Freaking out about something new? Not me. I worry about plenty of stuff. (“Will our new back lawn really take hold and not die off despite my tender loving care?” “How is it possible the list of things I want to change about my new house never gets any shorter?” “Do I really have the discipline to exercise every day, forever?”)
But for me, a little worrying is typically followed closely by a fair chunk of doing. Sitting around kneading my hands with worry without taking action to shift things isn’t my usual style.
Happily, I’ve recently noticed a number of highly successful folks canvassing learning by doing. Blogger and online extraordinaire Chris Brogan regularly touts learning by just getting started. Business whiz Siimon Reynolds reckons it’s the way forwards for entrepreneurs too.
Fabulous. The problem is, learning by doing also means ‘learning by stuffing up’. I know. A hard one to reconcile when you want to do a good job. Still, my view is, do a professional job, plan as best you can so you don’t stuff up too publicly or too often, and then let the occasional roadblocks be your path to a smarter, better you.
Here are three reasons why I strongly believe learning by doing is the way to working smarter.
1. Sure, you’ll stuff up. But that’s ok.
True. There’s an obvious disadvantage to learning on the run. You’ll make mistakes. Hopefully not really terrible ones, but maybe, some small ones, or possibly, some medium sized ones. How else will you learn? Mistakes happen to the best of us learners.
Today, someone (a very kind someone) emailed me to say, “Um, Sue, I tried to post a comment on your blog and couldn’t. You might want to know.” Yep, I did, and a little investigation showed me the problem was how I’d set it up. Okay, I missed out on some comments. But now I know more about how WordPress works. And really, the world won’t end because I didn’t get it right (although of course, the more comments the merrier, so now I’ve fixed that, go for it!).
If you’re a writer, you won’t learn the best way to build a relationship with an editor until you get there and try (although actually, I can probably teach you this either here, or via my mentoring program). So I’ll rephrase, you COULD learn it another way but it won’t feel as real until you get out there and actually try it yourself. It won’t be perfect to start. But over time, perfection might just come!
2. We remember things better by doing them.
Well, at least if you’re a kinesthetic learner, like me. We all learn differently, which means, actually, if I want to teach you stuff about writing better and working smarter, I should be mixing up the learning opportunities. Pics or (God forbid) charts for the visually inclined; videos or podcasts for the auditory learners among you; and lots of ‘how to’ for the kinesthetic folks like myself.
You can see at the moment my blog is pretty heavy on the words, less on the pictures. Because that’s how I learn, so it’s the quickest way for me to dive in and get started helping others write better and work smarter. (My text focussed approach is also not too bad for you visual folks, despite lack of images, because words are also your thing.) When I get a better handle on the basics of blogging and have some extra mental energy, rest assured, the mix will improve! For now, hopefully you auditory folks stick with the (mostly) text based learning. 🙂
3. Learning by doing doesn’t mean doing everything yourself, forever.
If you’ve got some budget, pay someone to help you progress. That could be a course, or it could be hiring an expert. I’m big on both. When I set up my website (and this blog) initially, I had help. Now, I’m trying to skill up a bit on the ins and outs of the web world, so I’ve cut back on help and am ‘doing’ more myself for a while, just to really get a feel for what’s possible. I’ve instigated a loose rule that if I’m sitting there for over an hour failing to figure something out, I’ll hire someone to sort out the problem for me. (At the moment I’m using the guys from Tweaky; which is going pretty well to date.)
Anything I can solve myself helps me in three ways: it saves me a few bucks; skills me up so when I get more help again I can manage my team with a bit more intimate knowledge; and I get to do a little free ‘learning’ in the process. The learning by doing now is an investment for later on.
What are you currently learning by doing? Any successes (or failures) to share?