If you know anything about me, you know that I am all about the life education, the school of life, the Academy that the experiences in life possess.
But here’s the thing: it’s not just about learning.
It’s about applying that learning.
Too many people think they need a degree or a certification.
I’m not saying that those things and training are invaluable, but I’m asking us, as leaders, to dig a little deeper and figure out what really maximizes your growth.
The core of that is knowing how to learn from your experience and using that experience to really amplify who you are, what you do, and who you were meant to be.
Knowledge Is Power…But Is It?
I used to say that that knowledge is power.
And then I really evolved in my own leadership, evolved in my own understanding, evolved in my own results, and really began to understand that the application of knowledge is really where it comes from.
That’s where winning happens.
That’s where mastery happens.
I watched too many clients make this mistake over and over.
I work with clients all the time over at Blue Collar.
We work with hundreds of companies all across the US, Canada, and Australia.
It’s hard when we watch an experience take place in somebody’s life, and they don’t get the gold.
It’s about mining the gold.
And I think about that in my own life.
Can you relate to me with this?
Have you ever gone through an experience only to be back at the same thing years (or less) later, making the same mistakes?
That’s OK. I did it a lot, and I still do sometimes, though not nearly as much as before.
I make an effort when I stumble through an experience to mine that gold of knowledge by learning from the experience.
The One-Year, Three-Year Program
I’ve been held back. I’ve gone through the same dang thing over and over again.
It’s not fun. Now, I can laugh, though.
I joke about it, but I literally took a one-year coaching program that evolved.
It was a three-year thing by the time I was done.
I took a year, and then I quit. I got away from it because I was “too busy.”
It wasn’t the right time, this and that or whatever.
And the founder and CEO of the organization I was going through came to me and was like:
“Why don’t you just go back through year one? Because we really think this is going to help you and be a good fit.”
And it’s hilarious because it really has changed my life.
We viewed getting held back in school as a terrible thing.
Oh my God, I’m going to be a year older than my classmates.
Life will continue to provide you the lessons until you learn from the lesson.
Life Academy: How To Learn From Your Experience
I want you to just think about your Life Academy, if you will, as an opportunity to go to the next level.
I believed that when I had my diaper service.
Yeah, crazy, right?
I owned a cloth diaper cleaning and delivery service.
I bought that business.
And I lost $55,000 in 18 months.
I paid massive dumb tax. That’s what we call it when you learn from your dumb mistakes.
It’s a tax you pay ahead when something challenging happens, and then you reap the benefits later.
But it only works if you pay the tax.
If you learn from the failure and experience.
I was in a ton of pain and confusion.
I’ll never forget when I reached out to one of the biggest mentors in my life at the time, one of my uncles, the day that I sold the business.
I bought it for $70,000.
And it sold for $15,000 18 months later.
I called him and said, “OK, the deal’s done.”
And he said, “man, this is one of the best things that has ever happened in your life and career.”
“What are you talking about? Screw you. It wasn’t your 55 grand.”
I kind of had a chip on my shoulder and took it personally and got kind of pissy.
Yet at the time, I knew in my gut, and I knew in my heart, he was right.
It was just super painful.
I know I needed that education, and I could have avoided that situation had I learned from previous experiences.
Three Categories Of A Learning Experience
God, the universe, or whatever you want to call it, needed to get my attention.
And it took them a lot of pain and a lot of financial despair for a “moment.”
Here’s what I want you to really focus on today.
Let’s think about the categories of a learning experience.
They really fall into three kinds of categories, and we can call them good, bad, and then reinforcement.
Many people go through the bad type of learning where they ignore the lessons they need to learn over and over, and it’s miserable.
For me, a big one was relationships. It took me three tries before I met my lovely wife.
I kept making the same mistakes over and over until I realized what I needed to learn and do. Then, I turned it into a good learning experience.
And I grew better for it, and I’m in an amazing relationship now.
It doesn’t mean that we don’t have learning experiences in our relationship in our marriage and our union or in our entire time together.
But the reality is that I didn’t learn what I needed to in my first marriage.
Therefore I had a second marriage.
I feel as though I’ve learned what I needed to in my first and second marriage in order to continue to learn what I need to in my third and, wait for it, final marriage.
How Do You View Learning Experiences?
I want you to think about, you know, how you view a learning experience and stick with me.
