The difference between memorization and learning In order to learn something, you must understand it. You might become so insightful and facile with the ideas that it appears you’ve memorized them, but that’s just a side effect.
Rote memorization can be done in some fields, and you can even recite what you’ve memorized to someone else who can memorize it. For example: You can’t learn alphabetical order, you can only memorize it.
On the other hand, memorizing anything that you’ll need to build upon, improvise on or improve is foolish. You’ll need to do the work of understanding it instead.
In my school and university career, I did really well up to a point by “rote learning”, by using memorising and other tools to cram information into my head. However, in my professional education after that (to become a Chartered Accountant), there was progressively more emphasis on understanding a topic, up to the final “TPC” (Test of Professional Competence) exam, which was a full day, “open book” case study.
In short, testing whether or not we were ready to be “competent professionals” was not based on pulling facts or figures from a textbook, but from us being able to show we had gained a deep understanding of what we needed to be a Chartered Accountant, that we had learned.
Moving to another level of learning, that of embodied learning. I wrote a long post recently on this, noting around a learning experience:
I truly felt and still feel it deeply. It is an embodied learning, no words are necessary, it is “in me”.
I am still (and always will be) on a journey to learn new ways to learn. I am, you could say, looking to understand how to learn, and that is, I feel, the essence, seeking to understand is the root of learning. Be curious, be humble, always look to understand more.
a period of paid leave granted to a university teacher or other worker for study or travel, traditionally one year for every seven years worked.
Recently I was at an event and met someone I hadn’t seen for nearly three years. As we enthusiastically greeted each other, they asked: “So, what have you been up to?!”. Wow. So much has happened for/with/to me in the last three years, yet the words that came out of my mouth were: “I guess I’ve been on a quasi-sabbatical”.
On a personal level, friends and family know a lot has changed, including moving to London in mid-2017. On a business level, by nature I am a “business builder”, and through 2016 I was both CEO of a global business coaching company and also leading my own coaching business based in Cayman as part of that overall business. Since mid-2017, though, I’ve shifted focus to working independently and predominantly as a Sounding Board to Leaders. I’ve also committed well over half of my time to NOT being client work, both focussed on learning, partnering on impact projects, as well as mentoring and other ways of supporting others.
Put another way, I’ve been on quasi sabbatical!
Shortly after that conversation, I was chatting to Chip Conley and shared this story with him. The wise and sage friend that he is, after a smile and a laugh at the “quasi-sabbatical” line, he then mused: “what if life could be a permanent sabbatical?”, which got me thinking…..
Last weekend at Kilkenomics it was, once again, a pleasure to watch Colm O’Regan moderate multiple panels and interview. I’ve written about “yer man” Colm before and the way he fills his role is exemplary and effortless, yet also clearly shows how much time he puts into preparation, to knowing his panellists and their particular expertise and focus before he steps on stage.
In the panel shown above, as he asked Liam Halligan his first question, Liam was a little taken aback and first said: “you know your stuff, don’t you!”.
Colm also ran a conversation with Samantha Power, a high-powered past US diplomat so clearly someone familiar with masterful language, and yet, at one stage as Colm probed her as to how she had grown in her role, he reframed what she had said into something concise.
For today, then, I’ll simply share that phrase and also commend Mr O’Regan for always being curious and always being open to, at higher and higher levels:
“The two most important days of your life are the day you were born
and the day you find out why.”
So, I’m not Batman, but I do know why I am here. My Purpose is #MakingPotentialPossible. This means I live in this in my work for my clients. Beyond that, similarly minded people are those I connect to most.
One such person is my dear friend Ian Armiger, one of the greatest sports coaches I have ever met. He is all about seeing and realising potential in and for others, particularly swimmers and swim coaches.
This week, while I was at the amazing Basecamp London, Ian send me a simple image, which led me down a rabbit hole to learn more about Atomic Habits and one in particular.
This week I was at a stunning event called Basecamp. On the second morning, the facilitator created an open space for a few people to choose to step forward and offer a topic they are passionate about, creating an invitation for others to join them for twenty minutes. I found myself stepping forward and saying something along the lines of:
“I want to create bridges between those who live and breathe a focus on Purpose, People and Planet and CEOs of large organisations.
I often hear people say “ah, but CEOs only care about profit“, but over and over again I have found CEOs who lead from purpose and profit is an outcome.
I also recognise the power of the word “more”. The world is complex and ambiguous, so can we all do more to move towards leading from purpose rather than profit. We can, so let’s talk about what we can do to create bridges”
I was blown away by how many people joined that conversation! I drew up the scale for impact model above (see original post here) then each persona shared for a minute. So many people seemed to be released to be able to talk about building bridges and the possibilities that can create!
From that event, we’ll be continuing that conversation across continents via video. I’m also always happy to talk to people in person (in London) or on video, do book a call at the link below if that calls to you.
Part of building bridges is telling real stories about real leaders generating real results by putting Purpose first (with Profit as an outcome of that, as opposed to the focus of the business).
The day I got back from Basecamp, one of the most humble, unassuming and purpose-driven corporate leaders posted something I will share with you today. The company he leads was, in late 2018, the highest valued company in the world, yet most people have never heard of him. His words resonate with me, so I encourage you to read on.
I write because my Purpose drives me to share what I learn; because I choose to make that Commitment.
