Learning How to Learn

Tomorrow's illiterate will not be the man who can't read. He will be the man who has not learned how to learn.-Alivn Roffler, from Future Shock

I was not the best student in elementary and high school. While my grades were slightly above average, I struggled significantly with reading, spelling, grammar, and even math. I was embarrassed to read aloud, struggled to pass spelling tests, and read very few books cover to cover before graduating from high school.

Fast forward to today, what in my life has changed? I have read two books per month for the past 10 years. I even force myself to write on a regular basis and put my work on display on my blog. If you told me in high school that I would someday post what I write for anybody to read, I would have told you that you were crazy.

I came to understand that I learned differently than many students. This revelation came by working one on one with a specialist at my elementary school named Dr. Reynolds. My mother also deserves credit for teaching me how to learn. She spent many late nights with me editing my papers and helping me with my homework. My father also influenced me by teaching me to work hard. In late high school and college I developed a passion for business and realized I needed to work both harder and smarter to succeed.

The only skill that will be important in the 21st century is the skill of learning new skills. Everything else will become obsolete over time- Peter Drucker

In the United States we have very few excuses for not committing to a lifelong habit of learning. If you are disabled, find ways to adapt. If you are weak, find a way to get stronger or mitigate your weakness by building a team around you. If you are poor that does not mean you need to be uneducated. In today's society information is free or at least cheap. Below are five ways to learn if you don't have or don't want to spend a lot of money.

Join the library

This is my #1 recommendation. I save a lot of money on books and even save the environment from large piles of musty pages collecting in my basement. My library even gives me an online tool to order books and pick them up when they are ready. I prefer reading paper books to digital content and believe that learning through digital content does not develop my brain in the same way. My library also gives me free access to books online and digital tools such as LinkedIn Learning (formerly Lynda.com)

Find a Mentor

Finding a mentor can be difficult. I suggest asking for suggestions from your boss, a professional group, or at a Meetup. A mentor does not need to be a mentor in all areas, just a mentor in an area in which you want to grow. If you can't find a mentor, I suggest reading biographies. I have read more than fifty biographies of people I admire including Winston Churchill, Ken Langone (I Love Capitalism), Rockefeller (Titan), Steve Jobs, Phil Knight (Shoe Dog), Warren Buffet (The Snowball), Benjamin Franklin (An American Life), Ray Dalio (Principles), Ben Horowitz (The Hard Things About Hard Things), Booker T. Washington (Then Darkness Fled), Tony Hsieh (Delivering Happiness), and Richard Branson (Losing My Virginity).

Listen to Podcasts

I mostly listen to business Podcasts. My iPhone helps me sort Podcasts by business and what is popular. Some of my favorites include Ed Mylett, The EntreLeadership Podcast, Planet Money, Federal Tech Talk, and The Tim Ferris Show. Many of the books I have read have been because I listened to a Podcast interview with the author. I can stream Podcasts in the car (I have unlimited data) or download them to listen to on an airplane.

Watch YouTube

When starting a new job or even fixing something around the house, YouTube is my go to. While I have had to sort through poor videos to find valuable ones, YouTube is still a great resource. Just be careful not to waste your time watching to many funny videos.

Join a Meetup group

I have attended Meetup groups on topics such as sales, marketing, and IT security. For about two years I co-hosted the Reston SharePoint User Group. User groups are a great free place to learn, network, and make new friends.

Now that your excuses are gone, what is one action you are going to take this week to move you down the road towards becoming a life-long learner?