When I think back over a lifetime of learning, I realize that there were certain times I was a great student, and others in which I was just going through the motions, reaping relatively little from the effort.

My schooling was a period of time when I learned pretty intensively because that was simply the overall expectation, and without work or age as conflicting contenders for my attentions, learning in school was about all I did. Then, I remember learning in such a rapid-fire, open minded and near-gullible way in the early years of my work career because I was an open book, still without the “I’m experienced now” baggage or “our way” loyalties that can get in the way at times. Most recently, and amazing to me almost daily, has been within the past few years, where a developing entrepreneurial mindset and the creation of Managing With Aloha (both my book and coaching curriculum) has continually challenged me to make any and all learning near instantaneously applicable.

Today, my awareness of web-based communications and the open-source software playground has been like a breach in the dam, with the learning deluge sweeping me away on a different current with virtually every new web page I visit. I no longer have to entice myself to learn, my effort is to filter those enticements so I make the best choices on the menu! Learning is a given, the only question is my diligence and focus in keeping it sequential and consequential.

“ … Sequential in that it builds upon previous lessons-learned, and it takes you through a process where you question instruction and do not always accept what you are taught at face value; you polish it like a gem in your mind until something about it rings true for you. Consequential in that it is worthwhile stuff; it makes a difference for you, and you aren’t simply collecting lessons on some scorecard. There’s some personal take-away in it for you. Now that you know it, you’re going to use it.”
Managing with Aloha

Why learn at all?

I think you instinctively know the answer to that. Learning fuels our capacity for growth. We learn when we need new skills, when we want more knowledge, and when we begin to seek mastery and wisdom. When you gain more knowledge you have more confidence, and that confidence can serve to liberate you toward releasing a creative spirit you may not even have realized you possessed. You constantly give birth to new possibilities in this creative process; you create your own destiny, one of choice and not fate or pure dumb luck.

There have been certain times in my life I have learned best because of how the stage was set for it. I mentioned my early work career as a turbo-charger up the learning curve, and after over thirty years in the corporate workplace, I discovered that there is nothing like self-employment for making an adult student learning-obsessed again. To a business owner, knowledge is the asset of intellectual capital—and everyone you work with has some to be mined like the gemstones they are.

Today I have to look for great teachers; they won’t be handed to me. Hindsight has been 20-20, and in my case, older was wiser. One of the most exciting things about the work I now do with virtual communities is in the discovery of how biological age has melted down to irrelevance when it comes to our online classrooms. Those of you reading this whom are younger, and those much younger than I, will truly have the world as your oyster, reaping benefits far greater in magnitude than known in previous generations.

Today’s Best Action Step

Take the time to reflect, and see if you can determine exactly how you learn best:
This is a quick exercise; write down your answers so you can always look back at them.

  • When you look back on your own stages of learning, what were the triggers for you? What made the difference?
  • Who made the difference? Beyond their names, why? What kind of teacher got the best out of you?
  • What could you learn right now, that you are certain would translate into knowledge you could instantly apply and use?

The exercise is a useful one for you so that you can deliberately invoke those triggers, and replicate those best-set stages.

Those who know me best, have repeatedly heard me say that this is a New World of Learning. My current focus has been the workplace, and most recently the traditional (i.e. stuck) school, and one of my favorite learning tools, given as gifts to the employers not yet using them, is the blogging platform as all-user friendly intranets versus their static incarnations as HR bulletin boards only the IT guy could post to. Online collaboration tools like virtual project management sites open eyes with teamwork like never before. These ARE gifts. We’ll talk about this more next Thursday when I visit you again.

Part two of this discussion will be called My Employer, My Teacher. Meanwhile, if you think you have an employer who is a great teacher, please share your story in the comments, as I will continue to edit my draft over the next week’s time —you can help all of us learn more about the best practices now in the workplace.


Rosa Say is the author of Managing with Aloha, Bringing Hawaii’s Universal Values to the Art of Business and the Talking Story blog. She is the founder of Say Leadership Coaching, a company dedicated to bringing nobility to the working arts of management and leadership. Her most recent online collaboration effort is JJLN: the Joyful Jubilant Learning Network.
For more of Rosa’s ideas, click to her Thursday columns in the archives; you’ll find her index in the left column of www.ManagingWithAloha.com Rosa’s Previous Thursday Column was: Milking it whole, not skim.

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