I’m going to give you a little bit of writing to do.
I recently got back from Costa Rica, and I want to share an experience that I did personally upon returning from almost a month in Costa Rica that has really positively impacted my life.
When you look at a learning experience, you often go, “huh? Well, that was interesting.”
Or you go, “huh? That was awesome.”
Or possibly go, “huh? That was awful. Horrible, terrible. My God, I never want to experience that again.”
I want us to focus for a minute on those gut responses we have.
- That was interesting.
- It could be amazing.
- It could be terrible.
I want you to write this down when something happens:
What can I apply from this education?
Do this for every big learning experience you have for sure. The more you do it for the smaller ones, too will be great.
From this experience, we gain knowledge, and the application of knowledge is power.
I’m not talking about political power, leadership power, stock ownership power, or voting power in a corporation.
I’m talking about power over yourself.
We’ll call it an empowering opportunity to create the life that you desire and deserve as a leader in a free country.
Think: What can I apply from this education?
If you don’t apply from the education, then you’re going to pay the dumb tax I talked about, which I learned from my buddy, Keith Cunningham.
The Road Less Stupid
Keith wrote a great book on this topic I reference all the time.
My favorite book he wrote in The Road Less Stupid.
I’m not a big fan of as much as he calls things stupid. Stupid people, stupid situations, stupid everything.
I like transformational vocabulary, but the idea stays true.
I would say “the road less painful,” perhaps, but that’s all semantics.
I was grateful to get to know Keith at an event I was at, and you avoid paying dumb tax by applying the education that you learn.
And so I want to share with you this exercise I did.
I also want to remind you that, you know, our president at Blue Collar, the president that I hand-picked to run the day-to-day operations at Blue Collar Success Group, Chris Crew, says something I love to quote to a lot of our clients and peers.
“Don’t complain about the results you did not get from the work you were not willing to put in.”
Let that land for a moment.
My friend, don’t complain about the results you don’t get from the work that you’re not willing to put in.
I’m asking you to do some work today.
You have learning experiences everywhere, every day, virtually every hour, I would argue.
What work are you doing to garner the gold and to really mine the opportunity from those opportunities and situations?
Writing Down What You Need To Learn From Experience And Apply Knowledge
Get out a journal or flip chart or whatever you need to take notes.
What specifically do I want to make sure I keep in enhanced and maximized and bring forward with me from this experience?
This simple question, and turn of the phrase, change the game for many of my clients and me.
It’s not about asking yourself, “what did I learn?”
It’s not about swearing to avoid mistakes.
The question starts with the idea, the assumption that you have already learned something from the experience that will enhance and maximize your life.
And you have already from experience, whether you realize it or not.
The question starts with the idea that you are already a better human, leader, and cog in the universe than you were before.
The challenge of this question is: you need to carry that momentum forward.
It’s intentional. There’s not some nugget of knowledge in your brain back there now that will rise up next time and kick you into gear.
It’s up to you to remember and carry that knowledge in your toolbag going forward.
So reflect. Write it down. Meditate on it.
If you know me, I’m a big fan of all these things, especially writing.
There’s something about the physical act that accesses our deep, inner self better than dictating to a phone or typing on a device.
Think and answer: what do I want to make sure that I bring forward that I apply from this knowledge that I’ve been gifted by creating this life experience?
Regulating Your Emotions
The next step is to regulate our emotions.
I practice a lot of emotional regulation. I’m becoming very, very good at it.
We need that relaxed, analytical mindset to really figure out what it is we learned and can apply going forward.
Take the time away and calm yourself down before looking at the experience.
In the heat of the moment, you’ll be like me with the diaper business.
I was pissed and upset. I didn’t want to learn anything from it.
Now, I’d regulate and calm myself.
Would it make me happy? No way. No one likes to go through that.
But I would learn from it, pay my dumb tax, and figure out how to press forward with a new application of knowledge and power.
This is just a start, a place to begin when it comes to learning how to learn from your experience.
Ask yourself what you’re going to carry forward and apply from a place of emotional calmness, or at least somewhat calm.
Write this down every time, and you’ll begin to see that the world isn’t out to get you. It’s trying to teach you, reach you, and help you step into the greatness we all know is your purpose.
So take that step each and every day and watch your potential grow.
Until next time, make it a better-than-fantastic day!