Learning in Public: The Most Effective Way to Learn
Content curation has public learning at its core. It’s all about making interesting articles, studies, videos, evidence-based research, or any other type of great content out there more accessible to
Learning is a collective experience in and of itself. Even when you’re reading something or listening to something in the loneliness of your room, you’re still learning from someone else. Better yet, you’re learning from multiple people at once.
However beneficial it may be, learning “solo” lacks an important aspect: an immediate, mutual exchange of information. After all, there’s a stark difference between learning from people — and learning with people.
As much as we’d love it to happen, the authors and speakers we admire can’t be sitting right in front of us and sharing their processes. I wish I could be face-to-face with Bill Gates, asking him all about learning and education for hours on end.
But that’ll stay in my dreams. What I can do, though, is looking for strategies. I could discuss learning with people who are also interested in their work, people who have read their work, and have enough instruction to bring me new insights. And, as I’ve said, that should be a mutual exchange of information: I’ll also be bringing new perspectives to the people I’m discussing with.
That’s why today, in particular, I’d like to talk about learning in public and why it’s the most effective way to learn. The reason why this topic interests me so much is because a public exchange of knowledge is the backbone of the Curator Economy, and it can make a difference to anyone who’s looking to enrich their already existing education.
Having back-and-forths, exchanging opinions, disagreements, and notes with similar people is great for:
Fleshing out one’s knowledge in particular topics;
Voicing one’s opinions;
Building on interests;
Making new connections;
Receiving instant feedback;
This can’t be achieved in a lonely manner. Although that doesn’t mean you have to physically discuss your ideas with someone, it means you should be part of a community that wants the same thing as you: to seek knowledge.
Why Learning in Public is the Most Effective Way to Learn
Find People With Similar Interests
Think of your favorite TV show. The moment you come across a fellow fan, your eyes shine. You want to ask them about the characters they like the most, the characters they hate the most, and even hear their crazy fan theories (without spoilers, of course).
When we find people with similar interests, we find people who support who we are and what we like. We like to feel included, and we feel better when people validate our choices. As long as a search for validation doesn’t become a big part of your life, that’s fine. Just know that every single human being is looking for the place where they belong.
That’s not all: finding people with similar interests is a huge opportunity for all of us to dig even deeper on subjects of our interest. Conversations with like-minded people may bring us ideas we wouldn’t be able to construct on our own. Not because we’re not smart, but because we need others to learn. And the more people, the better.
Receive Feedback From People Who Matter
Feedback is one of those things that can make or break progress, be it personal or professional. Bill Gates himself once said: “We all need people who will give us feedback. That’s how we improve.”
Too obvious? Then why do some people still take feedback as a personal offense rather than an opportunity to learn?
You see, the right feedback can get you where you want to be in a shorter amount of time. On the flip side, the wrong feedback or no feedback at all can make you feel like you’re trudging in a puddle of quicksand. In other words, you’ll get nowhere.
Imagine wasting your life going the wrong way or being stuck in the same place, as if you’re in a strange land without a compass. That’s the life of someone who doesn’t take feedback. If you’re a true learner, you’ll listen to the feedback of people who matter to your progress. Not only will you listen to it, but you’ll implement the feedback you judge is important for your growth.
(Yes, this will require a few judgment calls from you. The more feedback you receive, the more you’ll know which to dismiss and which to implement.)
That said, if you’re not part of a community who cares enough about your progress, no amount of feedback will be helpful to you. As an example, you wouldn’t necessarily value the feedback coming from someone who isn’t from your field of expertise. You wouldn’t ask your mom for her input if all she has to say is “that’s great work, honey.” Even though she means no harm, you’ll want to listen to those who matter to your objective. Which leads us to the next topic:
Establish a Community, or Become Part of an Already Established One
When you’re part of an engaged community, you feel like you belong. There’s this feeling of being supported, the feeling of being part of something great, which gives us purpose to keep doing what we’re doing.
Think about the groups you’re in. They’re all centered around common topics, all of which the participants are hopefully knowledgeable in. If something of common interest pops up, you’ll get all the scoop. You’ll share links, images, and spark interesting conversations within the group. You’ll share your agreements, disagreements, and feedback in a single place. That’s what makes it a community.
Ideally, you’d become part of a community that favors topics of your interest. If you haven’t found yours yet, don’t worry. It’s never too late. What are your interests? And where do people with similar interests hang out?
You typically can’t go wrong with social media. Whether you’re on Instagram, LinkedIn, or Twitter, typing in a keyword like “data science” will help you find a lot of users you can start following — and eventually connect with. Learning in public is all about connecting with people whose insights are valuable to us.
The more you network in the groups these people are already a part of, the more you’ll insert yourself in the community. They may have links, newsletters, and interesting creators to share with you. That’s a great opportunity to learn from the people who taught them, and the people who taught the people before them, and before them…
Ideally, you’d also have access to these people, somehow. Whenever possible, you should also be in touch with people in your real life circle. This way, you can meet in person to discuss the things you’re most excited about.
