Saturday, 3 March 2012


Okay, first of all, have any of you ever tried to write a thoughtful blog post while watching children's shows with your kids?  There is a ceiling to how profound you can be when you're watching the Backyardigans sing pirate songs.  But the boy loves it, and it's not Wonderpets, so I'll take it.

I've been thinking about learning lately.  I enjoy absorbing new information and incorporating it into and letting it adjust my paradigms, as I described in a previous blog.  (By the way, are you allowed to link to yourself, or is that self-indulgent?)

I bet you've met people before who just seem... stuck.  Who aren't as wise as their years might suggest they should be.  Whose minds aren't very pliable.  Or maybe they're just an ignorant bastard (cough cough cough).  I wonder if the reason is that they've stopped learning at some point in their life.  Maybe they hit a point where they thought, "Okay, I know enough.  I've arrived."  From that point on, they don't feel the need to challenge their worldview.  They've got it figured out.

I've been reading a book called "Up, Down, or Sideways: How to succeed when times are good, bad, or in between" by Mark Sanborn.  He talks about 'the learner's edge'.  And he gives a great metaphor for it.  He says, if I know four chess moves, and you know eight moves, you're likely to beat me every time.  When we keep learning and incorporating new information, we happen to be picking up more techniques for solving problems, dealing with people, and making decisions.  The more information we have access to in our mind, the more creatively we can approach whatever it is we happen to be dealing with.  In the business world, this means if you're the fastest learner in your market, you will be able to out-think, out-deal, and out-solve your competitors.  If you have the techniques to overcome four of your client's objections, and your competitor can only overcome two of them, then you are the one who gets the sale.

And, in your personal life, if you can learn more techniques to treat your spouse or others well, to listen better, to make healthy choices, wouldn't you be crazy not to do that?  Aren't you going to feel so much better equipped to encounter... whatever... in life, if you have taken time to learn how to talk to people, treat people, how to deal with stress, grief, conflict, anything?

So, how do you learn?  I think it's twofold.  One, you have to receive information - read a book or article, listen to a podcast or the radio, watch a movie or tv show.  Two, you have to absorb it - incorporate it into your worldview.  You can do that actively or passively.  Actively means you are trying to get something out of what you're doing - you're chewing on the info, applying it to your life, and trying to evaluate it's worth.  Passively means you're not paying attention, and it seeps in.

We all absorb information all the time, so here are my two questions:

Are you seeking out things to learn?
What sort of things are you passively absorbing?  (I mean, I didn't choose Backyardigans to be a thought provoking background for this post, but I'm still going to be talking like a pirate for three days!)

Hey, it's your brain... you only get one.  Why pollute it?


  1. Have you heard of "sharpening the saw"? because this sounds kind of like that.

  2. I like your blog. I don't read blogs but sometimes I read yours. My learning comes from reading books and online articles related to my field. Passive knowledge - pinterest.

  3. -Rob - Steven Covey's 7th Habit of Highly Effective People. It does sound like that - now that I googled it.

    -Hannah - thanks! Caught my first whiff of pinterest the other day. Very easy to get lost in - interesting though.

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