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Friday, August 15, 2014

Learning vs. Training

What is learning? Most people associate learning with a tangible skill – like driving, swimming, creating macros in Microsoft Excel, etc.

However, I believe that the term learning applies equally to a change in habit, a change in mindset or paradigm. It also applies to a change in perspective. This is a little hard to visualize for most people. For example, you will often hear people saying things like – “I have recently learnt Japanese” or “I have learnt how to drive a car”. But it is much rarer to hear a person say, “I have learnt to look at prison convicts in a new light” or “I have learnt to watch my temper and control it” or “I have learnt that my teenage son is a worthwhile person instead of an irritating nuisance”. This kind of learning is much harder to achieve because it requires a high level of self-awareness. Also, I like to use the term “learning” with reference to a new habit – for example, “I have learnt to exercise 3 times  a week on a regular basis” or “I have learnt to quit smoking”.

So, in summary, I like to use the word “learning” to describe a process of positive change – be it the acquisition of theoretical knowledge, or a tangible skill, a new habit or new perspective. 

How is “training” related to “learning” ? I see training as a means to achieve learning. In order to learn something, it is necessary to train or practice. For a short-tempered person to learn the habit of calmness, he needs to train himself to watch for the symptoms of a rising tantrum and train himself to manage his emotions.
However, learning can happen without training as well.  A child who gets his fingertip singed in a flame learns abruptly (and effectively) that fire is dangerous. The amateur stock market investor who risks his all on a particular gamble and ends up going bankrupt learns without training the importance of due diligence in investing.

Whether we realize it or not, we are learning all the time. Nature will ensure that learning happens –even if we resist it with all our might. By being humble, being proactive and by learning consciously, we can learn more, learn faster and learn more efficiently. Also, by learning consciously, we can avoid much of the pain involved in learning through hard knocks.

I love this line (I learnt it in my previous company!): The future belongs to those who learn.

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