I often get asked the following question: “How on earth do you learn and stay up to date in a field that is changing so quickly (i.e. digital engagement)”?
I thought I’d provide an answer on my blog so that I have a place to point people to that ask similar questions in the future.
First and foremost, it should be noted that I love what I do and am genuinely passionate about it. If this was not the case, I wouldn’t be taking the time to write this.
If i didn’t have the opportunity to travel, both for business and pleasure, I would feel incapable of doing my job. Studying cultures, languages, and most importantly, other ways of doing things, is what allows me to absorb information and try to make sense of it from different angles. Travel is not travel without actually meeting new people and genuinely building relationships. To me there is no better way of traveling than socializing with locals (from various social classes) and getting a glimpse into their day to day lives. The personal benefits and life lessons one can attain are invaluable. There is so much to explore on our planet and so little time.
I am fascinated with continually meeting new people and learning from others. I am particularly interested in people with different communication styles, personalities and approaches to problems, especially when they don’t align with mine. Through my travels and day-to-day speaking, training and consulting, I interact with thousands of new people every year. I truly believe that I wouldn’t be able to do my job properly if I didn’t have this privilege. The main reason being is that it allows me to constantly train myself in being able to communicate properly, read people, study body language, tone, posture, etc… a skill that will surely take me a lifetime to perfect.
Yes I read books made out of paper. My Polish family upbringing instilled the importance and value of books, history and culture from an early age. Before the era of Google, one of my favourite approaches towards learning something that I didn’t know much about, or had been stumped on in a debate, was to get every staple foundational book on the matter and read it. I used this approach for a wide range of subjects (e.g. religion, philosophy, alternative medicine, chaos theory, mysticism, astronomy, physiology, war, public speaking, etc… you get the point, anything I wanted to know more about). The only thing that has changed now in terms of my physical book reading is that I will use the internet to figure out which books I should buy. Occasionally I will purchase an e-book version in addition to the physical copy so that I don’t have extra weight in my luggage when travelling. Within my area of expertise, I have favourite authors, but I also like to occasionally get something serendipitous from the business or marketing sections of my local book store Of course, a ton of the reading I do now comes from the blogs and rss feeds I subscribe to, the links my community shares with me, the discussion forums I belong to and other forms of social media. It’s not the bulk however. I also subscribe to various magazines (e.g. Economist, Canadian Business, National Geographic, Marketing Magazine, Wired) , newspapers (Ottawa Citizen), and even academic journals and publications relating to my industry.
I accept the fact that I will never know everything there is to know within my field and I will never be up to date on every single little thing. Acceptance of this fact allows you to move forward and learn crucial new techniques of knowing where to find information and who to ask if you don’t know something yourself (often via social media). This is actually a big initial hurdle for people that used to feel up to date by watching the 6 O’clock news and now feel overwhelmed because there are too many sources of potential information. As a result they give up on being informed altogether. Key point: You don’t need to know everything to be considered well informed.
A while back i went through some mysterious health issues that kind of slowed down my life for a few years. Being inquisitive by nature, i spent a good junk of those years trying to figure out what was wrong with me and learn as much as i could about different forms of medicine and healing (from all areas of the world). After years of trying hundreds of therapy techniques including building meditation into my lifestyle, I eventually realized that simply being aware of the fact that we need to be in tune with our own bodies (physically and spiritually) was already half the battle. Thanks to my medical ails, I ended up learning far more about the intricacies of my own self, which helps me move forward in my personal and professional life every day.
It should also be noted that I am a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) addict. I listen to CBC radio 1 (91.5FM) here in Ottawa and occasionally still enjoy watching The National along with a range of their other quality programs. Additionally, when I’m commuting from client to client I often listen to podcasts from a range of industry professionals.
So there you have it, a quick summary of my approach to learning.