Oh no I can see it now, some feathers might have been ruffled. I’ll cut to the chase quickly, if you have a love for learning and were one of those kids in school who figured out their own way to solve math problems or spent your free time dissecting how you could get yourself out of trouble than this post is for you. Otherwise, I would steer clear of it as it may upset some of you.
“When you grow up, you tend to get told that the world is the way it is and your life is just to live your life inside the world, try not to bash into the walls too much, try to have a nice family, have fun, save a little money. That’s a very limited life. Life can be much broader, once you discover one simple fact, and that is that everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you. And you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use. Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.” -Steve Jobs
EDUCATON VS. LEARNING
There’s a big difference between education and learning.
“…Both learning and education has a great influence on the mind and character of an individual. However, learning is the basic instinct possessed by all individuals, and, on the the other hand, education is acquired by individuals…”
“…Learning is knowledge gained through experience, and education is knowledge gained through teaching. Education can be said to be well organised, whereas learning is something that is related to an individual’s perception…” Differencebetween.net
A few days ago I was reading and researching and found a wonderful example that compared the two.
Education: The attempt to extend someone else’s knowledge or skills on another. May not result in actual learning.
Learning: The act of absorbing and expanding knowledge and skills. Can be obtained without education.
Education: Uses tools like standard eyes tests that assess memorization.
Learning: Is measured through application of concepts and ideas.
Education: Typically focuses on a primary discipline. You HAVE to choose a major, you have to master one thing. Your success will be found at the end of one rainbow.
Learning: Usually involves uniting a shmorgishborg of concepts, ideas, and disciplines to create a melting pot of knowledge that promotes a “Jack of all trades” mentality. Your success COULD be found at the end of multiple rainbows, it really just depends which one you choose.
Education: Uses traditional reward and punishment methods (carrot and stick according to Daniel Pink) to help motivate individuals. This is usually done through the traditional grading system (A, B, C, D, F), moving on to the next grade, or earning a certificate/diploma.
Learning: Uses the formula of autonomy (ability to direct your own life) + mastery (the ability to get better at something that matters to you) + purpose (the ability to contribute to something bigger than the self).
Education: Usually uses a cookie cutter, one-sized fits all approach. It TELLS you what will work for you.
Learning: Allows you to personalize your approach helping you to figure it out on your own.
Education: Uses external motivators (the promise of a career, specific salaries, praise, etc..)
Learning: Uses intrinsic motivators (sheer enjoyment or love of the activity, ability to choose, established competence, meaningfulness)
LETS FIRE UP THE CURIOSITY ENGINE
Most of us continue our education past high school not always because we want to but more so because of outside pressures. You have to if you want to keep up with the Joneses right?
On a personal note, I did my time as an undergrad and even continued my education in graduate school. Here are the reasons I went.
- I thought I was supposed to
- I didn’t know what else I wanted to do so I figured I’d must go to school
- To please my Mom and Dad
- To get a leg up on the competition
I never really took the time to ask myself why I was going. I always new I had an entrepreneurial heart but I thought this was what I was supposed to be doing. The more buttons, bows, and ribbons I could rack up the better, right?
In a society where credentials are becoming less and less important and proof of concept and skills are becoming more and more important, the ability to be self-taught is becoming more valuable. Anyone of else has the opportunity to create an online business, build some street cred, write a book, or create an action based resume as opposed to a credential based one.
“Traditional education does a great job getting you ready to work for someone else but not so much educating you on how to work for yourself.”
Humans are naturally curious people and the structure of traditional schooling right now seems to be inhibiting our interest and personal growth in multiple disciplines. Our creativity and curiosity is being buried under the rug in favor of rigged schedules, mundane work, and a unfullfilling purpose.
Learning is treated like it operates in a linear fashion, as if there is some sort of order to it. In reality, the process of learning is very sporadic and often a series of random acts. Brief periods of intense information gathering coupled with idle stretches of relaxation and rest.
NEW OLD MODEL FOR LEARNING
James T. Mangan, the author of the book You can do anything highlighted the 14 ways one can acquire knowledge.
1. We’re talking about practice: I’d say just about anything you do today, skill, mindset, eating habits, whatever it might be took practice. There’s not to many of us that can just bury 3 pointers, learn another language, or start surfing on the first try. If you want to learn something you have to be willing to practice. Most of us give up on the first try or two… some will pick it up more quickly than others, and for others it may take much longer but the more consistent and dedicated to the art of practice the more likely your chances of learning something.
2. Lemmie ask you something: Do you want to start learning more? Then start asking more questions and stop simply settling for what you’re told is right, best, or somewhere in between. Be relentless in your questioning too, don’t settle for a simply answer. Follow it up with your own research and even more questions if you have to. Remember when you were a kid? Why….Why….Why…..but why?
A big obstacle you may have to come over is the fear of being uninformed. No one likes to be the one that doesn’t know something, is out of the loop, or doesn’t have an opinion on a given topic. Here’s a little secret, no one cares and more often than not they’ll be really stoked they can be the one that fills you in. Think about it, how excited are you when someone asks for your help with regards to a given subject and you can totally help them out? I’ll answer this for you… YOU FEEL GREAT!
3. Make sure it’s what you want: This might be stating the obvious but it’s tough to learn something you’re just not interested in. One of the golden rules of acquiring knowledge is that it should be enjoyable, it makes it that much easier. Now there are times when you may have to apply yourself in an area you’re just not quite interested in, if this is the case it is up to you to add some fun. How can you create a game of sorts that turns learning into a good time for yourself?
4. You might already know: To much second guessing goes on in this world and not enough trusting your own gut. Get out of your own way and go with your instincts more often, look towards past experiences, or maybe someone close to you ask been through something similar. The biggest point I want to make here is this; would you be more disappointed if you made the decisions yourself or if you let someone else make it for you.
