There are tools, seminars, books, CD’s, teleseminar, webinars and workshops (and more) to help you learn and improve in any area of your life. I should know, I have bought and attended many of them, and sold a great number of them as well.
This article isn’t meant dissuade you from investing in these opportunities, in fact far from it. All of these learning tools are valuable and important and will help you accelerate your progress dramatically in your particular area of interest or study.
They are not, however, the only way to learn or to create new and better results.
What if I could share with you a pair of tools that would augment your formal learning and development processes, and I could tell you with complete honesty that these tools carry no cost, no travel and are assessable and available everywhere? And, what if I told you that you have already used these tools throughout your life (even if you could get better at them)?
Would you be interested?
I hope so! (If not, you probably didn’t read past the title anyway.)
Before I tell you about these tools, I must warn you that while there is no financial cost, these tools aren’t free. They require thought and depending on the situation some time.
The inputs for this tool include (but are not limited to):
- The reading you already do (newspapers, magazines, books, etc.)
- Watching television (both news and other programming)
- Surfing the web
- Listening to the stories your friends and family tell you
- The sports you watch and read about
- Your personal experiences
Hopefully I’ve convinced you that the opportunities to use this tool are everywhere and readily available.
So, what are these tools?
Observation and Reflection
Let me explain.
The habits of observation and reflection are how you can learn from everyday life situations.
What I am about to share takes natural human behavior and helps you supercharge it to create better and faster learning and improvement – literally from thin air.
Are you ready?
Here are the steps to help you make that happen!
Pick a context. The lessons are all around you, but you have to be intentional to find them. Let’s say you want to be a more effective leader. If you have that context in mind, put all your experiences through that filter. An obvious example would be what you see politicians and business leaders doing, right or wrong. These are situations you might naturally think about from a leadership context. But what about when reading TMZ.com, watching the Super Bowl, communicating on Facebook, or playing a game of cards with your neighbors? The first key to improvement from thin air is to take your everyday, common experiences and consider them from the context of what you want to be learning.
Look for the lesson. If you believe there is a lesson to be found, you will be more likely to find it. Some lessons will be positive; “do that, it worked”. Others will be negative; “that wouldn’t be a good strategy”. Either way the opportunity is there if you look for it. The lesson may be in the place or from the person or source you least expect (or really dislike). Seek and you shall find.
Use all your senses. Most people think of observation as watching. Observation is most powerful when you use all of your senses. Your senses help you see nuance; they give a more complete picture. Listen, watch, smell, touch and even taste. Our children use all of their senses because they are curious. When you get more curious, you become more observant, and have more input from which to draw insights.
Flip it around. We all see things we disagree with or find ridiculous. That is fine. In those situations where you may be most cynical or disappointed, flip the situation around and look at it from another perspective. You see once we have labeled a situation – especially things we don’t particularly like – we likely quit thinking about it. Therefore, we’re likely not learning anything about it. In these situations, start by saying “On the other hand . . .” what comes next might be a golden nugget or lesson for you.
Capture keys. In learning theory this is called generalizing. In other words, what is the general principle underneath this situation? This takes the learning out of the specific context (like, what Paris Hilton did at the party and how people reacted to it) and allows you to learn from it. This is a step past observation and a part of reflecting. And, it is a critical transition to your personal lessons and understanding.
Ask the critical question. You must ask yourself, “What can/will I do with this insight, idea or lesson?” Once you have opened your eyes, ears, minds and hearts; captured experiences and situations; and identified the key points or ideas, this final question seals the deal for your learning and improvement.
Potential Pointer: Opportunities for learning – for literally improving your results from thin air – are everywhere. Human beings are learning beings and have the capacity to learn and improve from absolutely any input around us. This every-minute opportunity comes through observation. As you become more keenly observant, and choose to put those opportunities to work, you can literally learn and improve from everything around us.
Remarkable leaders know their personal and team success hinges on the ability to learn consistently. They will use the ideas from this article, but do more than that. Many leaders from around the world are consciously learning and building their skills by participating in The Remarkable Leadership Learning System – a one skill at a time, one month at a time approach to becoming a more confident and successful leader. $748.25 worth of leadership development materials including two months of that unique system can be yours today as part of Kevin Eikenberry’s Most Remarkable Free Leadership Gift Ever.