Redefining “Learning”

All these business development and marketing seminars are great, but…

During the first week of December, I attended a 5 day live seminar delivered by Eben Pagan and Wyatt Woodsmall on “Advanced Learning and Teaching” technologies.

I am a lifelong learner, as well as a coach and teacher — so I’m always up for great new strategies on how to learn and teach better.

I got those in SPADES at this event!  I left after five days with a huge headache – but it was the good kind, the kind you get when you’ve had so many new, powerful ideas implanted in a short time that it feels like your brain is expanding in real time to make room.

If you’re a lifelong learner, a coach, a speaker, a trainer, consultant or teacher as well, then stay tuned.  I’m going to wander through my notes and write a series of posts to share with you the biggest ideas that I learned, and hopefully expand your current ideas and paradigms.

Let’s start with this…”to know” does not necessarily mean “to have learned”.

Here’s what I mean…

I used to think that learning consisted of receiving, and understanding, new information.

Now, however, I do not consider that I have learned until my behavior changes as a result of that new information, understanding, or insight.

Here’s a few real-life examples that come to mind…

I manage my own investments and, over the years, have received a lot of information about “when to sell” an investment, and distilled it into a set of criteria.

It’s happened more than once though, that an investment meets my sell criteria, but I don’t sell.  So have I really learned when to sell?

Before, I would have said yes. But now, I realize that I have all the information, but I didn’t actually learn from it because it did not cause my “buy and hold” behavior to change.  (i.e., I learned that buy and hold strategy too well!) 🙂

Here’s another small example…

On my way home from the seminar, I checked in at the United Airlines Counter at LAX only to be told that the flight was operated by Air Canada, and I had to check in at the other terminal.

I did this very same thing each of the last three times I departed LAX to fly back to Toronto in the last few months.

Interestingly, each time I did this, the agent informed me that Expedia (where I booked my flight) does not always indicate that the flight’s being operated by Air Canada on their tickets.

And yet, each time, I went to the UA checkin only to be turned away and told again that AC operates these UA flights.

Notice: I received the information. I understood it. I could even say “I knew” that AC operated these flights.

But…since I did not change my behavior, I did not learn.

Next time, when I first go online or call to confirm that my flight is operated by AC and go to the correct terminal to check in, I can say I learned it.

The implications are profound and affect all parts of our lives.  It’s a new way of looking at when:

  • Our children have learned that new subject at school.
  • We have learned that new marketing strategy.
  • Our clients and students have learned what we’re teaching them.
  • We learned how to manage our investments.
  • We learn what being healthy really means.
  • We learn what is most important in our lives.
  • … and so much more.

Here’s the distinction: acquiring new information is not learning until your behavior changes as a result of acuiring it.

If you’re a lifelong learner, or a coach, teacher, trainer, speaker, etc., this has big implications.

As a student, you now go beyond just accumulating information.  You can ask how to change your behavior so you learn what’s most important to you.

As a teacher (coach, speaker, consultant .. etc), if we truly intend for my students to learn what we teach, then we will provide more than information: we will provide a context that inspires, motivates and supports our students and clients to change their behavior in the real world.

I’ll share some specific models for creating transformative learning in follow up posts in this series — stay tuned.

For now, I wold appreciate your comments.  Would you let me know if you “get this”, and how that will change your behavior – in your life and/or in your work – in 2009?

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15 Enlightened Replies

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  1. mike says:

    it is true that thoughts become things, but this cannot happen without action.

  2. Geoff_Kelly says:

    This is on the money Lou. There is a world of difference in being able to talk a game and play it. This is true of sports, of business, even dating (ok, I'm married with 5 kids, so dating was a while back :-))

    For every book we read, every seminar we attend, every experience we want to gain from, we find some action we can take and go do it today. Then take another and another…


    <a href="” target=”_blank”>

  3. Lou, Yes, It's the difference between "shelfware" and implementation. The AMI Intensive , which strongly bridged that gap, has become my model for teaching and learning going forward.

    Am looking forward to hearing more of your insights!

  4. Rod says:

    You are absolutely correct. I used to have that same headache after 5-day bootcamps with Jay Abraham. I would tell people that it took 5-days for the exposure but the infomation wouldn't "download" into my consciousness for many months (even years).

    The second thing is once you've "learned" it, then you need to re-examine decions made in the "near-past"
    in light of the new information you've taken in. This is related to a concept executive coach Brian Tracy calls "zero-based thinking". Paraphrased, it states: knowing what you now know, what are you doing now that you wouldn't do or start.

    Happy Holidays To All


  5. Diane says:

    I can relate to this big time. When I was in college I would “cram” all I had learned for the test, but once the class was over – so was the learning. I am a perpetual learner, but now if something excites me, or feels right, I will implement what I have learned. By implementing, I can decide what works and what doesn’t for me. Right On Lou! As always, great content.

