Are you a “lifelong learner”?

Whiteboard reading "To-Do List: LEARN"“I’m a lifelong learner!”

If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard someone say that, or read it in a resume or on a LinkedIn profile, or saw it in some sort of social-media meme … I don’t know if I’d be set for life, but I’d certainly be richer than I am.

The problem with feel-good sayings like this is that they usually don’t translate into action, change, different ways of doing things, improvement, or at least experimentation in the hopes of improvement.

Reading a book, watching a TED talk, attending a conference session – it makes us feel good. It makes us feel like we’re doing something important.

We’re being a Lifelong Learner. Woo-hoo us!

But – but – but.

If you’re not doing something differently, or doing something new, or trying something out – you haven’t learned a thing. Not. A. Thing. As in, nothing.

You’ve entertained yourself, which is great. And if that was your intention, go for it! I entertain myself all the time with books, TV shows, movies, and even, occasionally, with books that I thought I was going to learn from.

But you haven’t learned anything, because learning is in the doing. Yes, you need to read, watch, or listen to the information first. But then – do something with it.

Reading, watching, and listening is enjoyable.

Actually learning something is often not. It’s confusing. It’s awkward. And we don’t like feeling confused and awkward.

It’s confusing and awkward because we’re learning, and learning (doing) new things is almost always confusing and awkward.

To learn something, we have to DO it. Not just read about it, or listen to a podcast about it. DO IT!Click To Tweet

I recently heard a podcast interview where the interviewee mentioned something that I immediately adopted. After finishing a book, he writes down three takeaways, AND – here’s where the proverbial rubber meets the proverbial road – he writes down what he’s going to do based on those takeaways.

Something to think about, whether for a book, a TED talk, a conference session, or any situation where you’re taking in information and hoping to actually learn something.

Learning is in doing. Always.

What are you learning?

More on why learning feels so awkward in this article