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Turning Knowledge Into Success

Stop learning.

That may sound strange coming from someone who frequently advocates for continual lifelong learning, but I don’t mean to stop learning forever. Stop long enough to turn your accumulated knowledge and insights (your A-ha’s) into action that helps you achieve your goals (your Ta-da’s).

I recently took on the task of trying to better organize my notes and materials from books, lectures, conferences, and articles I have consumed. It hit me that the vast majority of it had been forgotten and I never actually used it or put it into practice.

So I have decided to take a temporary break from reading books and attending lectures and conferences so that I can spend more time implementing what I have already learned. I will not improve and grow unless I commit to doing, rather than just learning and planning.

It is easy to become merely a depository of information but no matter how good the information is, it is just a useless appendage unless you apply it. Learning is consuming - taking action is producing. We need to strike a healthy and productive balance.

Not only does putting good insights into action lead to “Ta-da” improvements, it also helps you to retain the knowledge. Studies show that practicing what you learn will allow you to retain 75% of that knowledge. (Teaching what you learn raises that to 90%).

Consider that you felt it was a valuable use of your time to learn it, so wouldn’t it multiply the return on that investment by actually using it?

To be clear, I don’t have what many organizations tout as simply a “bias for action”, but I do have a bias for directed action. Make sure you are not just doing something for the sake of doing something. It needs to be aligned with your goals.

Here a few ways to turn your A-ha’s into Ta-da’s:

- After learning something new, ask if there is a high probability that putting it into action would give you a positive ROI (return on investment). If so, commit to implementing it.

- Determine how you will do it. Schedule it. Create a system for making sure you don’t let it slip. If you do not see value in it, let it go. Not all knowledge is useful to everyone.

- Take some time to review what you have learned over the recent past. What valuable insights have you not put into practice that would help you improve or achieve your goals?

- Consider pausing learning to take action, but not permanently. Just be more discerning on what learning has the best potential for helping you improve and succeed.

- Recognize that you will never know all there is to know about a topic. One source of resistance to getting started is that we feel we don’t know enough yet to act. Getting started is the hardest part, so go ahead and act knowing that you can adjust and improve as you learn more in the future.

- If you are overwhelmed with information, which often happens after attending an educational conference, for example, focus on implementing three things that you think will have the biggest impact on you and your goals and commit to those.

It may seem ironic that I am recommending you to pause learning since reading this article IS learning. But if you can convert any of these “A-ha’s” into “Ta-da’s” it will prove worthwhile.

Think well - live well.

- Steve Haffner, speaker and illusion expert

Want to learn more about improving your decision making and performance?

Click here for my free book, 7 Strategies for Making Better Decisions


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