How to Learn More, Better

There is a segment of Marine Corps boot camp where recruits head out into the field to learn the proper use of what is called MOPP (Mission-Oriented Protective Posture) Gear. MOPP Gear is protective gear utilized in the midst of a toxic environment such as a chemical strike. The day my platoon was led out for this training is forever etched in my mind. As we sat on the metal bleachers and the instructors began to explain the importance of the gear and how specifically to put it on, I fell asleep. The rigor of Marine training made dozing off a common occurrence for many recruits, and we were committed to policing each other to ensure all were alert. The method of awakening a sleeping recruit was a hard slap on the back of the bald head. As payback for an earlier infraction, my good friend and platoon leader saw that I had dozed off and decided to let me sleep through the training.

I awoke to a loud shout: “GAS, GAS, GAS!” I was flush with anxiety as actual CS gas began to fill the area and I realized we were to put on the MOPP gear as quickly as possible—as we were just instructed to do. My friend laughed heartily as he watched my panic increase as I struggled to put the gear on correctly amidst the gas and smoke of the explosives and the noise of dummy rounds simulating an actual combat scenario. I had missed a critical learning opportunity.

Leaders worth following are lifelong learners who stay awake to identify their key areas of growth. Learning is an essential quality of leader who are fully alive as it results in transformation and satisfaction. Are you alert to your learning opportunities?  What is the school of hard knocks trying to teach you these days? You’re not meant to continue on status quo with enough just to get by, you are a leader worth following.

This week I want you to learn more, better. To get there, here are two challenges for you to embrace;

1-Prioritize Your Learning

Our information age can be overwhelming. You’ve got more options through blogs, MOOC’s (massive, open, online courses), and the latest free pdf. I would ask you to stop right now and reflect for about 5 minutes.  What is most important for you to learn in this season of your life?  Prioritize what you’d like to learn and begin taking steps in that direction.

2-Shatter the Forgetting Curve

I used to read 2 sometimes 3 books a week. I soon realized that for all of my reading, I wasn’t retaining any of it. The choice to slow down, take notes, and practice what I read is a discipline that continues to challenge me. While we all understand the concept of the learning curve, researchers have also been discussing something called the “forgetting curve.” Imagine that you listen to a one-hour lecture. Let’s say that by the end of the hour, you hold 100 percent of the information. By day 2, if you don’t engage the information in some practical sense, you will have lost 50 to 80 percent of what you learned. By day 30, you will be able to recall a mere 2 to 3 percent of the hour-long lecture. Now imagine that you engage the original information for just 10 minutes 24 hours after the lecture. Instead of forgetting 50 to 80 percent, you can spike the number back up to 100 percent. If you continue engaging the material 10 minutes per day the first week, you can cut to 5 minutes during week 2, and by day 30, you have trained your brain to recall the information by engaging for just 2 to 3 minutes.

If you are not intentional about your learning on a consistent basis, you can say goodbye to continued retention and ongoing transformation. To increase your leadership influence, wake up and stay alert to your learning this week.