The Myths We Have About Learning

And How to Think Well About Learing
Life Long Learning, Note 09

Henry Ford quote, never stop learning

There are a number of myths about learning that feed into our fears that we can't learn and limit our motivation to learn. Here are some of those myths.  There may be others you want to add.

I am too old to learn.

Nonsense. You are never too old to learn. In fact, as you continue to learn, you actually energize your brain and keep it healthy. If the brain is unused (i.e. when learning stops) then the brain begins to become lethargic. But at any time, you can ramp it up with active learning. 

bored, tiredMYTH #2
Learning is boring.

Okay...some learning may be...but not adult learning. Here is why. The fundamental theme of adult learning is that you are in the driver's seat about what you will learn. You learn what interests you. When we are interested in something, then learning about it is actually fun. Now, it may still be challenging, but it will not be boring. You are most likely remembering school, when you had to learn stuff about which you had no interest (even if it was good for you to learn those things). And ways of teaching by boring teachers who committed the most grievous of sins - bore those who learn! That was then, this is now. Adult learning is vastly different. You learn what you want and in the way you want. Cross this archaic myth off your list of excuses not to learn.

I learn best when I am in a listening mode to a great teacher.

Urrnnh (imitate the sound). Wrong Answer! While that was how so many of us learned (or didn't learn) when we were younger, adult learning is premised on Active Learning Principles. By the way - great teachers are an invaluable part of learning, but they are most valuable when they facilitate your own active learning. Passive listening is about the worse way to learn there is. Interest is minimal. Retention is minimal. Change is minimal. Active learning involves you the learner in a variety of ways (I will cover these in later posts).

Note: This is one of the reasons why the typical sermon is a terrible means of transformation. It puts everyone in a passive, listening, or "entertain me" mode. Which is why studies reveal people can't even remember the THEME of the message the following day, much less any of the content. Why the church persists in this pattern is one of the diabolical mysteries of the faith. There is much that can be done to create a more active learning experience during sermons... but it takes real hard work on the part of the communicator.

Learning must be logical and systematic.

Okay, this one is not so much wrong as it is incomplete...and therefore confusing to many. Now, dont' get me wrong! Anyone who knows me knows I am a big fan of system, models, processes and structure. I do happen to believe there is great benefit in a progressive, orderly way to learning. But... I am also a High J on the MBTI. (You can read more about what this means at this site.) In a nutshell - system is wonderful. But not everyone is as strong on system as I am. What is MOST important is not that you learn in the way I learn. It is much more important that you learn in a way that is BEST FOR YOU. In fact, some of the best learning takes place in unplanned, unsystematic, even chaotic ways. That is how the real world is. And great learning is real time, real life, rubber meets the road kind of learning. So -- go with a both/and in any format that is good for you. 

bookshelves, lots of books, readingMYTH #5
Learning happens best through reading.

Ohhh... tough one for me because I LOVE READING. And I wish more people read more and that they read more good books. However, reading is just one way to learn. In essence, learning requires that you gain information, knowledge, perspectives, insights and skills that are currently lacking. The issue at hand is HOW you will ACQUIRE what you need. Some of what you need will be most easily acquired through reading. Then there are other things you need that reading is not even close to the best way to learn them. Which is why there are at least a half dozen modes of learning (and probably more). Later I will talk to you about multiple intelligences and preferred ways of learning in light of them.

There are other MYTHS about learning, but these are some big ones that hold many people back. One or more of them may apply to you. The problem with any "myth" is that it is a false idea that keeps you from moving ahead. The myth tends to legitimize either your fear or your lack of motivation (which in most cases I can tie directly to something you fear).

I hope you are VERY EXCITED about your life long learning.
I hope you are right now taking responsibility for your ongoing growth.
I hope you are being transformed and more fruitful and satisfied as you make learning a priority.
Many more Life Long Learning Notes to come...


Brian K. Rice
Leadership ConneXtions International