Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Lifelong Learning: Opportunities and Challenges for Learning Junkies

What's a "learning junkie"?  Someone who compulsively registers for classes, listens to podcasts, reads broadly, signs up for countless Facebook/LinkedIn groups, thinks MOOCs are the best thing since sliced bread...  Some people get addicted to one particular kind of learning opportunity, others just pick up everything they can.

The typical learning junkie is someone who 1) didn't attend college or dropped out because they found it more stimulating to learn on their own, to learn exactly what they wanted and how they wanted; or 2) attended college, liked the student life, went on directly to graduate school and perhaps even kept on going with a Ph.D., more for the fun of learning than anything else; or 3) feels withdrawal symptoms when not able to visit the local library to pick up a new pile of books.

The term "junkie" suggests an obsession with learning and has a negative connotation.  So what could possibly be wrong with learning?  Is there such a thing as learning too much?  I wouldn't go that far but I would admit that it is possible to go too far and focus so much on the learning and not enough on the doing and living a full life. Of course, who am I to say what constitutes a "full life"?

The key is to channel all that energy into productive learning activities and in particular, into actions and an action-learning activities.  Learning for the sake of learning may be fine but if you want it to have an impact on your life, take control of your learning.  Don't let it consume you!

Let's try to be strategic.  How much do you really want to / need to know about a particular topic? Will the Wikipedia page be enough?  Would a couple of well-written articles suffice or do you want to dive in with some assistance through a formal course or training program?

The challenge is not so much to find learning opportunities. Those abound.  Here are a couple of examples I just came across:

Hard to resist, I know!

Focus your efforts by developing a learning strategy and learning plan.  Develop a long-term vision, annual learning goals, and a more detailed monthly learning plan with specific activities.  (Yes, I can help you with that!)

Time is precious.  Decide what you want to learn, how you want to learn it, what level of mastery you will be satisfied with.   Make sure you're using effective approaches, not just your preferred learning mode.  Don't just read about something go figure out a way to "do" it, practice it in a real life setting.

That's why I like Toastmasters.   You can read a hundred books about how to make great speeches, how to communicate better, how to deliver great presentations, how to be an effective leader and nothing much will really sink in to change how you perform in the real world.  Until you start practicing the skills involved, little is really being "learned."

Toastmasters forces me to practice a whole range of skills for which there is always room for improvement AND it allows me to explore new areas of interest all the time since every speech opportunity is an opportunity to learn and share something new.  Tomorrow, I'm doing a short technical presentation on Search Engine Optimization.

Toastmasters: Better than Psychotherapy and Cheaper than a Ferrari

- Are you a learning Junkie?
- Learning Junkie: Are you taking the right course? 5 Questions to Ask Yourself
- Are You A Learning Junkie? You're Killing Your Business (Video)
- Learning Junkie (Pinterest board)
- Addicted to Insight

This is my 300th post.  Hard to believe.

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