What I Learned About How I Learn

by Dan Walsh

I have taken the 4-level learning framework and used it to assess my past successes. This look backwards has uncovered all kinds of level 3 learnings that I can apply to other areas of my life. My most fruitful experiences were: reading a book every week, learning to swim and establishing consistent exercise.

Before I dive into what I learned, I think a review is in order.

Level 0 learnings are insights or aha moments. What did I discover?

Level 1 learnings are specific behaviour changes that are implemented because of the new level 0 insights. How will my behaviour change?

Level 2 learnings are derived from personal changes that are a result of repeatedly performing level 1 learnings. Who have I become?

Level 3 learnings are the generalized insights about what made level 1 and level 2 successful. These new guidelines should be applied to all future endeavors to increase success. What did I learn about how I learn?

If learning equals behaviour change, and level 3 can be summarized as “What did I learn about how you learn?” then it can also be worded as “How will your behaviour change regarding future behaviour changes?”

Ok, so now that I have all that established, let’s peel apart my learnings.

Reading a Book Every Week

Level 0: Not as daunting as I thought. I realized it would only take about an hour everyday to read 52 books in a year. This is equivalent to my daily commute.

Level 1: I read everyday for the entire duration of my bus ride to work.

Level 2: I became a voracious reader, thirsty for knowledge. I became curious again.

Level 3: I learned that establishing a web of information helps create insights. I learned that I need to schedule concrete blocks of time for the things I want to accomplish. Up until that point I my goals existed only as to-do lists without actually planning when execution would take place. I also learned that without putting knowledge into practice (this is level 1), it’s mostly useless.

Learning to Swim

Level 0: Maybe I just needed to hire a private swim instructor.

Level 1: I scheduled a swim lesson every other week, and practiced swimming for an hour every Monday and Wednesday.

Level 2: I became a swimmer! I was confident in the water (and my speedos!) and enjoyed the the sound of water rushing past my ears. Exercise became relaxing for me.

Level 3: Again, I learned the importance of scheduling a time to execute. I also learned that having a coach provide feedback is the best way to improve, especially at the beginning. This was a big learning for me, as I usually just tried to teach myself how to do something new. I also learned that objective feedback is the best way for me to refine skills. If I care about the person who makes improvement suggestions, then I get stuck in the mode of trying to please them, instead of trying to improve. Water is a very objective coach. I either felt like I was smooth and graceful, or dragging in the water.

Establishing Consistent Exercise Routines

Level 0: I always find an excuse to avoid lifting weights after work. I’m usually “too tired” or social plans get in the way. Maybe I should lift at lunch when everyone else is busy.

Level 1: I signed up for a gym membership near work and scheduled my lifts during lunch.

Level 2: I became stronger and more dedicated to my fitness.

Level 3: Once again, the importance of scheduling action is apparent. I also learned to listen and work with my internal clock. If I continuously find excuse to avoid something, I should try rescheduling it to a time when I’m more likely to keep my commitment.

These were some pretty intense learnings. I have ideas for how to apply these to future efforts, which I’ll post about tomorrow.