Three Levels of Getting Smarter

Contributor: Adrian Rutt

My experience dealing with and within the field of education has provided me with genuine insight into how people learn best. In my mind, there are three ways in which people get smarter, and they start from the least productive to the most. In isolation, all of the methods lack something, but when combined they are a force to be reckoned with.

1. Experience Learning

It’s not that learning from experience is bad - indeed, it’s one of the most overlooked learning methods - but that it requires a keen, observational eye. You can’t just mosey around hoping to suck up knowledge and information. Having one’s eyes open and feet moving is not the only requisite for “learning from experience.” Ironically, learning from experience takes knowing how exactly to learn from experience. Which leads me to the next level…

2. Book Learning

This is the most common type of learning: passively soaking up knowledge conveyed in a book. With this method, most people buy or check out books from the library in the hopes that they can apply or use the knowledge they gather in their everyday lives. This is an incredibly powerful method - one that has helped countless people both personally and professionally. As I mentioned earlier, one can often get the necessary tools to observe experience and life through a higher lens through reading, thus becoming smarter.

3. Mentoring

What book learning lacks, and what most people miss, is the active part of learning. Learning from books is naturally passive even though youattempt to put what you learn into practice. The problem, then, is that you might not be doing it the right way or you might be getting something slightly wrong. This is precisely where mentoring comes in. Mentoring, in other words, is that specifically customized learning that fits you and your life personally. Have you ever read a book and thought to yourself, “Now how exactly do I go about doing that?” or “I have no idea what that means?” You’re probably not alone. But you don’t have to dive into the endless depths of the internet to find answers - chances are, you won’t find anything that relates to you in the way you need it to anyway.

Having a mentor or coach work with you is the pinnacle of learning. Being able to ask questions about how information or knowledge relates to you, your business, or your life specifically is indispensable to learning. Overlook this aspect at your own peril.

My only point is that when searching for ways to increase your stock of knowledge, look for education and continuing education programs that strike a balance and understand the relationship between all three of these components.