Eight Great Ways to LEARN to Be a Kid Again
By Vickie Milazzo
Most of us have taken at least one walk down the aisles of Toys "R" Us. There's no better place than a toy store to observe these truths: Learning is fun. Learning is kid stuff.
Kids are smart enough to reject anything they don't like, yet many of the most popular toys are dedicated to teaching them something new. Note the tremendous success of the LeapFrog toys. They teach reading, writing and more, and kids love them.
No matter your age, abilities or income level, you can always be a learner. People who continue to grow and learn are happy - like kids. Here are eight great ways to keep that childlike grin on your face while you learn:
1.Fire Up Your Desire to Learn with Fun
At its best, learning is a form of entertainment. Next time you walk down the toy aisle, notice how many ways the educational toys make learning fun. They use music, color, pictures and physical interaction. How much more interesting is that than sitting for an hour listening to an important but dull lecture? No wonder the really great educational toys are so popular.
Studying a topic that interests you shouldn't require a double espresso to keep you from falling asleep. If that's happening, you might have the wrong instructor. Who needs that? Seek out trainers who know how to deliver a message with punch. Not only will you enjoy it more, you'll want to learn and you'll retain more of the information.
In my training seminars and conferences, I strive to provide a one-of-a-kind learning experience. I educate with entertainment - music, games, contests and humor. It's all connected to the topic I'm presenting, and the students' brains just soak it up. In the process, their careers are reignited, and so is mine.
Education should be entertaining. Commit to having fun while you learn.
2.Keep the Flame of Learning Alive with Variety
Advanced learning is essential. So is brushing your teeth. But just because learning is essential to your career, doesn't mean it has to be as monotonous as brushing your teeth.
Every day of my life I have fun reading at least one book and often have several open at one time. A few minutes of study on each book keeps my interest stimulated, I retain the material better and I often find myself synthesizing information from the various sources. I also listen to audio programs while driving. Not only is this a fun way to learn and improve myself, it also keeps me calmer and more relaxed in traffic. I tried watching videos, but that seemed to excite the other drivers.
No matter what the subject, you can find a variety of interesting ways to further your knowledge and expertise. Open a book. Listen to an audio presentation. Watch an educational video. Start a study group with other lifetime students.
The same principle applies to the teachers and mentors you learn from. Choose those who have something interesting to say and an interesting way of saying it. Don't hesitate to have more than one mentor with different experience and teaching styles for different subjects. While one-on-one personalized mentoring is ideal, you'll find a world of varied and specific information presented by excellent speakers on audio and video. The varied approaches will enable you to better absorb each subject from the most appropriate teacher and will keep you stimulated and eager to learn.
Learning shouldn't lull you to sleep. Commit to learning from a variety of teachers and choose the learning modes that keep you excited about learning every day.
3.Seek Out Teachers from the Trenches Who Make Learning Fast and Easy
In all my years of education, I've discovered that there are basically two ways to learn:
You can choose the hard way, figuring things out on your own by trial and error and making lots of mistakes. You'll do some of this anyway, but it's a slow path to success.
OR you can choose the easy way, learning from mentors who have already overcome any challenge you might encounter and already discovered the solution. The right mentor is eager to share those answers with you and set you on a smoother, easier road to knowledge.The best continuing education is immediate and applicable. Going back to college is not the way to change your life's work. Your best bet is to seek the fast-track education route to business success. You want a nontraditional program designed specifically to deliver the information you need in a form you can use immediately.
All teachers and training programs are not created equal. Learning shouldn't have to be an uphill struggle. Commit to finding the wildly successful teachers and targeted training programs that can make the process fast and easy for you.
4.Be Willing to Learn from Anyone and Everyone
Never fall into the trap of educational snobbery - "Oh, I have my MBA, JD, PhD, etc., etc. - I couldn't possibly learn from a secretary."
I'm open to learning from anyone. Four times a year, 20+ Institute staff members of all levels plus outside consultants gather around our big conference table for a focused, all-day brainstorming session. We work hard on a number of strategically selected topics, and we include frequent breaks for eating and exercise to keep the day interesting and fun. These brainstorm sessions have contributed tremendously to the phenomenal growth of my business.
