“Kudzidza hakupere” is a Shona phrase that translates to “you never stop learning”. The saying doesn’t tell us that you will learn whether you choose to or not. Given that you are going to learn either way it’s a good idea to consciously choose what you learn and how you learn it. Time however is a limited resource and we struggle with balancing our careers, lives, businesses and learning new things. However, that clearly hasn’t stopped some people in similar circumstances to us from learning new things. How do they do it? You’ll have to ask them. How can you do it? Perhaps employing some of these out-of-the-box ways to learn will help you.
Podcasts are a wonderful world that is both deep and wide. There is a wide variety of topics covered by podcasts. And within each topic, there is a deep selection of alternatives to choose from. What makes podcasts awesome is the amount of learning one can get done from passively listening to podcasts. Want to manage your money better? There are podcasts for that! Want to understand Blockchain technology? There are podcasts for that! Want to master sales and marketing? You get the idea. Most podcasts do not require your full attention; you can listen to them while doing house chores, in your car, on the bus or working out. It doesn’t seem like much but you’ll be surprised how much of the learning from podcasts sticks.
Google is a great example of how good the Internet as a tool is but if you ask for the top tool, the internet has given us the answer is Youtube. YouTube has millions of videos from probably as many creators. Yeah, sure, there are music videos, vlogs and gossip videos but there are thousands of hours of videos that can teach you valuable skills. So the question with YouTube is not about what you can learn but what you want to learn. YouTube is, of course, free though some creators may offer perks for paying membership on their channels. And that, too, is worth it. Even technical things like spreadsheets and repairing mobile phones can be learnt on YouTube. Give it a try, pick one thing and learn it. The best part is the YouTube algorithm will point you to more and more useful videos on the same subject.
Volunteering isn’t exactly easy if your time is a major constraint for you but I still rate it as a good way to learn that is somewhat out of the box. When we hear about volunteering, we often think of going into an organisation and working for free. That I would call volunteering in the box. To take it out of the box, think of using your skills to sharpen them rather than working towards the goals of an organisation. What does that look like? Most of my work is with spreadsheets. In addition to this, I use spreadsheets to produce the monthly ZSE updates you see and some that are reserved for our WhatsApp groups. I’m not paid for that, so it’s very much volunteering. I test new skills in spreadsheets for the ZSE to make sure I can employ them before using them in a high-pressure work environment.
Simulation shares a lot of similarities with volunteering. In the example I gave, the critical success factors for our WhatsApp groups when it comes to ZSE reports are similar to those of my employer when they need monthly reports; they need data analysed, processed and presented in a digestible manner. Simulation is the musician practising their instrument for friends and family. The idea is to find an environment that is similar to the environment you will be expected to perform in and test your skills in that environment to learn, of course. Simulation is really useful where the thing you want to learn involves practice and exercise. Just make sure that the environment you simulate in is a good match for the environment you will use the skill. That’s what separates volunteering and simulation.
Finally, this may seem like a paradox but I assure you that teaching something will make you learn it faster than you ever thought. The idea is not to go and teach something you don’t know; that is absurd. What teaching does, however, is test how well you know a subject. You think you know something until you have to explain it to a 6-year-old. If you can’t explain it to a 6-year-old, you don’t understand it well enough. Of course, not everything can be taught to 6-year-olds. The principle, however, remains the same. The best way to see how well you know something is how well you can help other people grasp it.
These out-of-the-box learning methods will help you become much better at whatever you intend to learn. The more of them you use, the further you will go and faster. Give them a try and tell us how it went for you.