The Learning Process and Role of Experience

Learning from and being exposed to multiple influences both in the arts and sciences was one of the highlights of growing up when and where I did. We inherit more than physical traits from our parents, and we absorb both tangible and nuanced information from our environment.

In my case, I was surrounded by a veritable library — thousands of books, most of them connected by theme, reference, and/or period on a variety of topics, from philosophy, to Greek tragedy, Russian poetry, Shakespeare, the classics, biographies, history, art, and everything in between. It was the product of my father's lifelong passion for reading and the pure pleasure he derived from learning. In that respect, I am my father's daughter.

On the other side of the conversation were the pragmatic teachings and business lessons of my mother. She wore many hats in her life and experimented a lot in her pursuits — from her fascination with sociology, psychology, including the art of selling, to her passion for poetry, science fiction, and the creative expression.

An athlete, connoisseur, talented interpreter, systems thinker on one side, and a writer, conversationalist, skilled connector, and experimenter on the other. Looking back, the trajectory I followed in both work and life makes a ton of sense given those early influences. The word eclectic has come my way a lot. I was lucky.

How we get started plays an important role in how we develop. But what we expose ourselves to throughout life makes a tremendous difference in how we end up growing into using what we know. This I learned from my own Liberal Arts education, from anthropologists, brain surgeons, scientists, engineers, and strategists at various stages in my career, as well as being exposed to the work product of innovators like Steve Jobs and Elon Musk.

Shane Parrish sheds some light on the process of learning with his work. He just launched a new podcast, The Knowledge Project, that is already a must listen. In a conversation with his first guest, investment strategist Michael Mauboussin, among many topics, they touch upon keeping an open mind.

Open mindedness, says Michael Mauboussin, is the idea of exposing yourself to different ways of thinking, which in turn reveals alternative points of view.

Toward the end of the podcast, Shane mentions how he uses the bibliography sections of books he reads for inspiration on new titles. This is one of the reasons my father's library was so valuable — that's exactly how he built it over the years. 

Both Parrish and Mauboussin encourage us to read across disciplines and indulge my already pronounced tendency to stock up on reading material. Hence why you are seeing more book recommendations here and in my newly launched Learning Habit weekly, which I expect will evolve based on your feedback and some experimenting of my own.

As I worked on developing my talk for #dareconfUSA on making learning a habit to discover new opportunities, I was mindful of highlighting the process. Mauboussin's question — is this at its core a thoughtful process? — is a helpful guide on how to think about it, along with “how might we use technology more effectively?”

One more thing Mauboussin mentions I can attest to — the importance of exercise for opening the mind and to keep a positive outlook.


[image via Pixabay]