Everyone knows something and in order to know something they must have studied what they know. There’s a wide variety of ways people acquire information and knowledge. I work with some extraordinarily smart individuals and some of them hate reading. They find themselves suffering through the four-page zone. I have another friend of mine who’s a helicopter pilot and is terrific with advanced mathematics but finds himself performing best as a tactile learner. He’s in his 30’s and always carrying his fidget spinner.
All of these people are high performers. But sometimes their quirks appear to be their Achilles heel. As life forces us to get stretched outside of our comfort zones it can be easy to hyper-focus on the problems in front of us instead of focusing on the formulas we’ve used for years to overcome similar problems. I’ve recently found myself coaching people through this sort of situation and my starting point in the conversation is to ask them about their hobbies.
Hobbies are different than our academics. All too often necessity has forced us to use multiple-choice tests in academic settings. They’re a great format for getting people to pass because you’re giving them choice that includes the single right answer. They’re also terrible because they’ve programmed us to believe in life that we’re looking for a single right answer. Those who believe in the single right answer syndrome have never had someone they love asks them if an outfit makes them look fat.
The outward expression of our hobbies varies, but the inward process is very much the same. At first glance, every hobby appears to be a study in that particular discipline. This isn’t an untrue statement, but it’s not a complete one. More importantly, a study of a hobby is the study of oneself. To the individual practicing a particular discipline, the hobby will reveal certain things about themselves that they enjoy learning.
Golf is an apt example. It involves a very brief interaction with the ball and a metal striking surface of a club. The contact occurs over a very small surface area and yet the ball can fly towards its target and land over 200 yards later. The mechanics are amazing, but it’s also a fascinating field to study oneself. The discipline involved to learn to adjust one’s muscle coordination to impact the angle and speed of impact of the ball. Golf is not just a study of physics and strategy, it’s also very much a study of oneself.
LARPing will strike most individuals as a bit of an odd past time, but it’s not too far off from the same motivation that has turned Halloween into one of the most popular holidays. Those who participate in LARPing find themselves developing skills in crafting costumes and writing out scenarios for your characters. Unlike a book where the reader is only a passive participant, LARPing requires the participant to explore their own emotions and problem-solving skills when faced with the obstacles of the scenario. While it shouldn’t replace reading, it should be easily recognized as a scenario-driven activity that trains its members. Its environment may be fantasy, but its exploration of the human condition is very real.
From a leadership perspective, you don’t have to enjoy the same hobbies, but you need to well versed in what’s respectable about each one.
It’s been interesting to see this same thing play out in the home as well. My oldest boy loves Minecraft and will spend hours watching videos about how to play and build complex things. Every few months I try to have a conversation with him about his learning patterns for the game and get him to realize that if he applies those same learning patterns to other subjects in his life he’ll be just as successful.
I was a terrible student in high school. Now I have a Masters in IT & Project Management. During my 18 months finishing up my bachelor’s at Utah State University I was awarded the Man of the Year award. What changed? My parents would attribute it to becoming more mature, but having lived through it the reason seems to be a bit more tangible. Once I was out of school I had time to think about how I liked to learn. In college, I chose classes that would allow me to apply my techniques for learning and be successful.
Now, it’s easier to do new and hard things because instead of following someone else’s prescription for learning I can apply my own. I know it’s effective and I know it’s fun. When it needs mentors I know how to find them.
When you take the time to look at the things that are part of your core, that you love to learn take the time to look at how you learn those things. The how is more likely going to be your method for all your learning and if you can take the time to write it down you might just see how easy it is to follow.