In 1970 I had the very good fortune of working with Mr. Eric Hoffer, author of The True Believer. On the occasion of receiving the Human Resource Award, Mr. Hoffer spoke on learning--and he said something I shall never forget:

"In times of change, the learners will inherit the earth, while the learned will find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists."

The entire audience was left with a very clear understanding that there is no such thing as a learned individual, just as there is no such thing as an educated individual. Either we are learning or we are not. When it comes to learning, there is no finish line.

Is it possible for an individual to pass a course of instruction with high marks--and remain ineffective? Is it possible that this person never actually learned anything, but merely gathered information and remembered it well enough to repeat it back?

With these questions in mind, think for a moment about a distributor who has had tremendous difficulty closing a sale. Let's say you suggested that he take a course in sales; specifically, a course in closing. He followed your advice and passed the course with flying colors. When he was asked a question on closing, he answered it perfectly. However, back in the marketplace, he was still not able to close a sale. His frustration eventually caused him to release his dream and leave the business. Now, let's revisit the questions:

Is it possible for an individual to pass a course of instruction with high marks--and remain ineffective? Is it possible that this person never actually learned anything, but merely gathered information and remembered it well enough to repeat it back?

This "read, remember and repeat" process is not learning, although that is precisely how most systems of education measure what their students have "learned." What has so often been passed off as "learning" is really nothing more than gathering information. It may earn you a degree or a diploma, but it will not necessarily make you an effective person.

Genuine learning makes you a more effective individual; it improves the quality of your life. If you never remember anything else, remember this: Learning is when you consciously entertain an idea, get emotionally involved with that idea, act on the idea, and improve the end result. The feedback from the change in results is what constitutes your learning experience.

Eric Hoffer left us with this advice:

"To learn, you need a certain degree of confidence--not too much and not too little. If you have too little confidence, you will think you can't learn. Too much, and you'll think you don't have to learn!"

 

BOB PROCTOR is Publisher of Networking Times.