Every day we learn lessons – some more important than others. We might learn something as basic as proper social conduct, how to hold a fork, or another basic skill – but we might learn something advanced and insightful, like how to offer an employee advice and guidance, how to share bad news, or how to approach failure.
These lessons will make up the mosaic of our character, our knowledge, and our experiences. We need to use these lessons to make ourselves better, more productive, and more effective. However, we all need methods for spotting, retaining, and practicing these lessons we learn.
Noticing that you are learning something new is step one. If you don’t notice it, you can’t do anything with it. Always be on the lookout for great advice that teaches you something new, improves on something you know, or is just generally insightful. This means paying attention to people when they are speaking, having an open mind, and being open to new ideas.
After you spot a lesson or tidbit of knowledge, you need a way to retain that information. Personally, I am a big believer that your memory is not to be relied upon. I have this disposition for several reasons, but first and foremost, you can never ‘sift’ through memories. If you have all the lessons you have ever learned stored away in your brain, it is very difficult to sit down one day and go through them. However, if they are stored on paper, it is very easy to go through them.
Second, if it is on paper, it is much less likely to be misplaced or lost. Memories have a way of being forgotten or blurred, where as written documents generally hold their original form. So write it down.
There is no point of learning something new if you fail to ever act on it. That is why it is important that you try to make an active practice of putting what you learn into action. That is why I try to read in the morning – that way I can practice the lessons during the day. If you fail to ever implement what you have learned, then you are no different from the person who has never learned it.
In Summary, Have a System
In summary, you want to have a system. Maybe the steps aren’t the same as mine, but make sure the concept is the same: spot lessons, retain them and practice them. Then each day will serve as a permanent lesson, instead of a fleeting experience.