Are You Learning All The Wrong Things?

From learning how to walk, talk and use the grown-up toilet, to learning how to read, write and ‘rithmetic, to learning how to cook a meal for four, build a relationship and negotiate a contract, life is bursting with learning.

But, are you learning the right things to get where you want to go?

I spent the years before my 30th birthday learning all the wrong things. If there was an exam for knowing all the dumb answers to all the wrong things, I’d have aced it.

I learned how to construct an impressive resume filled with in-demand skills and qualifications. I learned how to enjoy myself by visiting the best bars and restaurants I could find. I learned how to push people away. I learned how to fit in.

I was a schmuck, and it’s no wonder that I went nuts around the time I turned 30. I’ve kind of been playing catch-up ever since.

What I was doing was easy, requiring little real thought or personal confidence on my part.

I hadn’t learned what was necessary to lead a life I could love.

So, what are you really learning?

Imagine that you’d love to lead a team that helps organisations generate more than just shareholder value, but to consider human, community or societal value too.

A great thing to involve yourself in, but what experiences are you seeking out that will provide the learnings that will help that come alive?

Are you spending time learning skills simply because that’s what you think you need to be doing? Maybe you’re learning from the experiences that keep you small and timid? Or maybe you’re learning, like I did, that by fitting in you get to coast through life without any risk of exposure or hurt?

The things you learn determine the shape and trajectory of your experience

What would the Sistine Chapel look like if Michelangelo had only learned how to paint kittens and corsets?

What if Richard Branson learned how nice a comfy 9 to 5 job in his local bank feels, rather than how bloody exciting it is not to be comfortable?

And what if Hilary Clinton had sat at home watching General Hospital and knitting bonnets for Socks when Bill left the White House, rather than pursuing the experiences necessary to drive her own learning and growth?

I wouldn’t for one second consider myself in anything near the same league as those fine folks, but I’m very aware of the need to seek out the experiences that will provide the learnings necessary to shape a life I love.

But it ain’t easy.

I still find myself holding back from things and have to work hard to call myself on my own bs. My tendency to control everything means that my focus is on learning where control is an illusion or where it takes away from the texture and richness of an experience. My learned inclination is to keep people at arms length, so learning to have open arms is really about experiencing vulnerability.

You don’t build confidence and craft a life that matters by learning how to look good, protect yourself, move faster than anyone else or get the biggest number of Twitter followers.

You build confidence and craft a life that matters by engaging with the experiences that will provide meaningful learnings rather than empty lessons.

What are you learning?

  • I am learning that I knew less than I thought I knew about relationships when I started doing research interviews for my book. I am learning to be in the moment more often. I am learning how much I need to unlearn.

    • Isn’t always the way Michael?! When I started digging really deep into confidence the biggest thing I discovered was how little I knew, and particularly when I delved into hard-core researcg papers on neuroscience I learned that what I know barely registers (and how averse I am to copy-dense academic papers!).

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