Do You Learn Something New Every Day?

Learning Something New

So, you learn something new every day do you? Well actually, I’m afraid you probably don’t. In fact, I doubt you have truly learnt anything for quite a while. You see, in order to properly learn something, a number of things have to happen.

Now, before we go into that, lets put some context around this and dispel what I think is actually a myth. Despite what the accepted definitions may say, in my humble opinion, knowing something you didn’t know before and being able to recall new information, does not, and I repeat, does not, mean you have learnt something. All that means is you know something you didn’t know before and you can recall it, that is all. Most people would argue this is in fact learning, but this is where I start to question it and I’ll tell you why.

I honestly don’t think that learning takes place just because there is a need to know something. For me, learning happens in order to solve a problem, to be able to do something different or to be better at something. That means that the something needs to be clearly understood, not just recalled. It also and most importantly needs to be actually applied and used, and consistently. And when that happens, the result is lasting change and real improvement, which is surely the point of learning something in the first place?

Let me give you a few examples. I ‘know’ how to play golf and I what I need to do to hit a golf ball, so one could argue that I have learnt how to play the game. But do I understand it? No. Do I apply that knowledge successfully and consistently? No. Am I any good at it? Unsurprisingly, no. A lot of people probably ‘know’ what to do to drive a car before they do because they have seen it so many times, but does it mean they can? No it doesn’t. Many leaders and managers will say they are great communicators and coaches and can rattle off the theory with ease, but do they actually do it and do it well? Sadly, no they don’t. And quite possibly worst of all, I come across people who say they ‘know’ how to ‘train’ and ‘coach’ people. But can they actually do it and do it well? Unfortunately for their learners, no they can’t. And the common denominators in all these examples? No real understanding and a lack of consistent use and application. In other words, just ‘knowing’ something and then using that knowledge to be able to actually do that something, and do it well, are very different things, and unless you can do both, for me, you haven’t really learnt anything.

Now, don’t get me wrong, knowledge and theory are a vital component of any journey of learning, but they are just one component. Reading a book, sitting through a presentation, attending a training course or watching a video on YouTube are all great, and don’t stop doing them, but don’t for a second think you have ticked the learning box by doing any of these in isolation. In order to fully and truly learn, one has to surely be able to not only know something, but also understand it and then adapt so that most crucially, one can actually use that knowledge and apply it, consistently, time and again. And when that happens, real improvement, lasting change and what I like to call, evolution, will take place. Then and only then can you say you have learnt something.

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The Most Precious Force of Nature in the Whole Universe

Learning

Whether we like it or not, whether we enjoy it or not, whether we realise it’s happening or not, learning is all around us. It’s a part of us, it’s a force of nature that for me is one of the most precious in the whole Universe. One could also argue that it’s a key to life itself and is the very fabric of evolution and certainly civilisation.

Let’s explore this a little. Since the dawn of time, since the very first organisms of life existed, it has sought out and found a better way. It has had to in order to survive. And when a better way is found, change takes place, life adjusts and then evolves into a newer, better version that is able to continue. For millennia, this has happened, time after time, after time. However, and this is the part that fascinates me the most, finding a better way is not something that just happens and is where learning plays it’s crucial part. In order to find a better way, life has to learn. Life has to establish what works and what doesn’t, what’s successful and what isn’t and what will enable it to survive and flourish so that life itself can continue. This is very much trial and error and a difficult process, where the weakest sadly don’t survive, however, eventually, learning takes it’s bow and life finds a way, adapts, evolves and gets better.

And this leads us to now, with the world as we know it, with all the technology and marvels of science we have around us. But how did all this happen? It happened because as a species, we are an integral part of life and have an undeniable and inescapable instinct to make things better, to improve, to survive. And to do that we had to learn stuff. It’s that simple. Now I get there are elements of our world and of life that are not very good, in fact, some are absolutely horrible, but I would ask again, how does this happen? Well, for me, this time it’s the opposite, it’s because we don’t actually always learn and so life works against us.

This brings me back to my original thought of learning being the most precious force of nature in the whole universe. If indeed it is and I truly do believe that, then it is also something we should embrace, purposefully seek out at every opportunity and protect with every fibre of our being, instead of ignoring it and seeing it as an obstacle to life. And I get that learning is difficult, life is difficult if we choose to perceive it that way, however learning can only lead to positive change, improvement and a better life, if we use it.

My last point is this, and probably my most important. For those of us that facilitate learning and help others to improve and be better, we are a key part of the process that means life finds a way, adapts and gets better. This for me, is one of the biggest responsibilities that anyone can have and cannot be taken lightly. We all have a responsibility to ourselves, our profession and most importantly our learners to do and be the very best we can be because we have an impact on life itself. We are accountable for not only what we do, but how and why we do it. We have a responsibility to uphold and have the highest of standards and to ensure we keep learning ourselves and for the benefit of our learners and the lives we impact, not just ourselves and our own success.

Learning is a very serious business and needs to be taken seriously because it’s the most precious force of nature in the whole Universe.

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Feedback. Elephant In The Room?

Feedback. Elephant In The Room?

Feedback – “Information about a reaction for the basis of improvement”.

It’s a strange word though isn’t it and much more complicated in reality than this fairly simple and positive definition. Feedback tends to be almost a dirty word, a practice that is avoided, feared, ignored……even used as a put down or a disciplinary measure.

The intent of feedback, if going by it’s definition, is anything but this though. Feedback should be a gift, something that’s treasured, sought out, used and embraced. Sadly however, it is very rarely this.

Feedback, in whatever form, arises because something has happened….an outcome if you will. When there is an outcome, there is a result, whether that be good, bad or indifferent and this actually provides a wonderful opportunity. An opportunity to do whatever has happened differently, to try again, to be better next time, to learn and ultimately succeed……and that can only ever be positive. In fact, looking at it this way, it’s actually impossible to fail, so why therefore is feedback….the Elephant in the room?

Another way to look at it is this. The world as we know it exists because of evolution, which I think is widely accepted. Evolution happens because of change, stuff happening and a whole load of outcomes as a result of that stuff. Put another way, since the dawn of time, nature has constantly tried something else, done stuff differently, learned and has got better because of feedback, in whatever form that feedback has come. So, without feedback, without outcomes and results, nothing would happen, nothing would evolve, get better and as a species, we wouldn’t achieve anything.

So when you have a result or an outcome, in whatever form it comes, grab that feedback for all it’s worth because it may just allow you to make a change that makes ALL THE difference.

As for those giving feedback, and this is important……pause, think and firstly make sure you give it. But when you do, do it as if it is a gift and one that is going to change the world…..because it just might…….somewhere down the line. As with any gift, how it is given will massively impact how it’s received. What you put into it, the other person will get out. Don’t deny the other person that opportunity to change the world, give them that gift.

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