All the Courses, Videos, and Books are Holding You Back
All the Courses, videos, and books are holding you back
Avid reader, course taker, and video watcher. Spirit nerd. Flow finder. Source seeker. Founder of Love and Profit.
8 January 2018 | 9 minute read
How much do we need to read?
I want you to make 2018 the best year you've lived so far. Just like I will do for myself by finally baking the perfect vegan and gluten free brownie. (I'm pretty close, my year might finish in February). For my brownie, and your best year, we can probably help ourselves by learning something new.
Learning feels good and fulfilling. I'm a fan. And in today's world, it also holds us back.
There are lots of ways to learn. Most of us sit and do the consuming kind. We learn like we watch tv. Passively absorbing youtube videos, online courses, books.
This is great in many ways. Yet I have found our life rarely powers up long term from this type of learning. Does it really change how we choose to behave and live each day?
Mostly no. It doesn't change our lives. We are never satisfied that we have enough knowledge to do something. And we never feel like our lives are making enough progress.
This indicates that the way we learn is out of balance. I think this is because many of us have forgotten how to learn. Because of school.
Has school taught us to learn poorly?
How much do you remember from school growing up?
If I took any of my tests from high school today I would fail them all. Was that learning?
Yet I can literally quote verbatim certain movies I've watched or lines books I've chosen to read on my own. I can tell you the story of a great experience I had a at a workshop. I can recount to you all the principles of any of the frameworks I use to help people manage their energy without a glance at my notes. I can stand in front of a room and re-do one of my talks without a minute of practice. Was that learning?
The difference in what I can't remember and what I can comes from two factors:
- Level of learning passivity.
- The amount that my feelings involved.
These two work together. Let me explain.
We barely learn anything in traditional school because it's all passive. Learning at my school meant sitting quietly and reading and listening and filling my brain with other people's ideas to the point of overload. Then regurgitating that information on a test. As soon as the test was over the information was gone.
This is pretty much the least effective form of learning. Not to mention the fact that our education system was designed by industrial oligarchs to create obedient and compliant factory workers. But I digress.
Now as adults we still use this as the default way to learn. It's mostly a waste of time. (But not this post. Oh no. Totally keep reading.)
This is a purely logical intellectual way of learning. Our thinking cells, however, are not only in our brain. Our nervous system is distributed throughout the body and science shows us that our memory is as well.
There is also great research showing that the most natural physical structure of learning for humans is play. Play is a full body activity. Children learn everything through play automatically until adults come in and say you have sit down and read. It's unnatural. We didn't evolve to read, our nervous system doesn't care about reading.
There is so much science that shows adult play accelerates learning in every way and has a host of other positive benefits. Yet most adults don't believe play has a place in a productive successful life, and certainly not when it relates to work. That's a sure set up for feeling crappy and not having any fun learning.
We also know that our memory is not categorized based on facts or in chronological order. It is tied together with emotion. The biggest impacts to our memory, how we interpret the world, and how we move through it come from experiences that gave us big emotions.
You can test this in yourself. Next time you feel a strong emotion, ask yourself, "when was the last time in my life I had this same emotional feeling?" "And when was the time before that?"
You'll probably be shocked at how quickly your mind can pull up situations that match the feeling state you are experiencing. You can often follow this emotional memory train all the way into early childhood and easily remember something you haven't thought about in years.
Look, I read a lot, but I take any idea that I want to remember and move it through multiple levels of my being.
I write it out in my journal to explore my own perspectives and original thoughts about it. I move it through my body to see how it feels, and to find what emotions I have connecting to this idea. I meditate and let it create visions in my mind. I might add something I learn to my morning personal development practice so I can test it in actual real life behavior. I might then share it with someone else so I have to explain it to them out-loud, to see how that feels and what that conversation is like.
Pretty soon, what I read actually has had an effect of changing my life in some way, moving me more into who I really want to become. This is what we want with our learning. This is what feels good. This happens when we incorporate it our whole energy system.
My guess is that you do this, or some form of it, all the time. That's why you can remember certain things really well. They are connecting with you at multiple levels, not just your intellectual level.
There's a simple "rule" that I have adopted to make this more conscious and repeatable. It's easy and anyone can implement it tomorrow. This works for me. Maybe it will for you. Or maybe it won't. Try it and let me know.
Learning through more outputs and less inputs.
I believe our whole lives are actually experiments in consciousness. A good experiment, the way I think about it, is another word for adult play. When we line up with the playful experimental energy of ourselves, we can get into fantastic feelings of aliveness and see incredible progress. We can learn a lot.
Most people only get that in tiny glimpses. Instead we live for safety and the known. We listen to our fears about the unknown as if they are real.
Our fears that stop us from trying something new can't possibly be real. It's illogical for them to be real. They are projections of a future that is unknowable. They are stories our brain makes up because that is how it thinks it can protect us. They are lies.
Yet we listen to them, helped by a society and a media steeped in fear. But I digress again.
The point is, we hide in our boxes of what we think we know. We continue to do what worked for us in the past and avoid what we don't know. And we wonder why progress in our lives is so slow.