    Warm Regards,


    <a href="” target=”_blank”>

  6. Melissa Van Cleave says:

    I understand fully….I appreciate the way you explained the information in serveral ways….in my creativity…comes forth as a thought of wisdom or knowledge of information….that I can let sit there and do nothing with…or do I risk to do it differently from this new information and allow something new to be created….thus birthing new action….and a new part of me emerges from the unknown space….does us no good to have the information and sit on it…..Got it!!!….I recognize your learning in my purpose…we infused another layer with great learning…
    Thank You Lou

  7. Thanks for the reminder. This is great for business. My oldest daughter is now doing the college search, this is a great concept for her to understand now. It will make life much more interesting. Thanks Lou.

    Merry Christmas,

    Sandy Faulkner

  8. Here is the problem with thinking you know everything. If I told you, you need to drink more water and eat more vegetables, your first response might be… “I know that.” You instantly shut down your brain when you have heard something before, especially when it involves a behavior change that means leaving your comfort zone.

    Without being receptive to the learning, a behavioral change will not happen. Change requires NOT being YOU. Tell yourself: “If I have to change, I need to STOP being ME.” You are capable of not being you, but you need to learn how… in consistent small doses over time. That’s how habits, change, and ultimately results occur.

    Great post, Lou! Happy Holidays!

  9. Judy Schramm says:

    I couldn't agree more!

    There is a huge difference between understanding something intellectually and making changes in your life or business that reflect a different way of doing things.

    If you can figure out how to make it easier for people to change their behavior you will have something that will be extraordinarily successful.

    I'm looking forward to hearing more…

    Happy Holidays!

    Judy Schramm
    JMR Consulting

  10. Beautiful says:

    I trust I will be able to let go of "I know" and replace it with "I have learned…" It may be an interesting way of checking myself whenever I come across old information that I think I know but have not yet learned.

    Thanks Lou – interesting post.

  11. Sandi Neilson says:

    Lou – what I take from this is like the 2nd and/or 3rd circle of a set of ever decreasing circles where the outer circle is data – just facts and figures we don't relate anything to. Once we relate these facts and figures to something within a sphere of interest for us if becomes information. Should we desire or need a result we move into a tighter circle – knowledge where we start to align the implications of the information (ie the fact you keep going to the wrong airline counter starts to impact on us – the instigator to new action). From there we'll head into intelligence – a mix of understanding and awareness – the impact starts to deepen. Eventually we'll meet wisdom if it means enough to us ie where it is natural to sell those shares when the timimg is fully right for us or we attend a seminar and something totally clicks and we immediately take a new course of action.

    taaabs Coaching

  12. DirkTietjen says:

    Lou, that is an interesting task you bring up and even though it has been a while up I am still commenting. I have been studying learning techniques and the brain for many years now as I a m fascinated by it. And the points u r making are absolutely true. Let me share and add some of my own thoughts and experiences to it if I may. One of your points is that true learning is only when u implement the information in ur behaviour and I totally agree. The thing is we do not have a chance to implement it right away as we do know nowadays that the learning curve of reading skills and information is totally different then the learning curve of acting and behaving.
    As we can in most cases pretty fast implement passive knowledge in our brain it certainly takes some time to implement it actually in our behaviour. Our brain has to built new connections and that takes time. We cant overtake our brain at this stage and it is better not to try, too since in the initial start of a new skill is very important not to try to speed up things.

  13. DirkTietjen says:

    The first steps are very crucial for later success and if u dont give it the time the brains needs the outcome will be poorer then necessary. ____You can say the slower learner at the start is, it gets him to the goal faster at the end. It is like our brain is like a dschungle and a new skill forces us to cut a new beaten path i n the dschungle with our machete. At first it is slow and takes a lot of energy. Later the more often we travel that beaten path it will develop stronger and stronger until it is a solid "information highway" and we can think and act stronger and faster. But we cant do that right after we learned it for the first time, the brain needs time. That is the exact problem many students face in coaching sessions. As the coach is using his information highways and drives from here to there fast, the students still have the machete in a hand and cant follow so fast as there is still road construction going on. So it just wont work if a coach uses three new terms of that specific skill and then starts using the short form from that point on, as he mentioned it and the students should know, right?

  14. DirkTietjen says:

    But no, mentioning doesnt mean students can implement that fast so it is a lot better to stick with the long explanantion until the student had a few days time to built connections in brain.

    Also the coach should not think everyone can think and follow and drive on the highway as fast as he can – students might have the machete for beaten path in the hands and are not driving the mercedes benz on the information highway yet:-) .

    Coming back to ur example of the airline which I have faced interestingly, too and almost missed my transatlantic flight:-). If the ticket has the word "XX airline" on it brain goes on automatic and follows the connection, beaten path or highway it has with that airline and then leads u to the wrong terminal.
    It is the theorie of the "thinking groove" at work. Once ur caught in one groove its not easy to jump in another one.

  15. DirkTietjen says:

    Same happens when u drive from one shoppingcenter to the other to get the special – saving u 15 bucks cause ur in the groove of "saving money is good" but burning down your gasoline and valuable time. But that is in another groove. I wrote a lot about these themes in my blog which I have backlinked too. Your post here just let it pour out of me…:-) Cheers, Dirk