Some people’s bad attitude gets in the way of their natural ability. They sabotage their own potential with their stinkin’ thinkin’.

4. Then there’s the person who is more concerned with demonstrating to the rest of the room how intelligent, hilarious and amusing they are – as opposed to being interested in learning something.

5. Their participation or lack there of – head nodding, volunteering for activities, overall enthusiasm.

What’s really interesting is that even with this post (article), some people who desperately need to hear (and apply) this message – it’s like it was written just for them – will still decide to do nothing with the information. Even though they claim they’re all about personal growth and wanting to change their life. Of course they will rationalise, justify and explain it to themselves (so they feel good about doing nothing) and then they will find a way to remain a simulated learner. Sad really. And such a waste of potential.
And time.

Learning styles

Before I finish this rather lengthy (what’s new?) monologue, a quick overview of different learning styles… We all learn in different ways and in order for us to be able to maximise our potential it’s imperative that we understand what learning style works best for us individually. Many intelligent, creative, gifted kids have been marginalised, victimised and handicapped over the years because the one-dimensional educational system they inhabit does not seem to understand that not all children learn the same way or should be taught the same way. For example, in most traditional educational systems, kinesthetic learners are at a distinct disadvantage.

Visual Learners

They learn through seeing stuff. These learners need to see the teacher’s body language and facial expression to fully understand the content of a lesson. They tend to prefer sitting at the front of the classroom to avoid visual obstructions (e.g. people’s heads). They may think in pictures and learn best from visual displays including: diagrams, illustrated text books, overhead transparencies, videos, flip charts and hand-outs. During a lecture or classroom discussion, visual learners often prefer to take detailed notes to absorb the information.

Auditory Learners

They learn through listening. They learn best through verbal lectures, discussions, talking things through and listening to what others have to say. Auditory learners interpret the underlying meanings of speech through listening to tone of voice, pitch, speed and other nuances. Written information may have little meaning until it is heard. These learners often benefit from reading text aloud and using a tape recorder.

Kinesthetic Learners.

They learn through, moving, doing and touching. Kinesthetic people learn best through a hands-on approach, actively exploring the physical world around them. They may find it hard to sit still for long periods and may become distracted by their need for activity and exploration. *Ref: LdPride.net

So, imagine what happens when we take that kid who’s a kinesthetic learner and put him in a learning environment which has been created for visual and auditory learners. He soon ‘learns’ that he’s stupid.

We’re going to explore more on learning styles over the coming weeks.

I’ll leave you with another one of my favourite quotes:

“We cannot become what we need by remaining what we are.” Max Depree

Enjoy your day.