We also know this. We are not happy with this. And sometimes we break out and it feels so amazing. Like we decide to travel somewhere we've never been. We come back so energized and motivated.
That's the kind of experiment I'm talking about. We can use that in a much smaller, more regular way.
How? We commit to less inputs and more outputs.
The easiest way to involve your whole being in your learning, and the easiest way to make life progress, is to actually do new thing in the world.
Get back to the roots of learning and be like a child. Drop the passive information consumption. Learn by doing new things and seeing what happens.
This sounds obvious, but how much of your life is actually structured this way? How many new things do you try every day, or every week, or even every month?
How conscious is your practice of experimentation?
Look at Tim Ferris. Whether you like him or not, that dude has had so many different experiences, learned so much, and made amazing life progress through constant experimentation.
Opportunities for small experiments are everywhere. And big ones as well.
When was the last time you were trying something new and really let yourself feel the feeling of not knowing what was going to happen?
It's a beautiful feeling. It's like a mixture of fear, excitement, anticipation, expectation, and the willingness to be surprised. It feels so alive.
I took a break from writing this article and checked instragram. (It's okay, breaks are good). I saw a quote from Tony Robbins gets to exactly what I am writing about. Synchronicity alone requires me to include it.
"Life is found in the dance between your deepest desire and your greatest fear." - Tony Robbins
Spot fucking on, Tony.
You became a human to love and express like you've never done before, unique to you. That's your deepest desire. And to get to that place you have to go through the reasons you've never loved or expressed like you want to in the past: fear.
The best learning that can happen, the best experiments that you can do, are the ones that both excite and scare you at the same time.
School has never prepared you for this. You have to take your learning into your own hands. You have to experiment with new ways of doing everything in your life. Especially the things you want to learn how to do really well.
Experiment with your sleeping patterns. Experiment with how you get up in the morning. Experiment with what you do with the first hour of your day. Experiment with how you consume food. Experiment with how you talk to your partner. Experiment with how you express love to your friends. Experiment with different ways of exercise. Experiment with breathing and meditations and what you say to yourself. Experiment with how and when you do you work. Experiment with what you work on. Experiment with your imagination. Experiment with energies. Experiment with your dreams, you do them every night automatically, but do you know what they mean?
Not all of that will match the scary excitement criteria, but that's fine. We just want to build the practice of continuous experimentation. Continuous outputs.
This gets easier to see and easier to do when you try something like starting your own project or venture. Working for myself for the last 4.5 years has been one of the most incredible forces of personal development. Everything I did and still do is an experiment. If I want to grow to a new level, my only choice is to do something I am not doing right now. Something new.
But it doesn't have to be big like this. There are almost infinite learning options available to us in our lives right now, without reading another word.
Having to do something new in the world, even if it's just for yourself while you're alone in your house, pushes your boundaries, engages new perspectives, and recruits a far bigger part of your whole system.
Experimenting requires your brain, your body, your emotions, and your energy. It also gives you immediate feedback from the real world based on what happened, how your experiment felt to you, what you experienced, and what you would do next differently.
Again, this has to be sounding obvious. But do you make this conscious? Do you ask yourself, what is my experiment today? What is my experiment this week, month, or this quarter? Do you consciously think to yourself, hey where do I think my boundaries are right now, and how can I playfully test that?
I don't read much nutrition science anymore. I find much of it self-contradictory and most of it is funded by the food industry. Instead I listen very carefully to my body and I experiment with different eating styles in my life to find what feels really good to me.
Right now that means I eat a completely plant-based diet with very little refined wheat or refined sugar. My body loves this right now. I am always testing this to see if it still feels good.
I've also tested the times of day that I eat and have done experiments with intermittent fasting. Right now I don't eat breakfast, and often my first meal comes several hours after I wake up. I find this has great benefits for my morning spiritual practices and my mental sharpness. I have never been leaner or felt as good in my body as I do now.
I'm learning to play the ukulele. My brain sometimes asks why. It tells me I'm never going to hold a concert or join a band, so what is the point? The new thing itself is the point. I've seen a different perspective on how my brain works through music. I've had a chance to explore my feelings of frustration when my fingers can't play what I want. I've had the rush of joy when I nail a song, and the scary fun of singing it to my friends. I learned more about how I love to play this instrument from a simple living room sing-along than all the ukulele technique videos I've watched. Plus, it's fun, fuck it.
Everything that is going well right now in my business is the result of an experiment. None of it came from reading a single book or doing a single course. I've done plenty that books and courses have told me and it has brought incremental improvements or given me good inspiration. But all the best and biggest projects that are happening in my work and all the real progress has come from me experimenting in a way that made me feel both excited and scared at the same time.
Look, courses can be really great when they have a strong implementation component. My favorite courses are all about trying new things. Whenever I teach a course I tell people that 80% of their learning is going to come from themselves. Unless a course has great implementation support for learners, most people never get the benefits. Great implementation support can work wonders. Because the implementation is the real learning.