Not all CEOs agree with my egalitarian take on learning. When I recommended company-wide brainstorming to a CEO group I belonged to, all they saw was the cost of shutting down their businesses for the day. They didn't understand that an idea from a $12-per-hour employee could launch a new division, service or product, adding tremendous value to the company for years to come.
You'll find mentors in many guises, from business associates to family members, friends and colleagues. Although I've been in my business for more than two decades, I still learn every day - not only from recognized experts, but especially from my students and staff members, outside consultants and vendors, favorite writers and speakers, and other CEOs.
Learning possibilities aren't limited to "learned" teachers or a classroom setting. Stay open to learning everywhere you go, from everyone you know.
5.Make Sure You Learn the Right Stuff
We ask college students, "What's your major?" Life is a college of its own, and we all learn every day. The important question to ask yourself is: "Am I learning the things that will make a difference in my life or things that won't enhance it at all?" For example, are you mastering techniques for expanding your professional skill set or absorbing the intimate details of the characters on a TV sitcom?
Successful people do not major in minor things. Massively successful people focus on learning the right things. Do you want to learn about the life of a movie star or about a topic that will make you the star of your own life?
To be excellent at learning, laser in on the topics you need to succeed. Where you focus is where you get results. If you want big results, focus on Big Things.
6.Make the Most of Every Learning Opportunity - Even Those Disguised as SNAFUs
Life is a learning smorgasbord. Try to learn from every experience, good or bad. Even in a crisis, you can always glean something positive.
I happened to be in New York City in August 2003 and experienced the blackout firsthand. I looked around me and studied others who survived this negative situation in different ways, from children to adults, from doctors to lawyers to hotdog vendors. Through my observations, I learned this lesson, "Don't let a communication blackout come between you and your clients." I then wrote an article about this business world application of a SNAFU, and made sure I applied this lesson to my own business.
Life is full of lessons, both large and small. A bad experience is only bad if you don't learn from it. Commit to learning from each experience, even the "negative" ones.
7.Carve Out the Time for Learning
If continued education still sounds daunting, remember that you don't need hours a day as you did in college. Commit to reading 30 minutes a day on a topic you find interesting and intriguing. Commit to listen to an audio program while driving or to watch an educational video while exercising.
You'll also find appropriate classes and other informational material online and even on educational television. Just don't get sucked into wasting irreplaceable time on the junk that prevails on these media. Subscribe to electronic newsletters that feed your learning in a focused way.
Like any journey, a lifetime of fun and learning starts with the smallest step. Commit to finding the time for learning wherever and whenever you can.
8.Make Learning a Lifetime Priority for Growth and Fun
In today's information age, believing you can launch or grow a successfulbusiness or career without continuing education is a guarantee of failure. Successful people respect the complexity of their professions. They become students for life.
Researchers say most of us have learned 80% of everything we know by the time we're eight years old, when we're still enthralled by every new discovery. How sad is that? I don't know about you, but I like to think I'm a lot smarter now than when I was eight.
Rekindle that childhood enthusiasm. Pick up a book today. Turn off the TV and tune in to an inspirational speaker. This is the best New Year's resolution you can make for yourself.
Learning really is kid stuff. Commit to enjoying it. Start today. Be a child again.
About The Author
Inc. Top 10 Entrepreneur Vickie L. Milazzo, RN, MSN, JD is the founder and president of Vickie Milazzo Institute. She is credited by The New York Times with creating the legal nurse consulting profession in 1982. She is the recipient of the Nursing Excellence Award for Advancing the Profession and the Stevie Award as Mentor of the Year. Vickie has revolutionized the careers of thousands of RNs.
She is the author of Inside Every Woman: Using the 10 Strengths You Didn't Know You Had to Get the Career and Life You Want Now (www.InsideEveryWoman.com), coming March 2006 from John Wiley & Sons, Inc.