ABL: Always be learning…

School was never fun for me, and I always admired the people who said they loved school. Although I didn’t love all the aspects of gaining an education, the part of it I really liked was the continuous learning process. The unveiling and unraveling of new information that I was building on as I consumed more knowledge about a particular topic.

When I think back to how learning is set-up before you are 18 years old, most of the information was delivered in a format that wasn’t in synch with my particular learning style. My ideal learning style is a combination of hands on (e.g., kinesthetic) and visually learning about a topic. Of course, not all topics in school can be taught this way, but when they were, I found I excelled and retained the information much better.

Finding your learning style is important. It might not be something you have considered, but I’m certain you have a preferred method of consuming information (e.g., reading, watching videos, listening to podcasts, talking to an expert, etc.) as a few common methods. If you take a moment to consider if you favor one of these learning methods over another, you will realize you do have a preference. Figuring out what your ideal learning preference is important, as it will make it much more enjoyable to become someone who is always learning.

Recently I was talking to one of my younger clients. They were telling me about a future profession they want to pursue. However, they did not appreciate the work or mastery of information consumption that it would take to get to that level. This wasn’t the first time a young person expressed that they didn’t see value in educating themselves to get to the professional level they desired. However, the reality is that at some point they will need to invest in the time it will take to consume the knowledge they will require. Otherwise, they will be short changing both themselves and those expecting them to have attained a mastery of their professional knowledge. Realistically, there are not any short cuts to attaining certain professional careers or goals (e.g., becoming a medical doctor).

Yes, it would be ideal if we could skip steps along the process of educating ourselves when we either struggle or are not intrigued with a particular learning segment involved in our journey to master a topic. Although it is during the times when we are struggling and having to grind through to learn something, that we will recall and remember the most vividly, and can serve to help lock in the information we need to understand.

One of the tricks to being able to consume information that we can’t skip over, is to find creative ways we can make the information more palatable. Think in terms of gamification. Is it possible to learn the information via perhaps a kinesthetic approach (e.g., hands on) versus having to read about it? Or, could you find someone who has already mastered the subject and have them talk you through gaining an understanding of the information? Maybe another option would be drawing out and making the information come to life visually?

When I worked in the tech world, I would often ask the computer engineers to visually show me on a whiteboard what they had created. Upon seeing the information come to life both verbally and visually was my ideal way of learning complex information. This method worked for me every time. However, it took me a few years early on in my career to figure this out. Once I did, it unlocked ways for me to learn and then be able to communicate this information to others, which was an essential part of my profession.

A challenge many people face, is that they don’t realize they become too comfortable with reaching a knowledge plateau. In fact, this happens frequently after people finish their basic educational requirements. Fortunately, after a person gets past completing their basic requirements, they are free to begin only consuming information which is of interest to them.

Realistically there are many people who consume information simultaneously they are interested in, in combination with their required learning. If this wasn’t you, and it wasn’t me, after graduating from college was a liberating experience for a number of reasons. The number one reason was being able to learn what I wanted to learn about, and via the way I wanted to learn it.

Here’s my challenge to you. Are you willing to “Always be learning” (ABL)? I hope so. If you are, please consider these additional reasons to do so:

  • Instead of talking about others, when you are continuously consuming new information, you can share it with others to have them benefit from the information you learned versus being “that person” who is only able to talk about other people.
  • Challenge yourself to learn about topics you don’t understand, or don’t embrace. You will gain an entirely new perspective that will serve to inform you as you are factoring this new knowledge into the rest of your life. For example, learn about a different culture than your own to appreciate both the differences and similarities you will discover.
  • Whenever possible, and hopefully we will be able to do this more post the Pandemic, queue up a list of places to travel to. Seeing and interacting with people from different places either in your country, or in a different country can serve as some of the best sources for helping you to ABL.
  • You will be multiple levels happier when you are learning more about the topics which interest you, but that you have not achieved a mastery level of yet. When you can go both wide and deep on a topic, you will be inspired to continue fueling your level of knowledge and expertise in an area.
  • Become the person others describe as an “interesting person”, as a result of the knowledge they have amassed and regularly apply it in both their personal and professional lives. No one wants to be categorized as “dull” or not able to add value to a conversation.

Now that you have some reasons to always be learning, think about some of your own ways you can challenge yourself to do so. Learning is an investment in yourself, and with the amount of access to free information available to us either on-line or more traditional methods, there is no excuse for anyone not to take advantage of this.

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