One thing I know: we never learn something until we’re ready to learn it.
I learn slower than others, believe it or not. I think the reason that it takes me a while to learn is that I learned at an early age to question the status quo and to question authority. Instead of just accepting what was, I’d have to believe it for myself. Parents know this experience well, don’t we? “Don’t move that or it will fall and break.” Moments later: crash. That was me. That is me. I learn mostly at my own hands.
Jeff Pulver once counseled me on a price change I intended to make in a conference. The price of the event was at something like $1295, and I wanted to make it $595. I said, “I can get many more people to buy at $595, because more people can afford it.” Jeff told me, “Believe it or not, it’s better to get fewer people to buy at $1295, and it takes just as much effort to do either, so you might as well do it for the higher ticket price.” Impossible, I was sure. Of course, I was wrong. I failed miserably. (To his credit, Jeff allowed me to fail, even though that meant making his company less money. This is a huge lesson to business owners, insofar as that lesson will forever be with me.)
Teaching and Learning
Most of us are better at teaching than learning. I know that I am. It’s because we know what we know, and we feel comfortable teaching that to others (most times). Learning is different. We don’t like that feeling of not knowing. Sometimes, we are embarrassed by admitting our ignorance in front of others. When I first started at my wireless telecom job, I remember that a lot of people were talking about a “NOC.” I had no idea what it was. I thought it was a piece of technology. So, I just stayed mum for quite a while during the conversations that involved the word. One day, I finally mentioned “NOC” in the appropriate point in a conversation, and it was immediately obvious that I had no idea what it was. Someone walked me down to the room known as the “Network Operations Center,” where a bunch of people monitored our wireless network. Ugh.
It’s important to be aware of this, though: we teach what we know, and we’re afraid or embarrassed at times to learn. Because two problems arise from that. On the one hand, we look with our limited perspective on problems and believe that we have the answer and can even teach others with the answer we understand. On the other hand, if we’re shying away from learning, we’re shying away from growth. Neither is a great place to be, and MOST OF US do this all the time, whether or not we’re conscious of it.
Another Potential Sin: Preaching
When one learns something new, the BEST way to learn it even better is to teach it to others. But there’s a danger to this. If you teach because someone’s interested in learning, that’s great. If you PREACH because you suddenly feel enlightened, then you’re in jeopardy of angering and frustrating your friends and loved ones. It’s a very fine balance. You’re trying to practice what you’ve learned, but in so doing, you might accidentally cross a line into preaching at someone, instead of sharing learning.
Remember, people don’t immediately agree to being taught. You don’t, most likely. That said, if someone asks, that’s another whole matter, right?
Learn When You’re Ready
Learning and lifelong learning are part of how I succeed at what I do. But I’ve come to realize that I can only learn certain lessons when I’m ready to learn them. It’s never on someone else’s timetable, even if that’s what would be best. Learning is so very important, but you as a learner have to be open to the lessons.
What are you learning these days? How open are you to learning? Are you willing to accept that what you’re teaching is “old” and that maybe there’s some learning you could devote yourself to that would grow your capabilities?