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.

A Gentle Friday Reminder: Go Slow

You are moving too fast. Overwhelmed with everything, good or bad, happening around. Trying to figure out what’s really going on. Addressing the issues and responding to constantly changing (and often conflicting) demands of business.

You are also overwhelmed by the whole notion of survival – that the best wins. This notion puts you on a treadmill where you keep worrying without really going anywhere. You are constantly trying to hone your skills, learn as much as possible and clear those coveted certifications.

In a world of too many possibilities, thinking too much about your next frontier is also taking a toll. You are doing something right now and also thinking about something else that you want to do. Things like “make the most of your strengths” and “play by your potential” are actually confusing you because you can do so many things with your skills.

Then there are external expectations. Knowing you, people expect you to do wonders. Your boss expects you to meet (read ‘exceed’) your KRA’s. Clients keep you on your toes and emails never leave you alone. Twitter, Facebook and various other social networks are almost an addiction.

So, you end up reading an email while talking to someone on the phone. Checking your text messages when driving. Responding to requests on social media when talking to your spouse. Worrying about reaching home on time when discussing something important with the boss.

Always on to the next thing. Always on a prowl. Always ON, but never in the moment!

So, here is a gentle reminder on a few things:

Life is too short (really) to zoom past it.

If you think that being on this activity whirlwind is the only way to survive, it is actually counter productive. People who survive (and grow) are the ones who stay in the moment, concentrate and strive to deliver their best. Quality never comes from rushing through things.

Just because you can do so many things doesn’t mean you should attempt all of them. It is a sure way to add more clutter. Instead, decide on a few things that you love and then give your 102% to it.

Yes, survival (and growth) are important, so is your career and relationships. But rushing too fast through these is a risk, it is a killer. You never savor the moment, be in the present and enjoy the process. You end up ‘doing’ so much that there is no time to ‘ruminate’.

So this Friday, decide to slow down a bit. Unwind and do simple things in life with lot of love and care. Rejuvenate your creative self. Spend time with the family and create wonderful memories.

My friend (and an amazing blogger) Nicholas Bate says: “Chase quality of life, not standard of living. The former is what most of us actually want”.

I am in total agreement.

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Have a refreshing weekend!