Every morning I spend about 2 hours doing a practice called Mornings Are For Me, entirely focused on experiential outputs like meditation, journaling, body expression, and creativity. It has completely changed my life.
Wait, meditation is an output? Isn't that just looking inward?
By output I mean any form of information gathering or learning experience that is initiated by your active behavior and expression.
When I meditate I am initiating a behavioral exploration into the workings of my thoughts and emotions. I am not reading about how emotions work, I am diving in and feeling them. I am learning by doing.
Reading is an input. Meditation is a full system activity. It's an output. I could endlessly read more meditation techniques. I don't need to learn any more techniques, I just need to do meditation and the learning will present itself. If I feel called in my heart to explore a new technique, okay, now I'm interested enough to read one. But then it's all about the doing. Collecting intellectual information because I think that is learning is bogus.
You know so much more than you think you do. In fact, you have everything already right now that you need to do the next thing you need to do.
Okay, here comes the nitty gritty of implementing this. It's simple.
Purposefully organize your time around separate inputs and outputs.
Here's my current input vs. output experiment:
With almost no exceptions, I don't read articles or watch videos during the week. During the week is my output time. That's my creative time, the time when I do my work that I want to be of service to the world.
If I come across something I want to input, I save it. I save up articles I want to read, videos I want to watch, or courses I want to take, and I look at them on the weekends. That's my input time.
5 days output. 2 days input.
I've been doing this for several weeks. And I have learned several things.
I've learned that I have less stress by removing the pressure of having to read some article that seems really cool and important in the moment. I can get sucked into click-bait headlines just like the next person. But now I don't. If I see an article that intrigues me I just save it, knowing I set aside time on the weekend for inputs. No impact on my to-do list or creative momentum.
The level of my output has shot up. By removing the distraction of research or trying to find that one article that's going to tell me exactly what I need to know, I found I am capable of producing far more than I thought. This includes things that the world will never see, like journal entries that have shaped how I go through life. It also includes drafts of blog posts, web pages, ideas for exercises for my clients, conversations with people to tell them what I am thinking and feeling, drawing and mapping my plans, and mega mind insights that I have locked into my life to permanently shift my perspective.
I've had so many new thought outputs in my journal that at the end of the week I now summarize all the heavy hits on one new page so I can easily re-read them and and find them. That page is like a self-made master course.
The pace of my progress in bettering my business has leaped forward.
Then, on my input days, I completely relax any pressure I have on myself for creating outputs. I just focus on gobbling up that new juicy info from the articles and videos I saved, or that tempting new course I downloaded. Yes, despite what I have said, I like this too!
I've found that having focused, structured time spent with inputs has also increased the quality of my relationship with inputs. Because I am not trying to squeeze some reading or video in between tasks or as a distraction, I find I am remembering far more of what I am inputting automatically. I am more easily seeing how I will then test and experiment with the ideas during the rest of the week.
Also, a curious thing has happened. When I open my input list, I notice that half of what I've saved is no longer resonating with me. So I just delete it, or skim it in a few seconds. Thank goodness I didn't spend the time reading it when I was first hooked by the headline.
What an unnecessary distraction from my outputs. That would have been a step away from the life I most want to live.
You're probably saying, "well, that sounds dramatic for a simple choice like that." You're right. It probably is.
At the same time, happiness happens from alignment with who you really are at your core - in thought, word, and deed.
The way to get into alignment is through constant life experimentation in different ways of living and being, to find what alignment means for you. This means organizing your life around outputs and experiences instead of passive inputs.
You need just enough inputs to give you inspiration for your next output experiment in expressing your true self.
You already have all the inspiration you need. You've been reading and watching videos and taking courses for years. You have enough in your head to last a lifetime.
When you shift your energy toward outputs, you realize you already know enough exactly where you are right now. You already have everything you need exactly where you are right now to run an exciting experiment that teaches you the next thing you need to learn.
This means you have all the learning embedded inside of you right now. You just have to activate it.
Now it's your turn in 2018.
You don't have to try my 5 days output to 2 days input ratio. Try whatever experiment works for you.
It doesn't need to be strict. I'm writing this article on a Saturday, for example, because I felt inspired to do so. And each night when I am in bed I do some book reading before I go to sleep.
There's always an energetic flow at play. See if you can find it and sit in it for your next experiment. What is does your heart-based excitement want you to try?
Make 2018 the year of experiments and outputs. I promise you, when you activate what is already inside yourself through a continuous commitment to experimental outputs you will be astounded. You will watch your life change.
I'm going to make an online course about this with all kinds of readings and videos. You should totally join.
What do you think?
How do you manage your inputs versus your outputs?
Do you have a better system?
Is everything I have written here dirty lies?
Express yourself in the comments below!
About the Author David Papa
All David does all day is try to connect more love into the present moment. That's the solution to every one of our "problems" and the basis of all spirituality. This usually involves deep emotional processing, followed by expressing himself on blogs like this, and taking people through group learning experiences to build the skills to master their own lives. He loves it.
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