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Author: Ravi Raman

How To Climb Learning Curves Quickly With Deliberate Learning

“We do not learn from experience. We learn from reflecting on experience.”

~ John Dewey, Education Reformer and Psychologist

It’s never been easier to learn. There are MOOCs, meetups, professional organizations and thousands of non-fiction books per month being published. Not to mention all the blogs and podcasts and YouTube videos coming online every day.

We are awash in information, and yet, it seems like we are getting further and further from understanding the things that really matter and digesting the content we are eating. We are sitting at an endless buffet of knowledge and getting heartburn in the process. If only they made Tums for knowledge overload! As a way to cope with the onslaught of new material, a common reaction is to stop consuming so much information, and instead, to move into action mode. Start doing stuff instead of just learning about stuff.

“Don’t consume, create! Don’t think, do!”

This makes common sense. If I want to get better at hammering a nail, I should hammer lots of nails. If I want to get better at writing, I should write a lot. If I want to be a better coach, I should get more coaching hours under my belt. If I want to improve my running ability, I should log those miles.

At work, learning by doing implies that the best way to learn is by identifying something you want to perform better at and selecting projects that employ the use of those skills. It all makes common sense. I do learn better when I am engaged in work, as opposed to just thinking about what is to be done.

The Missing Link

However, learning by doing overlooks a critical aspect of how we are built to learn. And yes, we are built to learn. We wouldn’t have gone from living in caves to flying around in metal tubes in the sky if we weren’t.

We learn reasonably well by doing something time and time again. We don’t, however, become excellent at a task through brute force repetition alone. If I hammer a thousand nails, I might get good at hammering, but I also might get good at shanking the metal and dinging the wood. If I run a thousand miles training for a marathon, I might improve my endurance, but I might just as well engrain an atrocious running form into my body.

Repetition, without reflection, will end badly.

Case Study: Wipro’s Experiment

I stumbled upon a research paper, “Making Experience Count: The Role of Reflection In Individual Learning” while plunging down a rabbit hole on the Internet. I was trying to understand how we learn most effectively. This paper illustrates just how vital reflection is to the learning process. It struck a chord, in part, because it hits on something so simple, but often overlooked, when it comes to how we learn at work (or in any other aspect of life for that matter). The authors contrast the effectiveness of Experiential Learning (learning by doing) with Deliberate Learning (learning by doing with built-in time for thinking and reflection on what’s being done).

One of the experiments cited by the authors was a field study at Wipro, a large business-process outsourcing company. In the study, a group of customer support agents-in-training were assigned to one of two groups: (1) reflection or (2) practice. Both groups went through the same training program, with one key difference. The reflection cohort was instructed to spend the last 15 minutes of their days articulating the main lessons they learned during the day. The practice cohort didn’t reflect, and instead spent the final 15 minutes of their day continuing with other training activities.

At the conclusion of the training period, all trainees were given a knowledge assessment. The cohort that was given 15-minutes to reflect on their lessons learned each day scored 23% higher than the control group. Even more interesting, after graduating from the training program and put into customer service roles, the reflection cohort was found to demonstrate a 19% higher likelihood of getting a “top-rating” by customers.

I can’t think of an easier way to boost performance by a large margin!

Conclusion

One study doesn’t make a rule of law. However, this idea seems to have legs in other domains. As a coach, it is common knowledge that a powerful question to ask clients in concluding a coaching session is one that prompts reflection on insights gleaned and lessons learned.

Personally, I use journaling as a way to reflect on learning from day-to-day. My typical journal entry will include a brain-dump of (1) What happened today? (2) What did I learn? (3) What’s next (based on the lessons learned)?

Most of us work in fields where learning is vital to our relevance on the job. How can we maximize our potential and learning aptitude? It’s clear that learning by doing is only part of the picture. The consolidation and integration of whatever we learn is a vital part of the process. It doesn’t have to take a bunch of effort. 15-minutes seems to do the trick.

The aforementioned study sums things up well:

“Together, our results reveal deliberation to be a powerful mechanism behind learning, confirming the words of American philosopher, psychologist, and educational reformer John Dewey” “We do not learn from experience. We learn from reflecting on experience.”

