The importance of purpose, passion and practice in learning
I thought my family was passionate about learning until I met some amazing people this past year. They have inspired this post.
Growing up in my household meant that before breakfast on a weekend you had changed, saved or reinvented the world by discussing, arguing, and conversing around the latest book, event or person you had met.
I wasn’t like other teenagers who would spend their days sunbathing by the pool or going to the mall to play arcade games with friends. Instead, I was very lucky to have met a group of people in highschool as desperate as I was to find the meaning of life and solutions to my teenage angst. Plus, my parents were looking for guinea pigs to try out their latest psychological theory or counselling technique. *don’t worry…no teenagers were harmed during these processes!
We would sit around on Sunday afternoons with a talking stick asking and debating topics such as “What is Love?” and what is meant by the phrase “I Trust you”, or “Do you really ever know someone”.
When I would just want to vent about something, you know…just to get it off your chest, my mother would ask me questions that would prompt deep and sometimes very uncomfortable introspection. Everything always had a deeper meaning.
This meant that learning for me was never a superficial process. Learning has always been visceral, a switched on process. More recently I was asked a question about how do we differentiate between just consuming content versus actual learning and application.
While reading this question, I had a flashback to my childhood. I was transported back to my dining room table where I used to do my homework. With my mom moaning about how the process of learning in schools is not sufficient to engage students, she would equate us to parrots, simply having to memorise and regurgitate information.
So, I agree, on the surface, there is a technical difference between consuming content and actually learning. And I also agree that a lot of our current learning, both in the workplace and in schools is simply consuming content and regurgitating it at the right times.
I find that most people do not integrate content into their psyche – which is in part what I call learning.
Integration requires 3 things:
1. Passion for the topic
2. A purpose to use it
3. Practice. – Learning practiced, is what I would define as wisdom.
This requires a fundamental shift in learning culture, both from an individual and a workplace/school system perspective.
This requires a fundamental shift in learning culture, both from an individual and a workplace/school system perspective. Several years ago I realised that the nature of the workplace beast is the assumption that without a degree you are worthless (on paper at least).
So I thought I probably should get one.
My issue was around how I could remain engaged with the learning process and not make my life a learning hell for the next 4-5 years while I attained my degree (via correspondence as I had to work full time). I decided there and then, that if I had to go ahead with this and be committed, it would have to be something I was passionate about.
Hence, I chose to do a Gen BA degree in psychology and anthropology – which in most people’s minds had nothing to do financial services industry I happen to work in. Most people thought I was mad. "It will be worthless, they said"
Throughout the 5 year journey to attain my degree I had to persevere through some very tough times. I can only say that I did it because I had a deep relationship with the content I was learning.
I had a deep relationship with the content I was learning.
Most people asked me what I would do with the degree once I was finished. At the beginning of the journey I couldn’t answer that question. I obviously knew, that to make this 5 year investment of time and money worthwhile, I had to find some way to make this degree useful.A truly inspiring speech from the acting dean at our graduation gave me the fire I needed.
It ignited something in me. I realized that people had a great difficulty making the connection, the association, between my degree and the context of the job, company and industry I currently operate in.
I understood that it would be up to me to find ways to help them see why it was so important.
I had to show them the purpose.I had to show them the WHY.
Its like a property agent trying to sell an empty house, or a house with everything upside or out of place. A lot of people have problems seeing the potential of a space. That's why we have people who make a living staging properties.
Lastly – Practice. I try to find ways every day to practice what I learn, even when it has nothing to do with my day job – the one that pays the bills. First prize is obviously to align the two. But when you can’t do that yet, practice what which fuels your passion and purpose.
It also allows you to integrate what you learn and develop wisdom. It goes along the old adage – find something you love to do and you will never have to work a day in your life.
Trying to find opportunities for me to utilise what I learn, launched me on the informal learning track. I am constantly consuming anything from articles, books, Ted talks webinars in the search to remain relevant in this constantly changing environment and to feed my obsession with learning.
I truly believe that when we align what we are passionate about WITH what we are good at doing, it creates as space for your sweet spot. Our Ikigai.
So… perhaps on the surface, on paper – it looks like someone is simply consuming content because the content they are consuming has nothing in particular to do with their day job. But, dig a little deeper and suddenly you find the passion, purpose and practice of their personal learning journey.