Few things are worse than dealing with people who are unwilling to learn, because they simply assume they already know everything. Maybe you’ve been that person once, and I truly hope you’re over that phase.
Here’s an important message to those who think they have nothing left to learn: even though you’ve amassed a great deal of knowledge on a topic, that doesn’t mean a person who knows less than you can’t teach you something. Read that again.
Yes. People who know less than you do have a whole lot to teach you. An example of that is the curse of knowledge.
The curse of knowledge is a cognitive bias that happens when someone assumes other people know something as much as they do. Therefore, whenever they’re explaining a topic they’ve mastered, they tend to use jargon and technical terms — assuming the recipient already knows what they’re talking about. When, in reality, those difficult words leave the recipient scratching their heads.
If I had the curse of knowledge, I wouldn’t have bothered explaining its meaning to you. I would’ve just assumed you already knew it and left it at that. But I didn’t.
So, what does that have to do with learning from others? In order to explain a difficult concept to a beginner, an expert would have to flesh out those difficult terms. They’d have to explain them in a simpler, more digestible way. They’d have to let go of all of those abbreviations and buzzwords, and actually explain the term for what it really is. It’s fairly simple to hide behind fancy terms…but is it easy to teach someone what something means in its rawest form?
The answer is no. In trying to explain things simply, you may realize that you know a lot less than you think you do. And that’s great, as it keeps you humble and willing to learn further.
The greatest thing about discussing things with people who know less than you is: at the same time you’re teaching them something, you’re also teaching yourself. You’re reinforcing concepts in your head. You’re simplifying definitions. You’re being a teacher. And the best way to learn something is by teaching others.
“What we know is a drop, what we don’t know is an ocean.” Sir Isaac Newton said that, and so many people fail to realize that what they know is so tiny in comparison with everything they could learn. What’s more, the sooner we come to terms with the reality that the act of learning is eternal, the sooner we’ll stop trying to reach a non-existent destination. Instead, we’ll get used to enjoying the process.
Humble yourself if you haven’t already. You’ll be surprised at how much more you can learn by doing that.
Leave Your Legacy
Upon reading that, some people may be like “I’m no genius. Why would people care about my legacy?”.
You see, this isn’t about being a genius or even a famous person, for that matter. In fact, the act of leaving their legacy is part of the genius of the greatest minds in history. That means they’ve made their mistakes, their wins, their progress, and their roadblocks available for posterity to learn from them. If future generations take their time to learn, they could navigate life a lot more easily.
I know, I know. The word “legacy” sounds like a huge deal, as though you need to do something no other human has ever done in order to leave yours. That couldn’t be further from the truth.
What if I told you that leaving a legacy can be as simple as leaving your notes and highlights on a text — and making those notes and highlights public? And that a thing as simple as that could be life-changing for not one, but multiple people?
It’s true. The more insights available on a piece, the more people can explore that piece and its themes in a variety of contexts. There’s nothing more mind-opening than setting one’s assumptions aside and allowing oneself to view things from different perspectives. That’s how people should learn and make sense of what happens in their own lives: by listening to and observing other people, even if from afar.
How Does Public Learning Relate to the Curator Economy?
Content curation has public learning at its core. It’s all about making interesting articles, studies, videos, evidence-based research, or any other type of great content out there more accessible to everyone. Not only the content, but also the musings, scribbles, arrows, and question marks that come with them.
We usually only have access to the final stage of content creation. A published, edited, and proofread article, for instance. Most of the time, we don’t have access to the brainstorming side of things — the connections, the thoughts, and the aspects that make a piece of content truly meaningful.
Nothing is ever one-sided, and there are several layers waiting to be explored. That’s the exact reason why I created Glasp: so users can make all of their notes and highlights visible to anyone who’s in the same field of expertise as they are. There, you’ll find students, verified professionals, avid readers…all of them with one thing in common: an insatiable appetite for learning.
Plus, the reason why I’ve called it a Social Web Highlighter is because I wanted people to be able to network through it, as well. By following people just like them and learning from what those people deem important, the learning curve may not be a curve at all.
By the way, you can use Glasp for free and find your tribe today. We’re already over 4,000 learners. :)
In the End, You’ll Have Done Something Amazing
All of us struggle with our life’s purpose. Our ikigai. Some of us spend our entire existence wondering if we’re making a difference, or if we ever will.
Let me tell you something: changing someone’s path for the better may only take a single observation. A single point of view. A single note. Those are small things, indeed, but when they show up to the right person at the right time, they surely can make a world of difference.
I’m not sure about you, but I want to feel fulfilled at the end of my life. I want to feel that I’ve contributed to society in a meaningful way. Yes, even if other people haven’t seen my notes and my work, I know one day they may be useful for someone. Even if it’s just one person, like the one kind soul that bought the only piece Van Gogh sold during his lifetime.
I don’t know who that person will be, or when they’ll show up. But I’m not worried about that. What I’m worried about, in a good way, is leaving my legacy. So I’ll just keep creating and curating, while enjoying every minute of it. The rest will eventually come, whether I’m here to see it or not.
See you next time,