It doesn’t matter where you are in your life, if you want to become a better man there is only one way – you have to learn. Learn new ways of being, new things to do, and expand the range of what you want to have in life.
On the face of it that sounds simple but let’s look at why it isn’t quite as simple as it sounds.
Here’s the rub – you have been sold a bogus story about learning. I know you don’t want to hear it but that doesn’t change it. Spoiler alert – you aren’t going to like much of what you hear next. It goes like this.
There are three types or levels of learning and most all of us have been conditioned to settle for less than the ‘full meal deal.’ Here is what I am referring to: If you look around you will quickly see that we are awash with experts, coaches, mentors, and teachers of all sorts offering tips, techniques, courses, books, podcasts, and videos on any number of subjects.
You can get fired up by motivational speakers, go to inspirational programs, or immersion weekends, and absolutely none of it will enable you to be, do, or have anything new, better, or different.
Why?.. back to the three levels of learning. Watch how this unfolds and you’ll see where we get trapped.
The First Level of Learning
The first level or type of learning takes the form of the dawning of awareness. This is what happens when you listen to podcast, read books or articles, watch video clips etc. Prior to your exposure you were unaware of something, you didn’t know it existed or was possible and now you know.
Now you have ‘learned.’ Here is an example. “ I watched Tiger Woods at the Masters and watched him make this incredible type of chip shot. I didn’t know it was possible but now I know.” This level of learning opens a new possibility, but that is all it does. If you go out to the golf course expecting to make the same chip shot as Tiger did you are in for a big disappointment.
The Second Level of Learning
The second level of learning is the development of understanding. This is what most of the current learning and developmental programs are based on and why they don’t work. Let’s look at our same example. “ I was so impressed with Tiger’s chip shot that I went out and bought his book and read the chapter on chipping and then I bought his video that teaches you how to do it.”
Now you have gone past level 1 (awareness) and have moved into level 2 where you begin generating understanding. You invested time and money in dove deeply into the process and now you do truly understand. However, if you go out onto the golf course expecting that your understanding will enable you to chip like Tiger you are in for a rude surprise.
Here it is in the simplest terms. We have all been tricked into thinking that awareness and understanding are the end point in the learning process; they aren’t. Nearly every program that you can find stops at that same place, not matter how they want to dress it up, package it, or sell it. What they miss is the third level, what we call authentic learning.
The Third Level of Learning
Authentic learning is the development of new competence, a new capacity for action. Action that was unavailable to you prior to the learning process. In our world you have not learned anything if you cannot consistently and effectively take new actions.
Remember when I said you weren’t going to like some of this – here is the part you aren’t going to like. But you have to get this.
No amount of awareness, understanding, or motivation, ever produced competence—not once. The only way you get new competence is via practice – ongoing, consistent recurring practice.
It doesn’t matter if you want to be better at golf, dating, running, management, coding, design, picking up girls, whatever – you can read all of the books, listen to all of the podcast, and watch all of the videos and you won’t get any better.
You have to practice and that part no one likes is that practice takes time. There is no such thing as instant learning. You see it is the mind that understands and understanding can occur in an instant, but it is the body that learns and the body only learns through practice.
You can tell yourself that since you have read all of the books on picking up women and read all the tips on being a PUA you will hit it big time the next time you are in the clubs. Don’t hold your breath. You may well understand what you read but that doesn’t mean you can do it.
You see the fundamental thing that happens when you see an attractive woman is that you are at the same time attracted and afraid. Fear lives in the body and no amount of reading about being confident, pretending to be confident, or understanding that you should or need to be confident is going to make you confident – practice will.
At first it will be uncomfortable and it won’t work – that’s because it’s new. Nothing new works the first few times you do it, as you haven’t yet become competent. With recurrent practice you will get competent and at that point you will get the results you are looking for.
The problem for most of us is that in not understanding the nature of authentic learning we get frustrated and confused when our new awareness doesn’t enable us to do anything new or different and we do two debilitating things.
First is we quit and the second is we doubt ourselves and get cynical about the prospects of ever learning. At that point you become the walking dead. You quit growing and are just taking up space. Don’t be that guy. There are too many of them out there already.
You can see them everywhere. The grey kind of faceless shapeless guys that were once vibrant powerful men with vast bright futures. They gave up on learning and in so doing gave up on themselves.
So what should you take from this? Reading, listening, watching, going to programs – they are all great for opening you up to things that you want to learn but you can’t stop there. A real learning process unfolds over time, involves a lot of implementation and practice, and leaves you with a new capacity for action. To be a man is to be a consistent learner!