Does it ever feel like you have spent so much time learning, reading, attending classes, conferences, or online programs, working with experts or coaches, and filling up your knowledge bank that you could be full? What is there left to learn when you have learned so much?
Learning isn’t an On/Off switch. You don’t learn something new and suddenly you are an expert. This is the challenge with learning because so much of it feels like we have already done it. Sometimes we can even be thinking to ourselves, “I’ve already learned this, why can’t I make ‘it’ work the way it is supposed to?”
Learning is also not just about the ‘What’. It is about the how, when, where, how much, who, and why. Learning requires knowing the answers to everything around any one topic that you wish to be an expert in. Maybe ‘it’ hasn’t work for you because there is something about yourself you do not know or understand yet.
I have found that when I feel completely confident in my expertise at something I have accomplished several areas of learning. What I also know is that even with 20 years’ experience at something, there is always room for new knowledge on my topic of expertise. Let me elaborate using my expertise as a technical writer and secondly as a small business strategist.
Mastering My First Competency
My background in technology and my education gave me the foundation for my career as a technical writer.
- I started in a high-tech company learning how to operate the equipment we were manufacturing. I had to know all aspects of the equipment to to help others be able to use it but I did not have any experience creating manuals. Email was new to business and most of my instructions were done via fax.
- I was asked to help with some internal documentation and another person with experience using MS Word showed me some of the steps for using the software.
- I was asked to use my knowledge about the equipment and MS Word to create the instructions for a service manual.
- After the manual was published I was asked to write all the internal work instructions, build procedures and quality procedures. I created templates based on standards. I now had the title of technical writer, but I didn’t feel like a tech writer. I didn’t know the industry or what experts in this industry needed to know to be experts.
- I attended conferences, continued to write, asked questions of experts on list-serv communities, and joined an association for technical writers so I could be connected to the industry and the masters.
After many successes, I got to a point where I could answer all the questions my clients had around what was needed, how much it would cost, how long it would take, who was doing the work, when could we start, etc. I saw myself as an expert.
Small Business Strategist
With my background and connections in small business and my own experience owning a small business that did technical writing I found I had a great deal of knowledge and interest in the support of small business owners.
- I was volunteering to help small business owners because there was a need and people asked for my help.
- I got certifications, read, worked with other experts, attended conferences and hired coaches to work on myself and the tools I could use to work with my clients.
- I surrounded myself with experts, mentors, and other business owners so I would have continuous access to the ideas, insights, and mentality of the people I wanted to be expert at helping.
- I invested in industry information and researched the small business industry.
- I worked with small business owners as often as I could, as clients, in networking, or through volunteering.
It wasn’t until I say with certainty what I was able to do for my clients and know it was possible that I felt like the expert.
My Learning Curve
What steps do the learning of my two expertise have in common?
- Start with the fundamentals I leaned in school, growing up, and other experiences.
- Outside people needed me for my current skills
- I got more skills
- I spent time with others that were masters
- I researched the industry and became more knowledgeable
- I practiced the craft at every level, continuously.
I’m sure your learning takes a similar path each time you mastered something new.
Your Learning Curve
If you want to figure out why you cannot master something take a look at two things that you are very good at. Two things you can do better than other people. Then think back to when you were not good at them and look at how you learned it, what you felt, when did you start becoming competent and what you had to do to get to the place where you could do the work without having to actually think about how it would work for you. You will likely discover a pattern in the way you learn. You can use that patter to determine what you have not done to get you to where you need to be on your learning curve.
Finally – it is important to understand that 100 years ago a person would get an education and not much would change over their lifespan. Their knowledge level did not need to change much to be successful at what they did in life. Now we learn something and 5 years later someone else has come up with a disruptive invention to replace the program or technology we learned and our knowledge becomes obsolete. If you are not learning you are falling behind and you will not be able to sustain the level of excellence and thus the lifestyle you were originally schooled to live.
What else do you need to learn? Why everything of course. Don’t stop. Remember, school only provides you with the fundamentals of your calling – it is experience and the investment in further knowledge that gives you the mastery.