— Zac Chase (@MrChase) January 15, 2016
There are two types of learning:
- Things that I have not yet considered.
- Things that I have not yet done.
Learning is held within the words “not yet”. Once the learning occurs, the “not yet” dissolves into the recesses of your brain, and something else takes its place. It starts in the back of your head, a sense of deep surprise and excitement. A new idea that wasn’t there before is now crowding out everything else, trying to find just the right spot to settle in. And when it does, the learning becomes a definitive statement of a “thing that I have considered or done.”
As you might imagine, I believe that all learning causes change (see the title of this blog). Whether in your head or in your body, the things you consider or act upon, fundamentally change you every day. The fact that you can now think through a complex process of student and teacher interaction means that you have changed in your ability to make those interactions positive. The fact that you have now run a marathon means that you have changed what is possible for your own body. But, there is only so much change, so much learning that you can accomplish on your own. There are only so many things that you can consider or do unmediated or unencouraged by others.
That is why it is so valuable to surround yourself with people who ask you to consider things or do things that you would never do on your own. They should also know what you have learned before and what changes you have made in your past. Knowing this, they are far more likely to present you with learning that builds upon what has come before rather than drastic changes that are incongruent.
My favorite kind of learning comes in conversation.
It generally comes from someone that I am deeply connected to, someone that genuinely wants to create something with me. Most times, it comes as a question that forms in my head and cannot immediately be answered. It makes me pause, going silent in the conversation so that I register the learning as it finds its way through the synapses to its final resting place. But even there, the question lingers, it creates a vacuum around it for all of the thoughts that will will soon be answers as I try to put words back into the conversation. And as those words come from my mouth, the question explodes and fills that empty space like a mushroom cloud.
And that is what I am looking for: Mushroom Cloud Moments. I strive for at least one per day, but sometimes a single conversation will create a half dozen. It is then that I really need the other person to help me process all of the change happening in my brain. They are both responsible for the learning and the aftermath of it. This makes the best kinds of learning into a collaborative process between the instigator (the other person) and the integrator (the person doing the learning). By instigating a huge learning experience, it is then important for the learner to integrate that learning into their other experiences. I have found that if this doesn’t happen, I let go of the new learning in favor of what I already knew or believed. When that happens, it feels like a part of my brain falls out of my ear and sublimates when it hits the floor.
I know I am learning when I feel the change in my own brain and when I have someone there to confirm it and help me to understand and contextualize it.