Point Lookout: a free weekly publication of Chaco Canyon Consulting
Volume 8, Issue 21;   May 21, 2008: Learning

Learning

by

What have you learned today? What has enriched you, changed your understanding of the world, or given you a new view of history or the future? Learning something new every day is a worthy goal.

It's a cold, early spring Sunday in Boston, and I'm on my way to breakfast with an old friend who's in town for a conference. Passing the central branch of the Boston Public Library, I notice names of great scientists carved into the stone facing on its east side. I recognize all but one, and I think, "Cuvier…who is that?"

Apparently I have some things to learn about the history of science. I make a mental note, and continue my walk.

Artist's drawing of a pterosaur

Artist's drawing of a pterosaur, among the flying reptiles that existed from 228 to 65 million years ago, shown beside a modern automobile for comparison. The fossil discovered in Big Bend National Park in Texas had a wingspan estimated at 12 meters (39 feet). They were first identified by Georges Cuvier in 1800 and named by him in 1809. At the time, the concept of extinction of species, invented by Cuvier, was controversial in European scientific circles. Much of his work predated by almost 40 years the publication of Journal and Remarks, 1832-1835, by Charles Darwin, commonly referred to as The Voyage of the Beagle. Ironically, Cuvier was critical of evolution theories. Image courtesy U.S. National Park Service.

But now I'm thinking about how much there is to learn, and how little time most of us have to dedicate to learning. I'm not thinking here about the latest news, or job-related technology; rather, learning about how things came to be, or where things are, or where we're headed, or any of the big questions we struggle with as a species.

Only the fortunate few have the time or energy to read voraciously, or to take courses for enjoyment. If you've been missing the thrill of learning something new, here are some suggestions for finding it once again.

First, you'll want resources. Here are three:

People
If you encounter a term, name, or concept you don't understand, ask the people around you what they know. You'll get some blank stares and misinformation, but you'll also get leads to paths that will resolve the puzzle.
The Web
The World Wide Web is a little more authoritative than most people are, and I can usually find the answers to my questions with a few searches. Use your favorite search engine or Wikipedia.
Dictionary, encyclopedia, atlas, globe, and star charts
How much there is to learn,
and how little time most of us
have to dedicate to learning!
A good dictionary is great for brief explanations. Encyclopedias are the next step. You'll want an atlas for graphical geography, and a globe (or a good two-dimensional representation) because the earth isn't flat. And don't forget the sky. The Web can provide all of these.

Next, you need sources of questions — practices that stir your brain. Here are three.

Randomly peruse your resources
Spend five minutes a day just looking at random entries in your dictionary or encyclopedia, or at parts of the atlas, globe, or star charts. Questions will pop like popcorn.
Notice what's around you
I noticed the name "Cuvier" for the first time, even though I've walked past the library hundreds of times. Noticing stirs your brain.
Notice what isn't
Ask yourself, 'Why isn't X here?' For instance, some plants tend not to thrive in sunny spots. Why not?

Perhaps you're wondering where you'll find the energy for these things. Probably more of us think we're maxed out than are actually maxed out, but if you really do feel a thrill when you learn something new, the learning might actually give you energy. And when that happens, you can ask yourself, 'Why is that?' Go to top Top  Next issue: Managing Risk Revision  Next Issue

Go For It: Sometimes It's Easier If You RunLove the work but not the job? Bad boss, long commute, troubling ethical questions, hateful colleague? This ebook looks at what we can do to get more out of life at work. It helps you get moving again! Read Go For It! Sometimes It's Easier If You Run, filled with tips and techniques for putting zing into your work life. Order Now!

Your comments are welcome

Would you like to see your comments posted here? rbrendZMypMvwQiSkaMfpner@ChacDvOTJSXTbBMCgQyFoCanyon.comSend me your comments by email, or by Web form.

About Point Lookout

Thank you for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed it and found it useful, and that you'll consider recommending it to a friend.

Point Lookout is a free weekly email newsletter. Browse the archive of past issues. Subscribe for free.

Support Point Lookout by joining the Friends of Point Lookout, as an individual or as an organization.

Do you face a complex interpersonal situation? Send it in, anonymously if you like, and I'll give you my two cents.

Related articles

More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:

Pulling at each otherWhen You Think They've Made Up Their Minds
In tough negotiations, when attempts to resolve differences have failed, we sometimes conclude that "they've made up their minds," but other explanations abound. Keeping an open mind about why other people seem to have closed theirs can help us find a resolution.
A MetronomeSelling Uphill: The Pitch
Whether you're a CEO or a project champion, you occasionally have to persuade decision-makers who have some kind of power over you. What do they look for? What are the key elements of an effective pitch? What does it take to Persuade Power?
A sleeping dogRecovering Time: I
Where do the days go? How can it be that we spend eight, ten, or twelve hours at work each day and get so little done? To recover time, limit the fragmentation of your day. Here are some tips for structuring your working day in larger chunks.
Well-wishers greet physicist Stephen Hawking (in wheelchair) at the Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Landing FacilityLogically Illogical
Discussions in meetings and in written media can get long and complex. When a chain of reasoning gets long enough, we sometimes make fundamental errors of logic, especially when we're under time pressure. Here are just a few.
A spider plant, chlorophytum comosum.What Enough to Do Is Like
Most of us have had way too much to do for so long that "too much to do" has become the new normal. We've forgotten what "enough to do" feels like. Here are some reminders.

See also Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness, Problem Solving and Creativity and Critical Thinking at Work for more related articles.

Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout

A human marionetteComing November 29: Manipulators Beware
When manipulators try to manipulate others, they're attempting to unscrupulously influence their targets to decide or act in some way the manipulators prefer. But some targets manage to outwit their manipulators. Available here and by RSS on November 29.
Desperation at workAnd on December 6: Reframing Revision Resentment: I
From time to time, we're required to revise something previously produced — some copy, remarks, an announcement, code, the Mona Lisa, whatever… When we do, some of us experience frustration, and view the assignment as an onerous chore. Here are some alternative perspectives that might ease the burden. Available here and by RSS on December 6.

Coaching services

I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrenkZRcTUMesmcrHbnpner@ChacbtwYmVmvnZTHOaPooCanyon.com or (617) 491-6289, or toll-free in the continental US at (866) 378-5470.

Get the ebook!

Past issues of Point Lookout are available in six ebooks:

Reprinting this article

Are you a writer, editor or publisher on deadline? Are you looking for an article that will get people talking and get compliments flying your way? You can have 500 words in your inbox in one hour. License any article from this Web site. More info

Public seminars

Ten Project Management Fallacies: The Power of Avoiding Hazards
Most Ten Project Management Fallaciesof what we know about managing projects is useful and effective, but some of what we know "just ain't so." Identifying the fallacies of project management reduces risk and enhances your ability to complete projects successfully. Even more important, avoiding these traps can demonstrate the value and power of the project management profession in general, and your personal capabilities in particular. In this program we describe ten of these beliefs. There are almost certainly many more, but these ten are a good start. We'll explore the situations where these fallacies are most likely to expose projects to risk, and suggest techniques for avoiding them. Read more about this program. Here's a date for this program:

The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
Many The Power Affect: How We Express Personal Powerpeople who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.

Follow Rick

Send email or subscribe to one of my newsletters Follow me at LinkedIn Follow me at Twitter, or share a tweet Follow me at Google+ or share a post Subscribe to RSS feeds Subscribe to RSS feeds
The message of Point Lookout is unique. Help get the message out. Please donate to help keep Point Lookout available for free to everyone.
Technical Debt for Policymakers BlogMy new blog, Technical Debt for Policymakers, offers resources, insights, and conversations of interest to policymakers who are concerned with managing technical debt within their organizations. Get the millstone of technical debt off the neck of your organization!
Go For It: Sometimes It's Easier If You RunBad boss, long commute, troubling ethical questions, hateful colleague? Learn what we can do when we love the work but not the job.
303 Tips for Virtual and Global TeamsLearn how to make your virtual global team sing.
101 Tips for Managing ChangeAre you managing a change effort that faces rampant cynicism, passive non-cooperation, or maybe even outright revolt?
101 Tips for Effective MeetingsLearn how to make meetings more productive — and more rare.
303 Tips for Virtual and Global TeamsLearn how to make your virtual global team sing.