Apply What You Are Learning
When I was a freshman in high school, I started to play the electric guitar. Soon after, I was invited to join a rock band. The only problem was that I knew only three chords! But since I had my own guitar and amp, I was in, chords or no chords! A band member gave me a bunch of new chords to learn that were in some of the songs we would be playing. I had just a few weeks to learn the material, so I practiced my chops every day after school for about four hours. Within a month, I could play all kinds of new songs. I amazed myself. Looking back, I can see that my learning accelerated because:
1. I had a goal that I was passionate about.
2. I practiced all the time.
3. I was accountable to someone (my band members).
Learning How to Accelerate Your Potential
One of the overarching principles behind my rapid growth was consistent application. We grow best and learn more deeply when we immediately apply what we are learning. All good teachers know this. That’s why they design learning activities that drive home the point of the topic they are talking about. Otherwise, we confuse knowledge with learning. They are not the same. It’s kind of like the difference between listening to and really hearing someone. They are similar, but different. We accelerate our growth when we get involved with the material, join the team, start helping, or begin to practice what we are reading about, etc.
Wring Out Your Sponge
Learning is like wringing out a sponge. A sponge can hold only so much water. You can blast it with a large hose hooked up to a fire hydrant, but it will only retain so much water. You can take a sponge and submerge it into the Pacific Ocean, but it will only absorb so much water. How does a sponge absorb more fluid? Only by wringing it out. Each time the sponge is twisted, and the water is squeezed out, the sponge snaps back to its original state. It’s now ready to pick up more water. Slurping up new water is contingent on wringing out the old. The same is true with us.
Growth Is Connected To Participation
When we wring out our sponges and apply what we are learning, we set ourselves up to keep learning. Our absorbency level is constantly able to reset and thereby retain new knowledge. There is truth to the old adage “use it or loose it.” No wonder I plateaued in my guitar playing. Why? I played the same old licks and songs. Today, I don’t practice any new material, and I’m not in a band! The same is true in life, too. What do you know in your head that you have yet to apply? What new skill can you begin to use more consistently? What positive attitude can you practice at work? What strength do you possess that you can bring to your work team? What character quality can you begin anew?
Spectators grow at a snail’s pace. Participants skyrocket. Jumping in and getting involved catalyzes growth. Start serving other people and you’ll see your character deepen. Give and you’ll become more generous. Deploy your talents and they’ll transform into strengths. Use what you have. Take the time to teach others what you know and you’ll get smarter. Wring out your sponge and watch what happens.