Can you remember the last time you had to learn something? Figuring out where that shortcut’s gone when you update your software. Or researching mortgage providers. Whatever it was, how enjoyable was the experience? Did you grow that knowledge once you’d found out what you needed? Perhaps not.
When you don’t have fun learning, you don’t learn. And having to learn something isn’t fun. A demo in which you feel anxious will only teach you to cope with anxiety. A workshop in which you feel overlooked, will only teach you to cope with frustration.
If you want to learn something new – or re-learn something old – you need the right conditions. You need to enjoy it.
True learning is much deeper than recall
It’s easy to think of learning as the retention of technical information. Education often rewarded our data recall above our ability to use that data in the real world. But how much of that information remains for you?
I always remember it was the students who found enjoyment in a topic that did well. Because the best teachers inspired them to see beyond survival and ‘just getting through’. And that awareness encouraged exploration at a much deeper level. This connection to the subject was evident in their work and results. And I’m quite sure that those skills have stuck with them into adulthood.
It’s possible you didn’t feel inspired in quite that way.
And yet, you’ve already experienced the journey of beginner to expert. You may not even be aware of it, because that’s the very magic of enjoying what you learn.
You don’t even notice how good you’ve become until someone else points it out and you feel somehow surprised.
How did you learn your skills?
Let’s take something you’re very good at. A skill you use professionally.
Think about your ability and the journey that you undertook to get to where you are today. When did you first become interested? Who did you look up to? What form did the learning take? How did you feel when you accomplished something new? Why was deepening your understanding so important?
Take a moment to reflect on how it feels to acknowledge how far you’ve come. Sit with that feeling that says ‘I’m good at this!’.
It’s surprisingly easy to forget how skilled you are when you do something all the time. The journey to where you are now wasn’t linear. Neither were your feelings during it. I’m sure it wasn’t easy to master the skills you have. And I’m equally sure that you enjoyed the experience of learning them.
Your knowledge can empower others
Being conscious of the breadth and depth of our skills allows us speak with compassion. Imagine what you would have thought, ten years ago, of the skillset you now possess.
I’m going to invite you to consider your own learning journey. To travel back to where you were five years ago. Ten years ago.
What questions did you have back then? What did you wish you could do? Who impressed you? Why were they so impressive?
Jot down whatever comes up.
Now I’d like you to think about the people you work with and the people you’d like to work with. They can’t see what you do – they don’t have your skills – that’s why they’re talking to you. So when you speak to them, you have a real opportunity to connect – because you’ve been where they are right now.
Consider the commonalities between these people and yourself ten years ago. Are there familiar questions that you asked back then? Might those questions be relevant to these people? The information you needed back then may provide exactly the reassurance they’re after.
And that’s really valuable. Because you’re now in a position to inspire their deeper interest through enjoyment. Just like those inspirational teachers at school whose knowledge seemed like magic.
So remember that when you know as much as you do, it’s easy to omit the basics. You’re always going to want to learn more, but that’s not where everyone is. Something that feels straightforward to you can have others scratching their heads. They feel like they’re talking to a modest wizard. And that can be confusing for everyone.
So the next time you bring your skills to the party, have a look back at what you jotted down earlier. Connect with your past-self and remember:
- the journey you’ve taken to get here
- the questions you’ve answered along the way
- the feeling of mastering something new
That awareness will make you more approachable and more relatable to your colleagues. It will transform the way you speak about your knowledge. And inspire them to learn more.
But didn’t they ask me to provide an outcome?
Most people will seek an outcome when they don’t understand what’s involved. They simply don’t know the journey like you do. So whilst it may feel counterintuitive to think of a less skilled version of yourself, that knowledge can actually help everyone. You’ll find it easier to empathise with the things they aren’t yet aware of. And they’ll feel much more involved and enjoy the process.
And the great thing is, there’s actually less work involved for you. Because whilst the outcome they seek could be the answer, you’re the expert here. People want to feel involved, but they also want to benefit from your expertise. They want you to charter the journey to the right solution. But to do that, you need to lead with your expertise, not the technical detail.
This is the time to speak to them from your holistic understanding of the whole process. And in doing so, you can foster their enjoyment as they learn what you love.
Remember your journey
The key takeaway here is that when you enjoy learning, you learn. And because of this, you’ll realise that you have skills you don’t even remember learning. And that can be both impressive and intimidating to other people.
But that very knowledge is a tool with which you can help them become more interested and at ease. You already have the awareness to empower them. And if you use it, everyone wins.
If this has got you thinking about the way that you speak, we think you’ll love our approach at Join The Dialogue. We nourish the power of everyone to speak with confidence, to say what they mean, and to be more compassionate to themselves and their audience. It’s great fun and it becomes a way of life.
You can learn more and join us at Join The Dialogue.