How to learn anything

    We all learn continuously, even though we may be unaware of doing so. At 30, we know a lot more than at 20. At 40, even more. How does this happen?

    Indirectly, for the most part. Take up a new job or get a promotion. Someone is likely to show you how to do some things you've never done before. And you may be able to discover even better ways to do them.

    Form a new partnership. You'll quickly learn the relationship works better if you modify some of your behavior. And your new partner needs to do the same. Else the relationship does not evolve as you had hoped.

    If you get interested in bowling, bird watching, sailing, or much of anything, you'll find yourself picking up helpful information from those around you. Also from articles and  books. And the Web offers an abundance of great information on most any topic.

    A day in which we fail to encounter at least one new idea or approach has likely been uneventful. From discovering a new toothpaste, to finding a route to work that saves a couple of minutes, all is learning. Indirectly, of course.

    So Why Do People Balk At Learning?

    Because they tend to associate it with their school days. Those who did not enjoy school, did not develop any fondness for learning. Even those who enjoyed the social aspects, sports, and other activities available, often did not enjoy the learning side of things. Only a few wrap up their school days with a love of learning.

    On TV you'll see young law students with books piled high about them, crouched over a library table. It's not an image most associate with fun. To the extent you think of learning in such terms, it remains a heavy duty task, one difficult to accomplish.

    Another Barrier

    Watch the children about you. Particularly those quite young. Note the sparkle of curiosity and often something of wonder about all the things they come upon. How does this innate need to conquer all within reach dissipate? Why do many adults seem to lack any noticeable degree of curiosity? Or seek in any way to increase their grasp of the world about them?

    To oversimplify, it's partly due to our social conditioning. As we grow, those about us become more important. Our peers, if you will. We want to fit into our peer group or social circle, and be content to differ from others only in small ways. This lets us feel we belong and allows us to be more comfortable.

    The price we pay in this pattern is diminished curiosity. And a more limited view of what matters to us. Which generally boils down to only what we need each day to ease and simplify the chores thereof.

    Here's How To See In The Dark

    When you're outside at night, it's often difficult to see much of anything clearly. But here's a trick.

    When you want to examine a small object, say an owl perched on a tree limb in shadow, look just a tad to the left or right of the owl. Let's pass on the physiology here. Just try it.

    Did You Learn?

    Well, if you believe what I wrote above, maybe. But to really make it happen, you'll need to step outside one night and try it. When you see it works, then you will have learned something.

    Now where's the pain and strain in this? Sure, it's doubtful your new "knowledge" will help put food on the table. Still, it may do so indirectly.

    Such ideas trigger curiosity. "Can this be so?" "Does this really work?" "Hey, I'd like to try that." Curiosity is powerful motivation. Embrace it whenever possible.

    Don't Study; Scribble Instead

    Most often face a need to learn. Something to help us get that promotion or to enhance our business. Don't think in terms of taking a course or buying a dozen books. Unless you're in need of a lot of technical information, there's a better way.

    You can learn what is needed in much the same way you've learned other things throughout your life. Indirectly, that is.

    As in trying to see an owl in the dark, come at learning from around the edges. Don't even think of libraries and tables stacked with books. This method is effective, but only for those with special needs and appropriate skills.

    All you may need is a stack of note pads scattered about your home and office, with a pencil beside each. And one in your car as well.

    Now start scribbling. On whatever notepad is handy, scribble down any thought that comes to mind about the subject. If you need more info, make note of this. If you know where to find it, jot that down. If you know someone who knows the subject, note the name.

    When time permits, hunt up your subject in books and magazines you come across. Don't dig in. Quite the contrary. Scan a half a page, and scribble some more. Then lay it down, and get on with whatever you were doing. Come back to it later, if you like.

    If you find a good deal of collected information related to your subject, particularly if you find an entire book devoted to it, don't sit down and try to read the whole of it. Sample it a bit at a time. Come at it from the index or table of contents. Read a bit, make some notes, then lay it aside for a time. The mind can only absorb so much at one sitting.

    Check with people you encounter throughout the day. See if they have anything to contribute. Even an off-the-wall comment can trigger a useful thought that can be noted.

    Pay attention to crazy notions that seem way off the mark. Jot them down as any other. Often the wildest mix of ideas leads to a significant breakthrough.

    Keep At It

    Collect and review your scribbles now and then. Add further thoughts as they come to mind. New questions can be helpful, as they may lead to new and more rewarding directions.

    Does This Really Work?

    You bet. Whether you want a better system of inventory control, a bulletproof approach to customer relations, or a better way to catch fish, this approach is unbeatable.

    The reason it works is the focus you bring to the subject. Your mind ponders all the information you have gathered and seeks to answer questions which remain, even when you are unaware it is doing so. Being tuned in to the information you need means you "hear" it when those about you mention it or you "see" it in written form.

    Making Learning Fun

    Above you read about how to better see an owl at night. When you try it, and it works, you will have experienced success.

    The same is so of learning anything. To have learned, is to have succeeded. And success is satisfying, if not fun.
    Two Secrets
    To the degree you can bring curiosity and interest to the task, all is simplified. And given prior success, more follows with less effort. Heck, in time you may even discover it's fun
About the author:
Bob McElwain, author of "Your Path To Success." How to build ANY business you want, just the way you want it, with only pocket money. Get ANSWERS. Subscribe to "STAT News" now! mailto: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.