Reading for Purpose: Action Instead of Theory

  • Michael Denmon
  • Cunning
Reading for Purpose: Action Instead of Theory

There are two methods of learning something new, active learning and passive learning. 

In Greek mythology, Icarus failed to heed his father’s warning and he flew too near to the sun. His wings, made of feathers, cloth, and beeswax failed him, and he plummeted to a watery grave. His father telling him to not get too close to the sun is an example of passive learning. His lesson learned from falling into the sea is an example of active learning, even if he didn’t have the opportunity to use what he learned.

Active learning is a much stronger method of learning.

Most Rascals are constantly learning, pushing themselves to grow and become more skilled in a greater range of abilities. Reading is a very common method of that pursuit but it is a passive method of learning. Is passive learning enough, though? Should you make experiential learning a part of your obtainment of knowledge? 

Here are some tips on making sure that your reading is useful to you, and that the lessons learned get put into action.

Immerse Yourself

One of the common difficulties in transforming what you read into what becomes a new skill is a lack of immersion. Reading a book by yourself may give you the knowledge, but a lack of implementing that knowledge into your everyday life means it is unlikely to stick around. Take, for example, learning a new language. Reading the vocabulary lists and conjugations is helpful. But if you never speak those words to someone who is a native speaker, what are the chances that you will be able to adequately use the language when needed?

Taking a trip to learn and practice your new skills is the best way possible to get a firm grasp of the language. Language is more than words and sounds. It is a part of the culture that speaks it, and seeing that culture firsthand will make what you learn even more accessible to you in the future.

Take Note and Re-Visit

As you read a book, you will find areas of interest that may create thought-provoking tangents that can lead you astray from your primary focus. Therefore, taking notes as you read so that you can revisit them afterward is a key action of reading for implementation. Imagine if every time someone tried to teach you a new skill, their instructions were interrupted by flashing lights and a new task. Would you be able to remain focused and learn the entire task being taught? Probably not. So, making note of something that deserves more thought, and then revisiting it later so that you can spend more time and process the information, is an advantage.

Another advantage to taking notes as you read is for ease of use in the future when you need to refer to the book for a refresher on the facts of what you learned. Having the key lessons highlighted or noted allows you to only focus on the most important lessons from the book. Additionally, you can keep your notes in a commonplace book, which is a sort of database for the items you found most helpful or inspiring from your readings. Collating these notes into categories can help expedite your search for specific data when needed.

Teaching to Others

There is a common belief that if you can teach a topic to a child, you have mastered the understanding of what you have learned. So, being able to teach what you learn from a book to someone who has not read the book, is a sure way of knowing that you have mastered the subject. The hardest part of this may be finding an audience who wants to learn what you have read about.

Luckily, there are many resources that people today can use to teach others, even if it is in an informal setting such as video or self-paced learning programs. Filming a YouTube video of yourself teaching the information read is one way of testing your grasp of the new information. Even if you only watch yourself on screen, as opposed to sharing the video with the world, you can learn a lot by the way you discuss what you have learned.

Having a wall of books on self-improvement or handicrafts is great. Reading those books and learning from them is better. Putting what you have learned into action, is best.

Make sure that when you read, you are doing it to gain something that will be an advantage to you. Make sure you learn your lessons while you can still sue them, unlike poor Icarus, whose hubris caused him to learn but learn too late to implement.

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash