On Learning Slowly

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The thing with fast food is that you can avail it quickly and when more people avail more food quickly, it soon becomes a commodity. And very often, fast food may just fill the stomach without nourishing much.

The food we value is the one that not only has the right nutrients, but is also cooked with care and attention to ingredients, balance of flavors and texture. It fills our stomach, nourishes us and feeds our well being.

I guess it’s the same with the media we consume. In a  bid to stay updated all the time (which is hardly what we call learning), we consume a lot of Tweets, Instagram posts, Facebook updates etc. These are quick bites that may fill your time with an illusion of learning, unless your goal is to just fill the time with something (and hide behind it).

But if you are set out to truly learn something and go deeper, then you need slow media that is cooked slowly with care, has the right ingredients and is nourishing.

Sound bites are intellectually stimulating but unless they go deeper into our system, no change actually happens.

And learning that does not lead to change in mindset, actions and behavior is not learning, but only intellectual stimulation.

The other problem with these sound-bites is that they offer a very narrow view of the topic at hand. Truth is that nothing happens in isolation and everything is somehow connected to a larger system in ways that are not always visible.

Real learning involves a systematic exploration of all connected aspects of problem at hand. It requires a more nuanced conversation.

Take leadership, for example. Real leadership is rooted within our own deeper self, our past conditioning, cultural background and the demands of a given context. It demands a layered conversation and systems thinking within a given context, not just a list of silver bullets.

When there’s unlimited shelf space allowing unlimited podcasts, which can be of unlimited length, the goal isn’t to get the show on the air faster or to make it noisier. Instead, the goal, like the goal of a good book, is to say something worth saying, and to do it in a way that’s worth waiting for. – Seth Godin

Slow media is anything that takes time to create and consume, provokes thinking, challenges our assumption, initiates a conversation worth having, nudges us to act differently and creates an emotional connection.

Social Web is noisy and cluttered because people try to create media that pulls mass viewership to generate required number of hits, likes and shares.

The essence of social learning is to find authentic sources created with the spirit of a nuanced and collective exploration and stay away from sound bites. 

Personally, I find most value in having a good layered conversation with someone I admire, reading good books that are written in a conversational tone, podcasts and videos where individuals share deep and relevant insights on something worthwhile and blogs that carefully weave a conversation incrementally through the posts.

But then, I just don’t skim through these (or bookmark them for later reading even when I skim). I preferto read with a pencil. I take notes as I go, summarize in visual notes, then share on the blog and connect insights that are related and relevant. Finally, when it all goes deeper into my system, some of it manifests in action. That is how we learn slowly and improve gradually.

To really learn effectively, we need to consume slow media, slowly.

And then reflect upon it. And put it into practice in some way or the other. Blend it with our experience. And then share what we learn with communities that feed us.

And that’s never as easy as walking up to the always-on social media counters and grab a quick bite!

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P.S: Big thanks to Shilpa Srikanth (@S_scoops) for creating her version of visual summary for this post. Check it out here.

Disconnect to Connect

For our creativity to thrive and learning to happen, we need unburdened spaces in our life – physical spaces too, but most importantly, mental spaces.

In a world of never-ending streams of updates, pictures and sound bites that constantly crave for our attention, we need an intentional effort to disconnect.

We need to reclaim the disconnected and real space where we can make sense of it all, spend time reading a good book without getting anxious about sharing what we are reading, explore places and ideas with sense of wonder, have real conversations with people, reflect on our experiences, create and discover our true selves.

I believe that minimalism and act of subtraction is at the very heart of discovering ourselves because to understand who we really are, we need to prune everything that we are not. We need to be comfortable with ‘missing out’ on things that everyone else does or consumes or shares, so that we can think, reflect, create and just be. Letting it go is as much about our thoughts and beliefs as it is about the objects of our desire.

Here’s a quick visual nudge to disconnect once in a while, step away from the cacophony that surrounds us and do it intentionally. Who knows, it may enrich us in a way no technology ever can!

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Consume Less, Create More

That was my mantra in 2015 and beyond. As we start a new year, I revisited this mantra and a few additional thoughts came to the fore.

Consume Less

Consumption is a critical element in one’s ability to create anything. So, consumption, by itself, is not all that bad. The problem of our times is  consumption by default. We first consume and then think if we really needed it. This is true for almost everything – from stuff we buy to the content we read, from events we attend to conversations we engage in. Unfortunately, technology has made consumption all the more easier which only adds to the problem. Have we not seen people who are constantly busy on their phones consuming stuff without moving a needle for anyone? We need to jump off the consumption treadmill.

The goal, then, is to consume mindfully and there seem to be two ways to do it:

1) Consume mindfully by having right set of filters that help you decide if something will *really* add value and increase your ability to create. When you consume mindfully, less is actually more. When you have better filters, you gain that which is relevant. Consuming mindfully also means being in the moment while you consume and not rush through the process.

2) Practice the fine art of subtraction – we don’t need more and more. We need less that is more (useful/helpful/enriching etc.) Sometimes, the only way to find if something is useful is to “try” it. But often, once we try something, it stays with us because we are not so good at subtracting stuff – at eliminating that which we don’t really need.

“Minimalism is not subtraction for the sake of subtraction. Minimalism is subtraction for the sake of focus” – Source

Create more

Most of us, I assume, long to create stuff that changes us and others for better – whether it is a radical new product or a one-on-one conversation with a colleague. Mindful consumption increases our capacity to create.

“Create what?” – you may ask.

When we exercise mindfully, we create health. When we consume food mindfully, we create wellness. When we travel mindfully, we create enriching experiences. When we converse mindfully, we create relationships. When we create what we truly love, we create joy and meaning. When we share generously, we create connections and conversations. When we connect mindfully, we create learning. When we work mindfully, we create remarkable results. When we prioritize mindfully, we create focus. When we serve mindfully, we create contentment. When we meditate, we create wellness. And we make a positive difference to ourselves and others through our creations.

To be mindful is to be present in the moment, immersed in doing whatever you choose to do. The fact that individually, we can only do so much, we have to choose our battles carefully and subtract the rest!

The time saved through mindful consumption is the time spared for engaging in creative pursuits.

So my mantra for 2016 (and beyond) is the same as it was in 2015 – Consume Less, Create More. I look forward to doing better and raising the bar for myself.

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