“The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education.” ~Albert Einstein
Is there a difference between learning and education. You bet. And in many ways that is what is wrong with the way we teach today. Education is all about giving as much information as possible in the shortest amount of time possible. Cram it in, test on it, and forget it.
Yet learning is all about experiencing. The key to learning is to find something new – something fascinating – and help the student turn that experience into action within their own lives.
Whether you are trying to learn a new language, start a new business, or travel to faraway lands, here are the steps you need to take to learn:
1. Find something fascinating. How do you find a new subject to learn about? Chances are its something that has entered your life for the first time; something you know nothing about but have an instant desire for more information. Your child may have a problem. Or maybe you’ve read about something in a magazine. Or maybe you found a video that sparked your interest on YouTube. Something “clicked” in your mind and brought a certain spark to your attention. That’s how all of my current projects started – its also how I select clients to work with. If an idea doesn’t resonate with me, why spend the time doing it? To be fascinated by something means you are motivated to see it through, no matter what.
2. Find your resources. When I discover a new topic, I immediately start researching it. I Google it for a list of every website that has relevant, believable content. I look through Amazon to find great books on the topic. Then I head over to my local library to see if I can start with a few good books – they are free and allow you a closer look before you begin investing money in resources. And if you can’t find something specific on your topic, you now have an “idea” for a new business.
3. Break it down into doable steps. Everything we do in life is scary when its new. Remember your first day of school? Or how about moving into your first apartment? Getting married or having a baby? Or even visiting a foreign country where they don’t speak your native language. All of it can be a bit overwhelming the first time. Yet for everything you do, you learn what you can, decide on your first few steps – and then do it. Sure you might crash along the way, but that only adds to your learning curve. Prepare yourself as much as possible, but don’t let that get in the way of just doing it.
4. Play with it. Just because you have a guide or a resource that shows you how to do something doesn’t mean you have to do it that way. Start out with an idea in mind, but let it blend and morph along the way. If something feels right, try it. Play with it. Make a game out of it. I’m a huge number person and have spread sheets on everything I start within my businesses. If I develop a new product, I instantly know what is possible by creating a spreadsheet to determine if the numbers make sense. But that doesn’t mean I don’t change things if other opportunities come up. No matter what you do, nothing is set in stone. Always be willing to see if you can improve something by doing it a different way.
5. Bring someone along and do it together. One of the easiest ways to fail is to do it all alone. The minute you want to try something new, find a way to bring a friend along to do it too. Starting a book club or taking a painting class may interest a friend. But what about building a business? If your inner circle doesn’t have a resource to tag along with you, join a group to find a new friend. Every day there are people all over the world making similar decisions – find them and tag along.
6. Commit to deep learning. Studying several hours a day for a couple of weeks can turn you into a mini-expert on any subject. Yet to master a topic may take years. Just because you have a basic understanding doesn’t mean its time to start over with something new. If you have a real passion for it, it will be something you have to dedicate time to for the rest of your life to truly master it. As a photographer for 20 years, we’ve moved from film to digital. As a blogger, I’ve created content in basic format to understanding how to gain a worldwide audience. Things change. And new experiences await. Never feel like you’ve learned it all.
7. Teach it. Nothing showcases your knowledge more than trying to teach another person. I’ve written articles and books, provided quick talks and multi-week training sessions. Nothing will test your knowledge more than trying to share it with someone new. It allows you to look at things a bit different. It opens your eyes up to the basic skills you need in the beginning, all the way through advanced understanding.
8. Apply it to something new. When you start something new, it builds on all of the knowledge you’ve gained over your lifetime. In some cases you’ll find things you can move forward with into new territories. And in other cases you’ll find you need to start at the beginning. Either way, if you’ve built up a system for learning, each step will be easier than the last.