Learning faster through play

I spend a lot of time trying to learn new things, so I was a bit flustered yesterday when I heard the following (paraphrased) on the TopicalMBA podcast:

Hard work and learning from reading is not the key to real growth. You have to experiment and play, to try out new ways of being to get different results.

I had to stop my deadlift set and re-listen to this a few times. Because this feels like an obvious truth that I’ve just neglected for a long time.

We all know instinctively that we can’t learn to ride a bike or skateboard by reading a book about it. At some point we have to get on the wobbly board and crash over and over again. We even know that this is normal, and while it might be a bit embarrassing it’s obvious that if we just try crashing and falling off a bunch of times we’ll learn.

So why do we retreat into books, podcasts, and listening to others when we’re learning about things like entrepreneurship? Shouldn’t the obvious step be to get on the wobbly board and expect to fall?

I think this ties nicely into the idea of Resistance from Stephen Pressfield’s The War of Art, which if you haven’t read you should. When we’re doing things that are important to us, that importance increases our nervousness about the unknown. So we struggle to control the unknown future by basically procrastinating.

Avoiding to actually do the thing we instead prepare infinitely. There’s always another important book to read, another google search for the answer, another conference where we’ll learn the true way of doing the thing.

The insidious truth is that we do learn from others. It actually does help us get closer to the goal. Just not as fast as if we just experiment and play. And fall off.

This insight was profound for me, and I hope it might help you also. How much time do you spend researching, and how much of that time might you spend simply selling or building or playing around with new tools instead?