Are You Still Alive? [Becoming a Learning Expert]


One of my greatest joys in life is to hang out with people (no matter the age) who are learning, growing, challenging the status-quo and interacting with the new thoughts and ideas.  They are contagious and fun.

The converse has also been true… I get really discouraged when I see leaders my age or older who have shut down, stopped learning and just coasting, plateaued as leaders, and often holding back the organizations they lead.

Effective leaders are lifelong learners. One of the six enhancements that cause leaders to finish well is that they are learners for all of their lives. (Research: Dr. J. Robert Clinton)

But… I have found that remaining in the posture of learning is not all the easy.

I love to learn, but there is always a new book, idea to master or blog to read. Robin (my wife) tells me that sometimes I need to just give my brain a rest.

Here are my struggles and ways I have wrestled through.

1. Keeping Up ~ There is way too much coming at me, way too fast, and more every day that I often feel like I am drowning in all the ideas and information… and I am just trying to keep up with a fraction of all the good stuff.

2. What Do I Actually Need ~ The multiplicity of topics are too many and too tempting for me. I get so many books, topics, projects going at once, I have actually begun to feel like I am not really learning at all… just amassing ideas.

3. Staying intentional ~ I get in the rut where my feeding tied to my preparing for talks or teaching. I stop growing for the sake of growing. This can be especially really true with my time in God’s Word. The Bible is not a tool… it’s the Bread.

I am learning to be a “better” learner.  Here are three insights that have helped.

(1) Three Types of Learning ~ I have learned to view learning three ways

Informal learning – learning that occurs with friends, colleagues and the day-to-day interaction with ideas and those with similar passion.

Example: On-Line Tele-Classes and Buddy Book reads

Non-formal learning – learning that happens through once-off, or focused learning experiences. Classic example for me is when I took Keith Webb’s Coaching Training. After 20 years of coaching, this four-day event took me to a whole new place.

Example: On-line classes, skills training, Spiritual Direction

Formal learning – learning that is focused on done within structured classes or learning programs. Important for leaders just starting our (foundations, and especially for mid-career learners who have found their topic and need to focus their study.

Example: D. Min. Classes, Cohort Training experiences.

(2) Learning from Those Ahead… My Peers… Younger Leaders

I try to disburse my learning… seek out those ahead of me on certain topics (mentors )… stay connected with peers that are passionate for similar things… create new space for peers that are passionate for related topic areas… make time to learn from younger leaders who are thinking through the issues and hear and learn from their frustrations with the existing.

Example: I have two friends (Paul Rhoads (Soul Formation Academy) and Rob Yackley (Thresholds) who always stimulate my thinking.

I find out what these are reading and go after the books they are reading, have them teach me some of the new things they are learning, and have them help me process the integration what they are learning with my topic of leader development.

(3) Resource: Reading On The Run

I realized that I needed to learn to Read Better. Don’t know where I get this from… but I had to break the “read every word” pattern for reading. My fear was that I was going to miss something if my eyes (and even voice) did not read every word.

“Not every word has to be read from a book in order to profit from it. In fact, most books do not need to be read in entirety to profit from them.” (J. Robert Clinton, Reading on the Run)

This “Reading Continuum” has given me 6-ways I can read a book and helped me read more intentionally:

  1. Scan-a-Book… Table of contents… introduction… quick overview
  2. Ransack… read selective portions
  3. Browse… just read key thoughts
  4. Pre-Read… pass through of a book
  5. In-Depth Read…  full read… each chapter… highlights
  6. Study… doing steps 4, 5 and 6

Want a copy of READING ON THE RUN? Let me know in the comments box if you are interested and I will email you the 70-pg. pdf.

© Terry Walling  2013

8 thoughts on “Are You Still Alive? [Becoming a Learning Expert]

  1. Excellent article, you are bang on about learning. I too struggle with the river of things I want to learn. You have put things into threes. Three struggles, three kinds of learning, and your three insights. I might actually be able to remember these threes.

    Can I add three kinds of coaching I have used, at least in workplace and training settings? Quick hit (on the spot), skill coaching (show or demonstrate) and performance coaching (more structured, includes action plan).

    Lots of threes. God uses threes—the trinity. I like it.


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