05 Dec Skill Learning
It’s amazing that we can have over sixteen years of formal education and never receive one class on skill learning. Learn more about effective skill learning that can help you grow in your training, business and personal life.
So you get your high school diploma. Next it’s off to college for a degree that lets the world know that you kept the binge drinking and late night extra-curricular activities to a reasonable minimum. You decide you’re not prepared yet for your career so you go to graduate school.
By the time you get done, you’re confident you’ve learned all the concepts you need to succeed and you secure that dream job.
First week at work you’re told to learn the system in place for online marketing – in this example you’re an online marketer. If you flip burgers for a living use your imagination and translate the idea.
Learn a system? No problem for you! You’re a master of learning. No pun intended. Next week you’re told to use the entire system you’ve learned to increase traffic and profits in the coming month. You promptly have a panic attack and realize that you have no idea how to implement the system.
You could write a kick-ass paper on the ideas behind the system. But that’s just the problem- you get the idea but have no idea how to learn the skills needed to make the system work.
This can be used in any example – learning new sales techniques, learning photography, fitness and weight lifting, playing sports or playing an instrument.
Just because you understand an idea doesn’t mean you know how to learn and use a practical skill. It’s amazing that we can have over sixteen years of formal education and never receive one class on skill learning.
Now make no mistake. I’m not knocking formal education. I have a formal education and I wouldn’t be who I am if not for it. My point rather is that students can regurgitate information but often cannot apply it to a practical situation.
I’m the example guy so I’ll give you one whether you care or not. I worked as a personal trainer while I was studying Kinesiology at University. Other students who I had classes with would occasionally come to the gym I worked at and see me training or working out. I can’t tell you how many times I was asked why I programmed workouts the way that I did. These students could tell you all about the anatomy and biomechanics of the body but had no idea how to use these concepts to make an exercise program that made sense and got real results.
My great example isn’t to say that I had it all figured out. I’ve learned most things the hard way. I’ve tried to learn new things and change my behavior again and again failing each time. I’ve come to realize that the problem was always trying to do too much at once and not focusing on consistency. Successful people tend to follow the same method when learning a new skill. Lists are cool. So here’s a list to explain this method:
1. Focus on one thing at a time
I’ve done this wrong countless times. I read about something new or listen to a seminar and I immediately want to incorporate it into my business, workout programs or personal life. Let’s say I learned about new high-payoff activities to get new clientele in my business. I’ll get really excited and try steps one through five hundred all at once. A month later I’m discouraged and stop doing it all together.
I do the same thing in my workouts. I learn five new techniques that will help me loosen my hips to generate more force and I try using them all the next day. A week later I’m so freaking tired of doing every God-forsaken version of dynamic hip flexor stretches known to man that I stop doing anything for my hip flexibility.
Successful people learn to focus all their energies on one step of any new technique or skill and exhaust it until it becomes habit. Instead of having their attentions divided with practicing multiple steps, successful people practice changing one behavior at a time.
Once you have that first step down you can move on to the next but don’t rush it. Twenty-one days is said to be the standard time for a habit to form. I say just focus on it until you don’t it without having to remind yourself.
2. Practice things at least three times before you quit
Trying something new out is always awkward. Most get discouraged if they try out a new skill and don’t get a good return whether financial or personal. Must be that the skillset isn’t for them right? Well, have you ever seen a baby learn to walk? Chances are they fail the first couple of times. Does that mean learning the skill of walking upright isn’t for them? No, it means they try again until it’s no longer foreign to them.
This ridiculous example is just to tell you that you will probably suck at whatever new skill or behavior you try to develop but to be successful try it at least three times to make sure you’re not the problem.
3. Focus on repetition not perfection
Have you ever tried to learn an instrument? If you have, you might have also had an old crazy band teacher telling you to practice two to five hours every day. I don’t care what your mother told you, it probably sounded awful. You most likely weren’t hitting every note right. If you stuck with it though a funny thing happened- a lot of not so good playing makes you improve.
If you were worried about hitting every note correctly you would have never played enough to actually improve. This is true in learning any skill.
Practice skills often and in time quality will come.
4. Practice skills when you feel comfortable.
This is pretty straight forward. If at all possible practice in no to low risk situations. The worst thing you can do is learn a new system of marketing and try it out on your most important clientele. We’ve already established that you are going to suck at it. You’ll try a new skill once and give up because it backfired.
Do yourself a favor and practice new skills with people that you are safe with. When learning a new skill in business, try it with clients that won’t spend as much or have worked with you awhile. If you’re learning a skill to help you improve sport or fitness like the power clean. Practice around supportive friends and coaches that can give you positive feedback.
Got any other ideas of how to learn skills better? Leave them in the comments. Seriously! I’m still learning too.