I’m an information junkie.
Part of that includes consuming a lot of information. And what that looks like changes from time to time. There are times I’m all about them books. Sometimes it’s time for workshops, events, courses. Others, it’s more about films, series, documentaries. Often, it will involve a rabbit hole of online articles. Tabs upon tabs, on all subjects.
It’s never fully on the expectation the information will come in handy one day, although that often happens. I do it for the simple pleasure of expanding my worldview and understanding a little bit more about what it is to be human. Because there seems to be so many different ways out there.
So beyond consuming information that has been made readily available for me and the English-speaking world, a lot of what I do to actively learn is get out of my way and talk to people. That sometimes it involves talking to an distinctive stranger on the metro (yes, breaking that sacred rule), sometimes it requires digitally cold-reaching to an expert I admire, sometimes it happens by chance.
It always involves asking questions and listening attentively. Always.
It often also requires having an opinion, or at least something to add.
So it’s a loop.
The more you know, the more you can ask or add to a conversation.
… which then expands your knowledge, which hopefully also enlarges your view of the world, not only giving you a different perspective but ultimately making you aware of something that you didn’t know at first.
Because that’s the hardest part: finding out what it’s out there that you don’t even know it’s out there.
It’s that old learning and problem-solving dilemma: there are things you know you know and things you know you don’t know. But there are also things you don’t know you don’t know. How can you look for something if you don’t know what you’re looking for?
So I don’t.
I look for interesting, distinctive, peculiar people. People who might be interested in different things.
And I listen.
I listen not only to their stories, but to the part of the stories that aren’t there.
And then I ask them about it.
There’s a real beauty for me in unlocking information with people.
In getting them to realise that they know more than they thought.
In talking to them to unravel information that they didn’t even know it was inside of them, because it’s so natural, so intrinsic to who they are and what they do.
There’s usually something of a spark when that happens.
A look of recognition that I’m yet to figure out if it’s saying ‘thanks for seeing me’ or ‘thanks for getting me to see me’ (or maybe it’s saying ‘fuck off’, who knows). Either way, it takes them - and/or me - on a journey.
Those deep, mind-broadening, active conversations don’t happen that often, but when they do, it’s amazing. And it usually comes down to 3 things:
Finding the right people
Asking (the right) questions
Listening attentively (to what’s not being said)
Learning from and with people is definitely my favourite way of learning.
But, like a long journey or running long distance, it’s also exhausting. And it requires training. Time. Patience. Rigour. Skill.
Some days it will come easy, some days you won’t want to do it. It’s just too hard.
But there are incredible rewards at the end of it, if you just keep at it.
Just think of the beauty of seeing the world through someone else’s eyes.