Learning on the fly

I was on a flight recently from Melbourne to Sydney, part of the trip was getting to meet James Clear, author of Atomic Habits. I was rereading his fascinating book on how tiny changes implemented regularly and consistently can have massive impact over the long term. I was really enjoying it and was highlighting my way through it. One of the flight attendants stopped in the aisle and asked me about the book, asking me in such a curious way that I knew he was genuinely interested. I gave him a short run down of the book. He pulled out a notebook and pen and jotted down the name and author and said, that’s definitely one for my reading list.

He came back after a few minutes to discuss it further and he told me why he had such an interest in it and how he thought what we had spoken about could be put into practical use.

It got me thinking. We all learn in different ways and at a different pace. I personally have to really buckle down to read or study something, but here was this flight attendant gaining knowledge while serving his customers and genuinely engaging in our conversation. Not only that, he was well prepared to write it down with a pen and paper in his pocket. It seemed to me that he had already read the book.

In his book, James talks about knowledge compounding. That “learning one new idea won’t make you a genius, but commitment to lifelong learning can be transformative”, proven by my new friend.

I learnt something that day- learn all you can, be curious, be genuinely interested in people and have a pen and paper at the ready.

Imagine if that interaction had not taken place. If the flight attendant had been so focused on his work (rightly so) that it didn’t even occur to him to ask the question. He would not have a great new book to read, would not have engaged in some meaningful conversation, would not have learnt anything that day, and certainly would not have taught me anything. The power of connection and conversation never ceases to amaze me. Learning keeps the brain young. My grandfather passed away at the ripe old age of 103, but up until his death, he was still learning, reading the newspaper, looking at share prices, and watching the news. He didn’t stop learning and I expect that his brain was nimble for so long because of the learning that he was doing.

But what do you do if you don’t love to learn?

I would suggest that you cultivate it. That you create a habit from discipline, that you find what you do love about learning or knowing and you grab onto that.

Here are three things you can do if you need to create a habit of learning

  • Decide how you learn
  • Commit to doing the learning
  • Practice does not make perfect

Let me unpack what I mean:

  • Decide how you learn – Are you visual? Are you creative? Do you learn better when you hear it? Do you like the theory? What is your preferred way to learn? In the first instance, lean into that, so that you can get into the swing of learning. Once you feel a little more comfortable, branch out and try other ways, you might like them!
  • Commit to doing the learning, a little each day, a paragraph a day to start with if you are reading a book, a chapter if you are further along, a short podcast in the car. I find jotting notes down or highlighting what I am reading is really helpful if I want to go back to it or use it as a reference point.
  • Practice does not make perfect, but it does help imbed the learning. Have you ever not understood something and then someone else has asked you to help them and you have shown them how to do it and all of a sudden, you have had a penny dropping moment yourself? Isn’t it good when you finally get it yourself?

As Henry Ford so rightly stated “Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty”, if you are not learning, you are simply not growing. My new mate on the plane, he is learning and growing all the time, using the time in his day, as he goes about his job to learn about people, about books and be curious. Are you taking time or building it into your day to be curious?

Don’t feel like you have the time? You are not alone. I work with a range of people to find the time to do the learning and find the time to do the things that are not only urgent, but important. Reach out if you would like to work with me one on one.

Be enthusiastic, optimistic and energetic every day.

Em x

Looking for something else?

Emma also has a podcast.