Rapid Fire Learning (RFL) is our monthly stream-of-consciousness exercise at Joyful Jubilant Learning: We do it on the 25th of each month (2010 Update: RFL is now here on Talking Story the last weekend of every month). Very simple thing, and pretty easy for people who think of themselves as lifelong learners (is the value of ‘Ike loa a biggie with you?).
To practice RFL: Grab a blank sheet of paper and a pencil, and make a list of 5 things you learned during the current month.
If you get stalled at all, just think of 5 things which happened in the month (paid my income taxes, fooled around with watercolor, planted veggie seedlings in the garden, or whatever you did) and then ask yourself: What did I learn while I did each of those things? or perhaps, “Who was I with, and did they make any difference this time?”
You will soon think of learning as a process, with the subject matter simply being the trigger.
- Income Taxes: I learned that “old school” Excel spreadsheets work way better for me at this point in time than QuickBooks does. My financial trends “pop up” very apparently versus being hidden in computing formulas done automatically in the software. A year later, I learned that the best way for me to update the Chart of Accounts my Excel spreadsheet is based on, is to use the new checklist my CPA will distribute each year, for within it he captures all the changes I need to be aware of in the IRS tax laws.
- Watercolor: I learned that I might have an instinctual feeling for movement with color, something I was totally unaware of before. When the art seems to move I like it, and when it is stagnant, I am dissatisfied and frustrated.
- Veggies: I learned that cherry tomatoes have very little chance of surviving the wild turkeys in our neighborhood unless I come up with a better caging system protecting them. Green or ripe, they all get eaten by those feathered raiders! Another month, I learned that cantaloupes look like play-fetch balls to our neighbor’s dog: See a picture here.
Very different from the learning we got graded in when we were back in school…
Rapid Fire Learning is one of those “bloggy things” which has fortuitously found its way into my management and leadership coaching too, for we learn much more spontaneously than we think we do: It is a crucial skill that we can all benefit from sharpening our awareness of. Coaching my managers in RFL can reap some fabulous breakthrough moments, whether they participate with the community at Joyful Jubilant Learning or do it within their own work teams. It is also terrific in the coaching of better follow-up habits: Now that you have learned those things, what will you do with them, or about them? Where will continuity and better productivity rhythm happen for you?
At first, we all have the tendency to question our spontaneity with learning recall. As we come up with our lists, the cynic or inner critic in us will ask: “Was this something I learned, or something I already knew and just happened to remember?” And worse, we lessen their gravity, thinking, “This is not such a big deal.”
Oh, but it is a big deal! If we aren’t going to learn, we aren’t going to grow.
My encouragement to you is this: Even if there is some remembering to it, give yourself the credit for learning. Chances are you remembered it, whatever “it” happened to be, because your context is now current and timely: There is learning opportunity in your remembering! You will newly consider, flex, choose between options, shift and adjust as you take action or retain and commit, and all those things require so much which is included in the learning process.
You could say that learning is a juggling act of sorts, and you are the juggler who will perform a certain way given all kinds of circumstances: Your mood and your degree of confidence, your attire or costume, the wind if you are outside, the glaring stage lights if you are inside, an audience you are comfortably laughing with, or one which amps up your nervousness something fierce. Pretty easy to imagine how all those things can affect your juggling ability, isn’t it.
And like juggling, learning certain things can take practice: Lather, rinse, repeat” we do train ourselves in our learning processes, just as we better train our skill with catching those falling balls.
So don’t pooh-pooh your Rapid Fire Learning, okay? So what if it’s remembering something you already knew? Give yourself credit for that recall, and for remembering it when you needed to. Maybe what you’ll learn this time is where you can write it down and move on! Maybe your learning has been with memory, and how you triggered it, and why. Maybe you needed the time and space before you could learn a solution to an old problem, one that had previously seemed so frustrating and mistake-riddled. Continue to ask yourself questions and allow your learning to reveal those cool answers just waiting for you to newly discover them.
If you have not yet tried Rapid Fire Learning, please have April be the month you try it! You can join us at Joyful Jubilant Learning where a new host will be Mea Ho‘okipa each month and encourage us all to RFL within the posting comments there. Half the fun is reading what others have learned, supporting them, and having them encourage and congratulate you in return. And you never know what ideas you’ll hear about” who knows what you might decide to juggle next!
Wondering what my RFLs were for April? Look for me there in the comments!