“The real voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes but having new eyes.”
– Marcel Proust
Several years ago, I was looking at an impressive array of business and personal development books on a friend of mine’s bookshelf. At the time he was struggling with his business and it seemed like every second week a new book arrived that was destined to turn his business around. The challenge was it never did.
I remarked ‘Brian, if you just successfully implemented the wisdom in only 10% of the books you have then your business would significantly improve’. He was not happy with that comment and replied that he loved to study and learn and what’s wrong with that?
I replied that on the surface that’s great but knowledge only becomes a power when it’s applied. The challenge is that many of us have this fascination with the ‘new’. We seek out the new book, the new course, or the new guru that we hope will emerge like a saviour on a white horse riding in to save our day, and possibly life.
My motivation with Brian was not to annoy or upset him, but to challenge his thinking in this respect. We were both fellow business coaches that would be expected to overcome the initial reaction to defend our positions and instead look for the potential wisdom in the feedback.
My exact words were ‘Brian, as your friend I would rather say something now and be proven wrong, than say nothing and be proven right, later’. After all, a key part of our role as a business coach or concerned friend is what I like to call ‘stress test our perspective’ to play a type of ‘devil’s advocate’ to ensure our thinking and decision making is as sound as it could be.
So, why this fascination with the new?
- The ‘new’ appeals to our sense of fresh and perhaps breakthrough ideas and thinking.
- The word ‘new’ suggests that the ‘old’ ideas and solutions were the problem and that change is required.
What could really be happening here?
In our experience, a key part of the reason people search for new solutions to old problems is that the knowledge acquired in the first place was never effectively captured, internalised and/or used.
Research has shown that if we want to retain the majority of the information contained in a book or learning resource we have to read or listen to that information up to 15 times. Assuming that’s correct, who has the time to do that given the busy lives we lead?
The other challenge is even if you retained that knowledge… if it’s not consistently applied within 48 hours the potential opportunity and hence benefits, will be lost. The old adage of ‘use it or lose it’ is particularly apt.
I discovered this insight some time ago and its probably easier if I just describe the exact process I use to capture and embed knowledge that is important to my purpose.
Therein lies the first tip, context because unless the information has a purpose in terms of delivering the desired outcome it can fall into the ‘nice to know’ but not ‘important to know’ category.
My seven observations & tips
- The principles of personal and business success are fundamental and arguably go back to 1938 when Napoleon Hill published his seminal book ‘Think & Grow Rich’. Most books after that enhance that theme and apply their variations & secret sauce but the original glue is universal.
- Be aware of your needs by having an updated personal, career and/or business plan because that is the roadmap to consistently refer to. That helps define the clarity of vision, purpose & direction.
- Only attend courses or undertake learning that pertains to your specific knowledge gaps. Resist the lure of ‘sounds interesting’. Your deeper ‘Yes’ will allow for a more informed ‘No’.
- Set time aside immediately post the learning to summarise the relevant key points. I use a working template along the following lines:
- Key summary points
- The specific relevance to me (This is important to me and will allow me to…)
- The specific implementation plan (The action steps to make this a reality will be….)
- Changes required to accommodate new thinking and action ( will need to do more of a and less of b; this type of thinking)
- Embedding strategies in terms of adding to routines, habits, procedures, processes, & short- term planning protocols.
- Take action within 24 hours, even if its one simple thing.
- Set aside purposeful weekly reflection and review time.
- Work with an accountability partner to keep you on track.
Finally, I’m happy to say Brian did take my advice and I helped him select 2 books that he particularly liked plus a couple of related online resources. I agreed to offer him a business coaching through the process using the exact 7 steps outlined above and he is now in a far better position than he was. His growth in clarity, focus, confidence and of course results is now self-evident.