The Truth About Getting More Out Of Less

What does it take to achieve more? For most of my life, I’ve lived with an underlying assumption that to produce more, I must do more. If I wish to make more money, I must work more. If I want to be better at a sport, I must practice more. If I want to improve the quality of my life, I must try more new things.

Turns out, I was wrong.

The confusing thing is that doing more of something does often produce more significant results. If I’m looking for a new job and speak with ten people I know, and learn about one new opportunity, I might get more opportunities by talking with another 10 or more people. If I lose a few pounds each month by walking 10,000 steps a day, I will probably increase my weight loss by walking 20,000 steps a day…for a while at least.

This fact, that effort tends to yield results – so more effort will lead to even more results – kept me from seeing an even more powerful way to get better results from less. We can take this notion further, and make a bolder claim – that doing less can yield even more results than doing more ever could.

Let me emphasize this again. You can not only achieve the same results with less effort, but you can also produce dramatically more than usual from less output. This seems to be the way the world works, not only in business but in all aspects of life – relationships, finances, health, careers and more.

It’s counter-intuitive but true. Nature agrees. Try micro-managing a potted plant and see how it dies right before your eyes. I’m speaking from experience! Little bits of a few key ingredients are all nature needs to thrive.

Vilfredo Pareto, an Italian polymath, did the groundbreaking research that led to what is now called, the Pareto Principle, and further popularized by the series of best-selling “80 / 20” books by Richard Koch – management consultant turned champion of the “getting more from less” movement.

The 80 / 20 principle states that 80% of the results are a function of 20% of the causes. Conversely, 20% of the results are a function of 80% of the causes. In other words, the highest value causes are 400% as effective as all the other stuff being done. This principle (or more extreme versions of it, like 90 / 10 or 99 /1) show up in almost every part of our world. A vast majority of outputs are a result of a few inputs.

If all you (or your team, your business, your family, etc.) did were focus on the 20% (or less) of high-value causes, you would have the lions share of the results with 80% (or more) of effort and time freed up. Further, if you decided to only “halve” the amount of time and effort spent in total, but focused on the high-value activities, you would more than double your results – with plenty of free time and energy to do other things….or just relax!

It gets even better – the free time and energy aren’t lost opportunities. We all know that creative thinking and problem-solving improve when we aren’t pushing our nose-to-the-grindstone. Insights are inevitable when you have more space and calm time in your days.

Where will those fresh insights and ideas lead you? It’s worth finding out.

Explore:
1. Which areas of focus – your work, business or lifestyle – would you love to get more results from less effort?
2. For a specific area of focus in your life, what few causes are creating the majority of your results?
3. What are you willing to do less of, for the sake of allowing more space for high-value activities to flourish?

Intuition Is The Military’s Secret Weapon. Shouldn’t It Be Yours?

Mark stopped abruptly. An innate warning commanded him to STOP. Moments later a bullet flew past his skull, so close, he felt the wind brush his hair. This commanding voice, of inner nature, had saved his life.

Mark is no ordinary man. He is Mark Divine, a 20-year veteran and former trainer of the Navy SEALs. His story of life-saving intuition is recounted in his Unbeatable Mind podcast. I was surprised to hear Mark’s sharing of the role intuitive and extrasensory training has had in the shaping of elite fighting forces.

I picture Navy SEALs and commandos as being driven by rationality, logic and strategic planning. The last thing I would expect to learn is that listening to gut feelings and intuition would have any meaningful role in their training. Mark shatters this assumption through his focus on awareness and intuition one of the “five mountains” of his SEALFit training method and in recounting how he was trained as a SEAL.

The military’s secret weapon

Mark Divine is not alone, Navy SEAL Mike Jaco has written a book on the topic called “Intuitive Warrior.” Jaco states, “By fine-tuning my intuition as a Navy SEAL, I was able to predict and avoid attacks to protect myself and my fellow soldiers.

