Learning and Re-Learning

December 30th, 2011 08:00am CST by Tamara Schaad

Elephant and Mouseby Tamara S.

Yes, I’ll admit it. I was the nerdy kid who actually liked school. Not all classes were great, and I had my bad days, but overall I just loved school. And when I reached high school years, I became terrified that at some point the fun of learning would be all done.

I am so glad that we never stop learning: Scot tells me these two stories, identical in their “point,” but drastically different in their protagonists.

Story 1: How to Train Fleas
If you put fleas into a jar – like a mason jar – and put the cap on, the fleas will jump and hit the cap…for a while. Over time, the fleas will learn where the cap is, and eventually they will jump just short of the cap. Once this happens, you can remove the cap, and the fleas will not jump out, despite the fact that the top is off.

Story 2: How to Train Elephants
If you tie a baby elephant’s leg with a chain in a firm stake, similar to a rail road iron, the baby elephant will try to tug on it for a while but be unable to break it. As time goes on, and the baby elephant becomes a big elephant, the chain is replaced with a rope tied to a puny little wood stake in the ground – the equivalent to a piece of string tied to a twig. However, the elephant will stay there and not even tug on the rope, despite the fact that it could be broken easily.

So, the “point” is easily discernible, and you can pick from a variety of these answers: Just because something doesn’t work for a while, or the answer isn’t obvious, don’t give up, and don’t stop trying. Or, training is good, but sometimes we train ourselves into a limited space.

But what I found interesting about these stories is that to my memory, I’d never heard either tale before. It always surprises me to discover new information that seems to be “general public info” that I’ve never even heard snippets of before. So I got to learn something new!

And I find that the more I pay attention, the more I learn. I think that’s the hardest part about learning – you can’t be too busy, otherwise you will stop learning. I know some people might think they know everything, but there is always room to grow and learn.

Part of the reason I bring all this up is that I think to be a good business owner (or employee), you have to be willing to stop and learn. I myself am guilty of not taking the time to pause what I’m doing and actually listen to the valuable information that is out there. There’s a lot to sift through, but there is plenty of material out there worth reading, listening, and watching. And sometimes, yes, there are things we have to unlearn. But we won’t know that without stopping to learn.

Personal Experience Story Time!
I’m not going to say how this happened, but I did learn the unfortunate habit of worrying about tasks to the point of never doing them (it’s that whole fear thing again). And I’m talking about every. Single. Task. I used to write up an email and then sit on it for hours, wondering what I said wrong in the email that would cause mayhem to fall down on my head. Phone calls were even worse, as I’d imagine all the ways the conversation could go badly.

Bad stuff happens, and a lot of time this just takes experience to learn and training to go through, but I let bad experiences and personality traits train myself into a box that I refused to come out of, till I became more and more ineffective. My capless jar, or my string-and-twig tie, was forcing me into a very unpleasant and unproductive state.

Partially due to the positive atmosphere at RevBuilders, partially due to our intern Becky this past summer, partially due to the Master Wordsmith here at RevBuilders, and for a variety of other reasons, I’ve learned to try and balance my perfectionist side with actually getting tasks done. It’s been difficult, but there has been a sense of accomplishment as I’ve learned to continue being thorough without being afraid to hit “Send” on an email, or give people calls, or submit design pieces for review, and so forth.

The Paint Fireworks for the New Year!I Can Learn This, I Can Learn This, I Can Learn This…
So learning is good. And re-learning is also good – we can’t be afraid to find out the truth of the matter, or what the better way to wash the dishes is, or how to approach a disgruntled customer, or even how to let your loyal customers know how much they truly are appreciated, even if it takes a few tries.

So. With this in mind, take into perspective all that you’ve learned in 2011. Learning is good, so review 2011, and learn what you did well, and learn what you maybe didn’t do as well as you can. And then learn how to make 2012 even better, and keep chugging forward.

Happy New Year!





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