This image is of the site traffic for this site over the 18 months to October 2019. In that time period traffic has grown well over five-fold.
Overall, the site has been in place for a little over two years, with 750 posts, an average of nearly 600 words per post, 450,000 words in total. For those who’ve encouraged me over the years to write a book, thank you! It seems I prefer (for now!) short-form writing, but this is about the equivalent of eight books now in the posts here. Back to the growth in site traffic, this growth over eighteen months (of more than 5x in view, more than 7.5x in visitors) feels pretty strong. Since the site first started, it is even stronger.
In all this time this growth has come down to one thing. Content.
What potential lessons are there here?
For me, it is about Purpose, Commitment and Patience
I write because my Purpose drives me to share what I learn
I write because I choose to make that Commitment
In all of that, I am human and I love an audience, I love to know that people read what I write, so it is energising to see growing numbers doing just that. That site growth has come purely from keeping on at writing, what is called “organic” growth in website terms. No ads, no whizz-bang search engine optimising, simply content. So, to get this far has taken two years, thus Patience.
Over the last two years and more I have now posted over 750 daily posts, as well as collaborated on numerous projects and begun developing a book on leadership.
Out of the well over 350,000 words written and many thoughts developed from listening and working with others, the image above is of three distilled models for leadership that have come from this.
Today I’ve launched a new page on this site, Open Leadership, which will host models for leadership and ideas that emerge, including the three models illustrated pictorially here.
This new page will host the models and ideas that are developed, articulated and then shared, one at a time, each month in the monthly newsletter started in September for this purpose of sharing. To subscribe to this newsletter, sign up on the My Writing page.
All of the best ideas come from listening, collaborating, synthesising, distilling. I am here to listen, so a) I hope one or more of these models for leadership and ideas inspire you to action, and b) I’d love to hear what sparks in your mind and talk to you about your own ideas.
“This idea of purity and you’re never compromised…you should get over that quickly…the world is messy, there are ambiguities”
President Barack Obama
These words from President Obama in a recent talk that I tweeted about this week (read on for link to the tweet and video):
We live in a complex and ambiguous world. Let us hold firmly to our values and also seek to understand, not to judge. There is a real power in the word “more”, so let us always seek to do “more”, to be “more”, as well as to accept ourselves and others and all our imperfections.
No one ever made a decision based on a number. They need a story.
An unexpected “bucket list” moment
Last week I was sat in the centre of the front row at the Royal Festival Hall as Hannah Gadsby came back on after her incredible show Douglas to receive the acclamation of an adoring crowd. It had been one of the best shows I’d ever seen in my life, the crow was making so much noise and there was so much applause.
One thing was missing, I realised. A feeling rose in me, articulated in my mind as: “This woman deserves a standing ovation”. I looked from side to side and realised that nobody was standing. In a fraction of second, I realised I had to stand. From my place at the front of the theatre, I did just that, then I didn’t look around, I could simply hear and feel the crowd of 2700 all stand as one and the volume increase still further.
Hannah briefly made eye contact as if to say “thank you”, then, no more than a few seconds later, she left the stage. If I’d had “start a standing ovation at the Royal Festival Hall” on my bucket list, then “tick”.
What I don’t tend to write about, though, is that before seeking to distil (including distilling to these relatively short daily blog posts), I often read and research in-depth to understand the background (and I’ve just linked to five earliest posts as background).
As an example, yes I posted strong opinions quite a while ago about the lack of viability of the WeWork model, but prior to doing so, I read everything I could find about their numbers and business model. Mind you, as soon as I read about “community adjusted EBITDA” my bullshit detector went into overdrive!
Today, then, I’m curating a terrific post from Tim Harford of “Undercover Economist” fame. In this, he warns of the danger of simple ideas. In a UK context, I very much agree with his assessment of Labour party ideas and even policies around such things as nationalisation, shares in companies to the public etc. Depending on your politics, the ideas may well be both simple and really positive. However, read into the detail (and yes, I have done), their policies stack up about as poorly as WeWork’s initial IPO valuation.
So, for more on the idea of being wary of simple ideas, over to Tim Harford.
When we focus on what is best for society, it should also include what is best for the individual.
We live in an era where it feels capitalism has run amok and the wide-ranging teachings of Adam Smith have been woefully inaccurately reduced to the level where many feel it is a virtue to be utterly single-minded in focussing on their own self-interest.
What if, however, we focus on what is best for all, the system, society. What if, in so doing, this, in fact, is better for each individual.
I’m spurred to this both by a recent experience getting on a train, as well as by a wonderful post this week from Rory Sutherland in the Spectator. After reading Rory’s thoughts, you may never look at how people clear an x-ray scanner line at an airport the same way again.
On average my daily posts take under five minutes to read, yet an average of over an hour to write.
I’ve taken as long as three days at an offsite with a client leadership team to land on a strategy that is simply one word.
When I work on Business Strategy Coaching with a client (see here) we can have meetings and calls over weeks and months simply to hone down their message and story to the absolute essentials so they have maximum impact in the short time they may have to present it to decision-makers.
“Je n’ai fait celle-ci plus longue que parce que je n’ai pas eu le loisir de la faire plus courte.”
~ Blaise Pascal
Literally translates to: “I made this one longer only because I have not had the leisure to make it shorter.”