These are not two isolated cases. In 2011, the Navy funded a $4 million and 4-year long study into intuition, and it’s military application, slyly referred to as a study in “sensemaking”. In a job where one wrong step could mean life or death, I can see how greater sense perception can be worth its weight in gold. More than $4 million worth of gold for sure.

This is all about cultivating a broader sense of awareness for what is really happening, both externally and internally, with regards to a human observer. When awareness is broad, more data is captured and bias is removed. With a broader and unbiased data set, intuition can flourish as it flows in the background of our consciousness, making sense of all the data and bubbling up insights and ideas to guide our way forward.

Intuition and sensemaking in daily life

If the armed forces see value in the cultivation of intuitive and sensemaking powers, what is the relevance for those of us who are business owners, students, athletes or merely looking to get along more effectively in life? Let’s explore this idea.

Business owners could benefit from the enhanced understanding of the viability of a deal or investment. Not to mention the massive improvements to the quality of overall decision making.

Students could benefit from a better sense of how to communicate ideas and cross-pollinate thoughts when writing papers, in exams or engaging in class.

Athletes could better tune into and engage with their bodies in motion, the environment and other players on the field.

Working professionals could benefit from massively improved communication, listening and collaboration skills. As leadership can be defined as one’s capacity to communicate and create an engaged following, there is perhaps no superior way to be a stronger leader than to strengthen one’s sensitivity to what’s going on around them.

Improving your intuitive capability

“Intuition is a skill I believe that can be developed. Every one of us has it to some degree, but a lot of times we ignore it, or we deny it,”

Mark Divine, Navy SEAL Veteran, SEALFit Founder.

Step 1: Improving intuitive capacity is no different from improving any other sense or skill. The first step is to become aware that we all can make sense of the world around us in a more profound way. Logic and reason are vital, but never paint the full picture of what is happening around us or within us.

Step 2: The next step is to broaden one’s awareness of surroundings. Mindfulness meditative practice is one way to do it. Mindfulness can be cultivated when moving as well as stationary. Tune into inner signals and outer surroundings. Start noticing smells, sights, sounds, and feelings as you move. Turn off your smartphone and tune into the real world.

Step 3: The last step is to “keep score” of your intuitive signals. That is to say, begin listening to the more profound intuitive sense you already have, and notice what it is telling you. Intuition communicates in ways that are often subtle and feeling oriented (though in the case of Mark Divine, when his life was on the line, his intuitive warning to STOP was clear and abrupt). Are you able to correctly interpret your intuitive signals? Where is it spot-on? Where does it leave you confused? Where is it dead wrong? Keeping a journal of the intuitive signs and insights noticed can help.

Conclusion

Logic and reason are powerful capacities. However, it’s also important to harness latent intuitive power for the sake of making better choices. Intuition is no longer limited to the realms of mystics and seekers. It’s equally relevant to all of us who are looking to make our way in the world with less struggle and more success.

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Benjamin Spall And The Magic Of A Morning Routine [Podcast Ep. #12]

Benjamin Spall joins me to discuss the magic of a morning routine. Benjamin is the co-founder of MyMorningRoutine.com, a site dedicated to the art and science of crafting the perfect start to your day. What started as a passion project, to catalogue the morning routines of the world’s most successful people, has resulted in a book deal with a major publisher. My Morning Routine: How Successful People Start Every Day Inspired is available starting May 2018!

The book features insights gleaned from hundreds of interviews with successful people about how they start their day. As part of the book project, dozens of more interviews were conducted, with CEOs, an Army General, Fitness Experts, Entrepreneurs and countless other people worth learning from. You will even see a quote from yours truly in the section about meditation!

Listen to the podcast as we discuss:

  • Why morning routines are so important
  • How a passion project resulted in a book deal with a major publisher
  • The crazy morning routine of a retired US Army General
  • Meditation as a life hack that more people should embrace
  • …and much more!

Visit MyMorningRoutine for hundreds of examples of the morning routines success people. You can also see my morning routine on the website! Check it out.

