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This week at work I was reviewing a video of a colleague, Rhys Cassidy presenting at a recent PechaKucha event in Brisbane. Rhys is a high school teacher here in Brisbane and is one of the many incredibly talented and passionate people I’ve had the privelege of getting to know in the last year and a bit.
In his presentation Rhys shared this awesome quote from Bruce Lee and it got me thinking about the idea of learning and how when we talk about personal growth, we are really talking about a process of personal, perpetual learning. Growth comes from a lifetime of learning through personal experience.
I’ve experienced this for myself. Since I’ve consciously been investing in personal growth, and opening myself to the possibilities of chance and serendipitous experiences (for at least the last four years) I have been learning more rapidly than at any stage in my life!
It’s a real spin out how much of my life now revolves around learning, and so in this context, I want to share a collection of eight powerful principles that I’ve discovered for learning:
1. The opposite of learning is knowing.
Any teacher will tell you that it is impossible to teach a student who is not interested or thinks they already know everything (remember high school?!). The first key to learning is wanting to learn. We must first be open to learning and be realistic enough to accept that we don’t know everything. This is easy when we are venturing into areas that we are curious about or even when we are in a crisis and have run out of answers. But it’s not so easy in areas we consider ourselves to already be an “expert” in. Being an “expert” limits our opportunities to grow and learn. I’m constantly reminding myself to switch from a knowing state of mind to a curious and open state of mind.
2. Trust the process.
To learn, we often need to be prepared to take risks and try on new behaviours. Growth and positive change come from being outside our comfort zones and often this requires us to suspend judgement and trust the process that we are engaged with. Sure, I’ve been involved in plenty of unfulfilling learning experiences, but I guarentee you will always get more out of even the worst situations, by trusting the process you’re engaged with. Analyse, criticise (and laugh!) after the event.
3. Let go of the outcome.
A big part of trusting the process is also letting go of the outcome. So often our expectation of a certain outcome can get in the way of a really powerful experience that we had never planned for. I’ve learnt that by trusting the process and letting go of the outcome I open myself up to a world of unknown and infinite possibilities to learn and grow.
“Expect everything, and anything seems nothing. Expect nothing, and anything seems everything.”– Samuel Hazo.
4. Be present. Engage. Remove judgement.
The opposite of being present is being somewhere else. For me, that ‘somewhere else’ is in my head, judging, evaluating, rationalising and criticising the situation that I am in. While it is our mind that helps us to make sense of an experience after it occurs, the critical or rational mind is not helpful in the moment of learning.
Being present is always a choice. My former boss Kellie uses a great analogy with her team when she asks “are you on the court or watching from the sidelines?” If you’re on the court then you are there, present in the moment, contributing and taking away. If you’re watching from the sidelines, you’re a spectator, criticising and judging but without any value.
Part of being present for me is engaging my body or actively learning. I find that if I am proactive in learning (rather than waiting to be taught) I can dissolve my judgemental mind and get “on the court”.
5. Small-chunk pieces of knowledge.
I had a girlfriend in uni that used to say to me “the only way to eat an elephant is one mouthful at a time”. This is a ridiculous statement but one that I found quite useful in reminding me to break down complex tasks and goals into small, bite-sized pieces! I later came across this concept via Neil Strauss who talks about ‘small-chunking’ pieces of knowledge. Neil’s advice is to seek to acquire just the basic skills that you need to get you to the next level. This means constantly being just a little bit outside your comfort zone. If you’re not a little bit uncomfortable, you’re not on a pathway of perpetual learning and growth!
6. Follow the message, not the messenger.
No teacher is perfect. I’ve found that often people who are in positions of authority when it comes to teaching, particularly in areas of personal growth, are on their own journey of learning and growth and are therefore far from perfect. This is an incredibly liberating realisation because once you let go of the fact that there are no “gurus” and we are all vulnerable and learning then you start to see teachers and messages everywhere! The importance is always in the message and not the messenger.
7. Take what’s useful, leave the rest.
One of my favourite quotes from Serge Kahili King’s book on the Huna Method is that “the measure of truth is effectiveness”. This means that if it works then it’s true for you.
Learning is a personal thing. We are all on our own unique journey and what works for one person won’t work for another. I don’t expect everyone in the world to love this blog, agree with messages presented or find it useful. But I am sharing regardless, because what I share is true for me and if that resonates with even an occasional reader in a way that is useful, then I feel like I have contributed some value. One of my favourite bloggers Mastin Kipp makes a special effort to acknowledge this point in each of his blogs by saying “take what resonates with you in this blog and leave the rest.”
8. Take one thing.
Have you ever been stuck in a situation where you are bored out of your brains? Maybe a long work meeting, a conference or a family get-together? Of course you have. I have too.
I found the first day of my first Real Education workshop so uncomfortable and confronting that I almost decided to quit and go home. Instead I chose (to be awesome) to shift my mindset of judging, to one of looking for the learning and lesson in the situation I was in. I reassured myself with this one statement: take one thing. And when my mind was open to learn just one thing I suddenly found myself learning many things!
So, I’m curious. What have you learnt about learning? Are any of these principles useful for you? If you are a teacher or an educator, what methods do you use to inspire others and create an environment for them to learn?
Til next week, keep learning and Be Awesome!