The Learning Connection

From Paul Bell


It is obvious that readers of this blog believe in learning but what do we do with that learning? We live in a world with an exploding mountain of knowledge and a vast array of possibilities to tap into this mountain. It is important that we keep up. Our innate curiosity has taken us beyond the formal years of education, but has it expanded our ability and passion to learn?
A powerful truism is that “you can only learn what you allow yourself to learn” and that prevents many of us from pushing the boundaries of learning. For example, are we willing to learn from something we did not expect to learn from? The idea that “even a fool can teach you something” can be a threat to our ego and not a temptation to learn.

Luckily, we are surrounded by opportunities to learn. If our formal education has done more than just impart knowledge, we should now have a deep desire to learn and a belief that we are good learners.

We all have our preferred learning style, but the important part is that we should continually seek to learn. Any mistake should be seen as not just a nuisance but a chance to learn. Working with or just observing others can teach us so much if we are just open to the possibility. Learning a creative technique, such as solving a problem by reading a totally non-related book and then making creative links between the non-related pieces of knowledge, can open a cascade of creative connections.

Many experiences are an excellent chance for experiential learning. As Confucius said, “Tell me and I will forget, show me and I may remember, involve me and I will understand”. From a prescribed exercise on a training course to a random experience that you have, there is a huge opportunity to learn. If we pay attention to the experience as a chance to discover, reflect and then experiment, we will learn. A committed learner will even create some experiences so that they can learn from them. If we have become emotionally involved with the experience it will be easier to remember. William Blake’s idea that, “the true method of knowledge is experiment” can reward all of us if we are willing to push for it.

Learning and growth are directly linked but only if we apply that learning towards growth. To learn a rigid dogma well, and then sit back with those beliefs, stultifies growth. But to believe that enquiry and curiosity are better than certainty allows us to learn how to challenge our dogmas, our assumptions and our values. It allows us to see beyond who we think we are, to reflect upon our own thoughts and actions. This is the meaningful value of learning.

Of course, some types of learning can teach us a great deal and yet we do little with that knowledge – the type of learning where decades ago we discovered that carbon dioxide creation was warming the planet, but we did little about it; the learning that allows you to read and believe all the helpful advice in this blog but not change your habits at all.

What shall we do with our learnings – for ourselves, our families and communities, our planet? We must shake ourselves out of the lethargy of gaining fantastic knowledge yet doing little to apply it. It is worthwhile to reflect upon Nelson Mandela’s idea that “education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”. Learning is our escape route from atrophy. If we can create our own powerful learning habits, we will build a reasoning mind that allows us to lead a eudaemonic life and be a force for positive change.

Paul Bell lives a life of both physical and mental adventures. He is passionate about education and has enjoyed teaching and challenging children in the outdoors, and helping large project and company teams raise their performance levels. He currently lives and adventures in the Canadian Rockies, sails the Pacific coast and finds life very exciting.