Get the book:
My Morning Routine: How Successful People Start Every Day Inspired

Listen with Apple iTunes
Listen with Google Play

How To Optimize Long-Term Health and Performance With Debbie Potts [Podcast Ep. #11]

Debbie Potts joins me to discuss how to optimize health and improve performance for life, work and sports. Most importantly, we dive deep into the crucial role of rest and recovery in achieving peak wellness. After all, according to Debbie, “life is not a race, it’s a journey!” What good are we if we sleepwalk and struggle our way through life, overtrained and exhausted?

 

Debbie is speaking from experience, as a 15-time Ironman triathlete, ultra-marathoner and business owner, operating a boutique fitness training facility in Bellevue, WA. After hitting the proverbial “wall,” and experiencing chronic fatigue and exhaustion, Debbie has discovered a multidimensional approach to supporting the body’s capacity to heal and recover. It’s called, The Wholestic Method. This method works not only for her, but for her clients, including elite-level athletes and corporate executives. If you are looking to unlock your best and most energetic self at work and in life, this episode is not to be missed.

 

Listen to the podcast as we discuss:
Why peak wellness is about WAY more than nutrition and fitness
How to overcome breakdown and burnout
The magic of doing less, the risks of doing too much
The role of sleep, gut health and mindset on wellness
…and much more!

 

 
Connect with Debbie Potts:
Check out Debbie’s weekly podcast called The WHOLE Athlete
 
Debbie’s books:

Manoj Vasudevan: 2017 World Champion of Public Speaking [Podcast Ep. #10]

Manoj Vasudevan joins me to discuss his experiences as a professional speaker and coach, fresh off his 2017 win at the World Championships of Public Speaking. We review the essential qualities of a successful speech, and how to ensure that your next talk will inspire and captivate your audience. Hint: it’s all about taking time to reflect on your audience and the messages that will resonate most with them.

Listen to the podcast as we discuss:

  • Why empathy is the most critical success factor for a speaker
  • How to be funny (like Jerry Seinfeld) by “glowing in the dark
  • The role of emotions in stirring audiences to action
  • Three questions to answer as you prepare a presentation (before working on slides!)
  • Why introverts are the best public speakers
    …and much more!

Listen with Apple iTunes
Listen with Google Play

View Manoj’s winning presentation at the 2017 World Championships of Public Speaking: “Pull Less, Bend More” on the power of being flexible in relationships.

Connect with Manoj:
Website
Facebook
LinkedIn
Instagram
Twitter
Youtube

More About Manoj:
Manoj Vasudevan is a renowned Next Level Leadership Expert, Management Consultant and Author who helps executives and professionals to get to the next level of their career and life. He has more than two decades of leadership experience with major multinational companies around the world.

He is the author of the international bestseller “Mastering Leadership The Mousetrap Way”. He is an MBA from Imperial College London and has coached C-level executives, celebrities, U.N. diplomats, entrepreneurs and professionals from 27 nationalities.

In 2012, he was among the Top 25 Stand-up comedians at the International Comedy Festival in Hong Kong.

In 2017, he was listed among the Top-50 professional speakers in the World by International Speakers Summit.

During the 2017 World Championship of Public Speaking held in Canada, he competed against 35,000 speakers from 142 countries and was crowned the World Champion of Public Speaking.

#9 – Jim Posner: A Journey From Wall Street Trader to Mindfulness Teacher [Podcast]

Jim Posner, Wall Street Trader turned Mindfulness Meditation Teacher joins me to discuss the value of meditation and his journey from a life of anxiety and stress to one of wellness and contribution. We speak about the benefits of meditation. We also go into his decision to transition from a stressful career on Wall Street to a meaningful career as a Mindfulness Meditation Teacher.

Listen with Apple iTunes
Listen with Google Play

Connect with Jim Posner:
Website
Twitter
YouTube

Resources discussed:
John Kabat-Zinn: Creator of MBSR (Mindful Based Stress Reduction) with an array of books worth checking out.
The Don’t Panic Project Podcast by Jim Posner. Podcast (and on YouTube) empowering people suffering from anxiety, stress, and depression. Check out interviews with Andy Weir (author of The Martian) and Navy SEAL Andy Stumpf.