5. From all the angles: Learning can often be taken at face value only but it’s important to take a good look at all things from all angles. Take for example your nutrition, you might see food that doesn’t appear to be very appetizing at face value. But don’t stop just at the looks of it, smell it, touch it, taste it, listen to it, move it around. Apply this concept to anything and everything from your personal relationships, to your career, to your fitness routine. Although you might not want to directly smell someone I think you’re sipping some of my kool-aid. The idea is to make sure you see the other side of the coin in all respects from relationships, to career, to your health.
6. A cup here, a tablespoon there, a little dash of this, a tad of that: Isn’t that what life really is? Just one big giant experiment? You dabble, try new things, and find out what works for you, what you enjoy, and what you don’t. Things that end up sticking you end up building pretty decent skills with and those that don’t quite suite you fall of the wagon never to be heard from again.
7. Teach, teach, and teach some more: Some of the best education you’ll ever get is simply sitting down and talking to people who are generally interested in things. Even better is if you’re one of those people who have a certain expertise, passion, or interest in something why not share it with the world. One of the reasons many of us keep quiet on a subject is because we feel we don’t know enough about the subject… now that might be true but you also may know a little more about it then the next guy and that has value. Don’t hold it in, share it!
One of the best things about formal education is the chance to connect with other individuals. Create peer groups that have similar interest and participate in self learning together.
8. 52 books in 52 weeks… read!: It’s very rare today that you run into unique ideas, it’s pretty hard to create a new primary color – most of what you’ll read, see, or hear about is regurgitated info spun in a different way that you can relate to. The self-help gurus of today had guys like Ben Franklin, James Allen and finances guys have Ben Graham. Hell, everything I write is spun of somehow from my mentors and the books I’ve read. Heck, in this post I’m just discussing James Mangan’s philosophies 🙂
9. Write often: In a study conducted by Yogo and Fujihara they found that by writing for 20 minutes a few times per month actually increased working memory. Your working memory is very important because,
“…To do complex tasks we rely on our ‘working memory’. This is our ability to shuttle information in and out of consciousness and manipulate it. A more efficient working memory contributes to better learning, planning, reasoning and more…” psyblog
10. Listen up: Probably the least used of the senses; poor ears, but also requires the least effort. Are you too busy trying to hear yourself talk, brushing off what someone else has to say simply because you don’t want to hear it, or fishing for the answer you want to hear. Pay attention to body language, gestures, eye contact, but also listen for changes in tone and emotion.
11. Eyes wide open: I have a terrible habit of looking at the ground when I walk, I have been actively trying to break myself of the for a while. It’s even gotten to the point where on occasion I will write “What the heck are you looking at?” on the tops of my shoes. Here’s a little challenge, try to spend the entire day only looking up. It’s amazing what you’re missing otherwise.
12. Nice and tidy: One of the best things I ever did for myself was clearing the clutter from my desk and bedroom. Really eliminating the clutter in my life and simplifying. We already have enough going on as it is and the last thing any of us need is more on the plate. Start taking more time to create a little order and consistency in your life. I’m as free-spirited and spontaneous as the next guy but the best thing I ever did was start scheduling the most important things in my life. Creating routines on specific days and times has helped me to relieve stress, become more efficient, and increase my levels of happiness.
Lucky 13 – Create more clarity and decide what you want to do with it: What do you want to do with what you are currently learning? Like my example above about going to grad school, I never defined why I was actually going, I just went because I thought I was suppose to and let others make that decision for me. A good place to start is by looking at your values:
- What do I want to be?
- Who do I want to be?
- What is important?
- What is “right”?
- What really matters in life?
“…We can’t hold our values in our hands, but we can pursue, experience, and live them. In fact, in order to be truly happy, we’ve gotta live according to our most deeply held values. If we don’t, our bodies and minds fight us, and our lives suffer…” -Precision Nutrition
From there you can use a technique I learned from my time at Precision Nutrition called “The 5 Whys” that help someone figure out why the want to lose fat (but the principle can be applied anywhere)
I want to lose fat
- Why do I want to lose fat? Because I want to fit into a smaller size of jeans.
- But why do I want to fit into a smaller size of jeans? Because when I’m wearing smaller jeans, I think I’ll look better.
- But why do I want to look better? Because when I look good, I feel good about myself.
- But why do I want to feel good about myself? Because when I feel good about myself, I’m more assertive and confident.
- But why do I want to be more assertive and confident. Because when I’m more assertive and confident, I’m in control and better able to get what I want out of life.
BOOM! Some serious clarity and insight!
14. Reason: Reasoning or logic is the process of coming to a conclusion based on the facts, information, or resources you have on had. To consciously make sense of things, change opinion, or evaluate beliefs. You will be presented with new information almost daily, and on occasion it will cause you to question or reassess original thought. This is where your ability and willingness to experiment and seeing both sides of the coin will come in handy.
CONTINUE THE LEARNING JOURNEY
I don’t want there to be any confusion, I respect traditional education, find it to be very valuable and important, and consider it an important step in the process of learning but I do think the it is becoming a bit outdated and is in need of an overhaul. With all of the opportunities out there for self-education like these below, anyone of us has the opportunity to learn any skill, theory, topic, or whatever we want.
- The Personal MBA
- Philospher’s Notes
- Khan Academy
- University of the People
- Code Academy
- MIT open courseware
Think about this for a second… how does it feel when you realize you are capable of figuring things out on your own. Pretty damn empowering right? Keep treating your life like an adventure and take advantage of all of the resources you’re afforded especially when it comes to advancing your own knowledge base. Why be a puppet when you can control the strings?
What are some things you’re interested in learning?