So here’s the question, why do you only want to learn from someone who is perceived to be “better” than you? What does that mean? Well, often times we want to learn and grow and we seek out people who we see to have the answers or who seem to know more about a particularly topic than us. I think this is a flawed approach.
Reason 1 for the flaw is that if we put someone on a pedestal as “knowing more than me” then we are unlikely to question anything they tell us. They could be wrong, and we just swallow the information coming from them as if it was perfect. We need to overcome the assumption or bias that they know more or better than us.
Reason 2 for the flaw is that they know that we think that they are better than us, so there is huge pressure on them to be right. This can be a direct challenge to them and can lead to some very strong “fixed mindset” behaviours. We are almost making people become those “bastions” of knowledge that resist change and challenge by putting them in this position.
Reason 3 for the flaw is that access is limited to these people. If you focus on only having the perfect mentor, the author of the book, or the best in the business as your knowledge provider you cannot always get time with them, and the time you have with them will be limited. If you are seeking that time in a public forum you will probably only get a tiny amount of the time that is needed to learn something.
Reason 4 for the flaw is that we are giving them the power to what to share. Learning should be driven from your needs, not their needs. Letting others dictate the topic, the approach, and the key points may hide information that you need, may direct you in unneeded directions or may take you off your learning course.
Reason 5 for the flaw is that it becomes like a drive through window. You don’t learn unless you are with the person. We can develop a tendency to be spoon fed knowledge rather than source it ourselves. We need to be constantly learning and growing. If you focus on others then learning is about the destination, not the journey.
So, what to do about it?
Learn from yourself. Take the time to ask yourself “what do I think about that?” and explore your thinking and you own inherent knowledge before going to someone else. This takes time and practice. Uncovering your own ideas, your own knowledge and building the relationships between what facts you know and what they mean is a very important skill to grow.
Learn from the people near you. Recognise that the people you are constantly with know things that you don’t know. They may not know as much about a specific thing as you do, but they know far more about other things. Interact with them to glean what they know without adding the pressure to them to be “better” than you. Show them the respect of learning from them, and you will be amazed at what happens next!
“What do I think about that?”
Do your own research. Spend the time looking things up, reading and comparing ideas. Don’t rely on a single source and don’t attribute correctness to someone just because of who they are or what their past is.
Question everything. The power of questions is incredible. When you ask a question you are guiding the conversation where you want it to go, you are asking for more knowledge in a specific area and you are demonstrating the thought processes that you are using. Questions give you the learning power!
Treat learning as a journey, recognise that each item of knowledge gained, no matter the source can add up to some amazing revelation when they are all put together. Take each nugget as a step on the path rather than the destination, link the ideas together, look at their relationships and build the connections between what seems like very seperate facts until you have formed the links that are learning.
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PS – this scales to how the organisation learns from other organisations!