Some people collect things. When I was growing up, I watched my father collect degrees. He was always taking a class, learning a new skill, or listening to an educational program. In fact, way beyond retirement and the age when most of us would consider it, he’s finishing up a doctorate in yet another field.
I learned early on: one of the secrets to happiness and success is to become a lifelong learner.
Kay Peterson and David Kolb delve into how you can renew and enhance your natural ability to learn. How You Learn Is How You Live will inspire your learning journey.
I recently asked Kay to share more about her research into learning styles and lifelong learning.
“Deliberate learning is a skill that is developed through practice.” –Kay Peterson
A learning style is a way of navigating the ideal process of learning- the learning cycle- that emphasizes some parts over others. It’s not a fixed trait. Learning style preferences can change to meet life situations.
How and when do we develop our primary learning style?
Culture, personality, education, career choice and the demands of life influence learning style. Your preferences start early; yet they are not fixed traits. An active child may prefer to be outside exploring rather than sitting in a classroom. If she finds success through actively experimenting, it will lead to greater skill in these areas and a greater desire to use this style. The child may practice the Acting style until it becomes a habitual way of approaching any situation. Your learning style and life path are based on the choices you make.
“Practice is a means of inviting the perfection desired.” –Martha Graham
How would you describe the hidden cost of bad problem solving?
Most people understand the basic notion that when problems don’t get solved, value is lost—value to your business and life, and to society. These problems are legion. They affect our health and safety, our happiness. If you think of the toughest problems the world needs to solve, or your business needs to solve, I’m sure you’ll come up with many of them. And you’ll have a very clear understanding that solving these could make a huge difference.
These problems persist simply because we’re not solving them. However, bad problem solving is far more nefarious. Bat problem solving means poor solutions—solutions that are wasteful, painful, or make things even worse than the problem. You may know the proverb, “the medicine is worse than the disease.” Think of examples where a famous business or large government has thrown massive amounts of resources at a problem without a real strategy. Or when a major asset wasn’t working, and instead of solving the root cause of the problem, the organization just bought a new one and hurt its debt position.
Such bad problem solving is worse than the problems themselves for two reasons. First, when a problem is badly solved, people stop trying to come up with a better solution. They may have fooled themselves into thinking they had a good solution or decided the bad solution was “good enough” or even realized that by “solving” the problem, they lost political permission to keep working on it. So unlike an unsolved problem, a bad solution is something you’re likely to be stuck with.
The second issue is that we begin to believe these bad solutions are all that is possible. It’s so common for people to work around an issue, patch it, throw money at it, or learn to live with it, that if we are not vigilant, we will begin to believe this is just a harsh reality we must accept. Through their lives, many people will just lower their expectations about what’s possible. They’ll stop trying so hard to come up with great solutions to the world’s hardest problems because they’ve been taught by example that it can’t be done.
Why are people unable to solve hard problems?
The most basic answer is that nobody taught them how, and actually taught them how to solve easy problems instead. Easy problems have few likely root causes—perhaps 2 or 3—and guessing can be an effective way of quickly getting to the root cause. Say your light bulb is out—the bulb is probably burnt and you should replace it. If that doesn’t work, try the breaker switch. If that doesn’t work… well, maybe you just forgot to flip the switch in the first place. That’s easy stuff, and guessing works just fine.
We’ve learned to guess at problems because it’s worked for us, but it’s also reinforced everywhere. In school, if a teacher asks a question, we’re expected to shoot up our hand with a guess. If we’re wrong, we’re still rewarded—“good try!” In work, when there’s a serious problem, people get together and brainstorm “ideas” (that’s code for “guesses”) about what to do next. In the haste to solve the problem as quickly as possible, there’s such an urge to act that people want ideas they can try out immediately rather than good problem solving. Even our evolution teaches us to guess: we simply lacked the technical skills to reason out what to do about the saber-toothed tiger that jumped out from behind a bush; thinking too hard about it was pruned from our family tree a long time ago.
Such guessing doesn’t work with hard problems because by their nature they have hundreds or thousands of potential root causes. The true root cause of your particular problem is likely to be hidden or obscure, and you simply won’t be able to guess it. Finding the root cause requires rigor and patience. It requires focusing on understanding the problem and the process itself rather than attempting to come up with solutions right away. What works to solve hard problems is essentially the opposite of what solves easy ones.
“I never guess. It’s a shocking habit, destructive to the logical faculty.” -Sherlock Holmes
How do you know if you’re called to be an entrepreneur?
In choosing entrepreneurship, you are required to take on risk, barriers, financial strain, and uncertainty in virtually every area of life – from the possibility of failure, to the unknown of the size of success if you make it, to what your career will look like as you navigate the journey. In a nutshell, it’s often bring-ya-to-your-knees work and is not sexy, contrary to what the media may lead you to believe. Yes, there is potential upside in entrepreneurship, but who would logically sign on for the guaranteed difficulties if not called?
So how do you know if you are called? One of the beauties of entrepreneurship is that there is no standard or template, so I think most of our callings are as unique as a fingerprint. However, I do believe we have a set of common ideals and a way of seeing the world that builds a foundation common to most entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurship is very hot and trendy today, but it is not a path that will be successful or enjoyable if it is not where your best talents live. I had a thriving corporate career prior to taking the leap into entrepreneurship, with the status and ego that accompany the corporate position. The leap into entrepreneurship was very humbling, yet I couldn’t have been more in my element and comfortable in my own skin – I knew it was where I belonged. Here’s my list to help you know if you are being called, or not.
How to Know if You Have the Call
You might be called to entrepreneurship if…
You are going to a new endeavor, not running from your current situation.
You have an idea that will create value.
You have an idea that will grow and potentially create wealth.
You believe your authentic way of working, building or delivering is ahead of its time and of greater value than what is currently available on the market.
You feel being a Jack or Jill of All Trades is a valuable skill, and you enjoy tackling new responsibilities with which you have no experience.
You think broadly and can sew all aspects of a business together to create overarching success.
You have smart but blind optimism in the long-term potential of your idea – enough to thrive in the lean years.
You are excited about working harder than you have ever worked, even if it means being without a paycheck (for a while).
At the risk of sounding too idealistic, there are few things in life that are more rewarding or more meaningful than being instrumental in helping others have better lives. I often refer to coaching as a calling or mission because I believe there is something inside each of us that comes alive when we have an opportunity to be of real service to others. One of the key foundation stones upon which successful coaching is built is conversation – the dialogue you have with the people you are coaching.
But this conversation involves much more than just talking with others about their goals and dreams. As a coach, your job is to create a space in which other people will regularly have conversations that not only uncover new ideas and generate innovative solutions, but that result in entirely new attitudes and behaviors, and that forge commitments to make significant, sustained personal changes.
However, while rich dialogue can uncover new ideas and generate innovative solutions, this kind of interaction alone is not coaching. Where dialogue pursues new ideas, coaching pursues entirely new attitudes and behaviors. Dialogue is the talk; coaching is the walk. How many conversations do you have during an average day? How many of them really matter? The great coach understands why some conversations matter and some conversations do not. Most on-the-job conversations involve the exchange of information, instructions, advice, and opinions and have relatively predictable outcomes. While these conversations are quite suitable for normal business transactions, they are quite ineffectual in the coaching process.
“A coach is someone who can give correction without causing resentment.” -John Wooden