Avid reader, course taker, and video watcher. Spirit nerd. Founder of Love and Profit.
8 January 2018 | 9 minute read
How much do we need to read?
This year I plan to perfect vegan mac 'n cheese. (I'm pretty close, my year might finish in February). For my food, and your best year too, 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. But does it really change how we choose to behave and live each day?
Mostly no. It doesn't change our lives. Plus, we are never satisfied that we have enough knowledge to do something.
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 in books I've chosen to read on my own. I can tell you the story of a great experience I had at a workshop. 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 get 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 answers 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.
As creative adults, we still use this ineffective method as the default way to learn. It's mostly a waste of time. (But not this post. Oh no. Totally keep reading.)
This mode of learning is purely logical and intellectual. Our thinking cells, however, are not only in our brain. Our nervous system is distributed throughout the body. We have 1 million neurons in our gut and it makes decisions. We have 40,000 in our heart and it makes decisions. Our memory is distributed in our cells as well.
There is also great research showing that the most natural physical behavior for learning in humans (and all mammals) is play. It's science. Check out Stuart Brown. Play is a full body activity. Children learn everything through play automatically until adults come in and say you have sit down and read. 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?" Once you find the memory ask again. "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. The more parts of my being I can connect the better I can remember it and absorb it.
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. This also explains why certain things seem to escape your memory every time.
There's a simple "rule" that I have adopted to make this learning process 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.
Here's the "rule": Take in less. Put out more. Learn by creating things.
A good experiment is another word for adult play. When we line up with the playful experimental energy of ourselves, we can learn a lot, and get a lot done in the process. We can get into fantastic feelings of aliveness and see incredible progress.
Like when we decide to travel somewhere we've never been. We come back so energized, motivated, and re-thinking our lives.
That's the kind of experiment I'm talking about. We can use that in a much smaller, more regular way.
Learn by doing a new thing 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?
I bet you prioritize getting that new course to learn something more than you prioritize running an experiment right now. I'm encouraging you to switch that around.
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.
We don't have to live like him to get the benefits. Opportunities for small experiments are everywhere. And big ones as well.
Experiments are Scary. That's Good.
I just took a break from writing this article and checked Instagram. (It's okay, breaks are good). I saw a quote from Tony Robbins that 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.
What is Tony talking about?
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.
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.
That's an emotional wallop that will sink in the learning. But also, what excites us and scares us at the same time is often exactly in line with our soul.
School has never prepared you for this. You have to take your learning into your own hands. You can experiment with new ways of doing everything in your life. Especially the things you want to learn how to do really well.
For your health, 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 different ways to see your own mind. Experiment with how and when you do you work. Experiment with what you work on. Experiment with your imagination. Experiment with energies. Experiment by writing a new article or drawing a picture. 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 something new.
That is the same for you, if you want a new experience, then your only option is to do something new.
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. That's more powerful than most reading.
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?
Everything that is going well right now in my business is the result of an experiment. I've read lots of books and have done lots of courses, even an MBA. For me, this has added some thinking frameworks and created incremental progress. That's useful. But all the biggest projects that are happening in my work and all the big jumps in progress have come from me experimenting in a way that made me feel both excited and scared at the same time. Like early in my career, I invited someone I admired to lunch and I just asked him straight up to be his apprentice. The result of that was more valuable than 2 years of business school.
Look, I love courses too! Just look for courses that have good implementation support. Whenever I teach a course I tell people that 80% of their learning is going to come from themselves. We have specific structures in the course exclusively for participants to do implementation. Unless a course has great implementation support for learners, most people don't complete the course and many never get the benefits. Great implementation, however, can work wonders. Because in the implementation is the real learning and progress.
So do your own implementation all the time. In the form of experiments and creating things.
You know so much more than you think you do. In fact, you have everything that you need right now to do the next thing you need to do. Thanks, Bashar.
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 experiment and 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 I created a new practice - 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 find them. That journal page is like a self-made master course unique to me. And it was all already inside my head!
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. And I enjoy that just as much.
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. So much time saved.
If you want to go even deeper into the idea of an input fast, check out Leo Babauta's idea on this for 2018.
Now it's your turn in 2018.
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 inputs only enough 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 might 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.
The experiment teaches you the next thing you need to learn.
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.
There's always an energetic flow at play. See if you can find it and sit in it for your next experiment. What does your heart-based excitement want you to try?
Make 2018 the year of experiments and outputs. Take in a little bit less and allow yourself to express from within a little bit more.
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!
I help people reach into their shadow and pull out their freedom. I help people connect with their Light and use it solve problems. It's fun. I love it. One person I worked with said it saved their life. Someone else said she felt unconditional love in her being for the first time. If this sounds exciting or terrifying to you, you should probably try it. Contact me to learn about organizational, groups or one-to-one work: firstname.lastname@example.org
How to Get Clarity in 5 Minutes
Grab my tool called Dream Dancing. It's a step-by-step body technique that leads you to understanding what you really want in any situation. I do it every morning. It's fun.
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