Schools are sometimes criticized for too much theory, not enough application. The workplace sometimes gets you too busy to stop, reflect, and learn.
Then you read about people like Tim Ferriss, famous for his ‘intensive learning’ experiences where he breaks Tango records, wins kickboxing championships, and masters multiple languages.
And you meet people like Joel Neoh who wins National Rock Climbing Competitions, engineering competitions, the Malaysian equivalent of “The Apprentice”, and starts a million-ringgit startup… all before age 24!
So how does one become really good at something?
And how do you do it quickly?
Over the past 5 months since I left MindValley to build youth community platforms in this region, my learning and actions were forced to be more focused than it has ever been.
With this, something my friend Janne once shared with me, and Kolb’s learning styles come to mind. I have since re-interpreted what’s going on with my own diagram:
So how is this picture put to use?
Here’s an example of how I’ve witnessed some programmers get really awesome at what they do, viewed through the picture above:
The best programmers I know:
- Read up on everything related to the language / problems they are trying to solve – all the time!
- Experiment with solutions, and actively work with their project.
- Twitter and blog about what they’ve learnt / solved.
- Chat, share, comment, and discuss with other passionate programmers, or teach junior programmers.
And they can do all of the above, in multiple cycles, every day of the week. They fulfill all corners of the quadrant.
Organizations do it too! MindValley, who are Gods at internet marketing, get good at it because its team
- Sends it’s people out to learn from other internet marketing products and competitors
- Has weekly sharing and discussion sessions on what they learn
- Apply new techniques and tweaks to their existing businesses to see what works
- Synthesize key learning in a discussion session, then on their blog
And they repeat this cycle every week! The energy, learning, and revenue growth was amazing.
The next time you aim to learn something, consider a holistic immersion as pictured above.
Is it as easy as it sounds?
If all I’m doing now is training to be a Jeet-Kun-Do world champion, I can go through a cycle of practicing, watching Bruce Lee videos, chatting with my sensei, beating him up, then blogging about it.
But no, I’m not training to be a Jeet-Kun-Do world champion.
I’m focused on building a robust, profitable business which people love. This path involves a few moving pieces, requires even more focus, and perhaps the same sort of discipline of a Jeet-Kun-Do master.
It’s also true to say, that today’s careers may demand us to be pretty darn good at more than just one skill.
All the more reason we need to learn faster and smarter.
Here’s how a simplified view of Kolb’s Learning Styles do it for me.
- I don’t go and learn/ read something unless I can put it to use (after all, there’s always more to learn from everywhere, but I don’t have that luxury right now)
- Based on stuff I learn from others/ reading/ reflection, I put it to use, see what works, what doesn’t, make my own notes, develop new practices, and re-test on a situation
- Joel and I have frequent discussions and ‘stop N think’ sessions to make sure our organization is on the right track
- I have been sharing and learning with all members of my team, at least once a week
And believe me, going through all of it gets you HIGH.
I’m learning and doing a lot more than I used to, and the past 5 months seemed like a whole year.
On the other hand, I also have more to improve, and a long way to go. For example, I wish to blog more about all the stuff I learnt (today I’m taking a real break, and it feels good to whack out a blog post like this, you know, help me tie it up in my head, and to share with you too).
But there’s a whole lot more to execute on. I’ll let you know when all this hard work creates something to show for. Probably February. For now, all I have is this blog post ;p
How applicable is this picture to your life?
Once upon a time, I was all over the place.
I would be reading up on economics. Chatting about the music scene. Doing an internet marketing project. Then blogging about how to style thick hair.
I was doing many things, and sometimes I felt like my entire life was all over the place.
Was it “wrong”? Or “bad”? I loved it! I was very focused on EXPLORING as much as I could. Learning about everything, and testing out and trying everything.
If you’re still in that mode, and haven’t decided to have one singular focus yet, trying a lot of stuff out is a great idea. And the picture above can help you learn stuff faster.
Right now, I’m bent on focus – so I can truly accomplish something more.
If you feel the same, and you’re out to really pick up a new skill, or win a certain battle, then take a closer look at the redrawn and simplified Kolb’s Learning Styles. When you see the need for some focused, intensive learning, this is definitely one way of looking at it.
Read more about Kolb’s learning styles.