Personal Growth and the Cost Fallacy of Continual Learning

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To Learn or Not to Learn

With my finger hovering over the mouse, I wanted nothing more than to embark on the journey of shaping my first surfboard through a local company called Learning Curves.

But I couldn’t quite pull the trigger.

There was a sharp voice in the back of my head preventing me from jumping into this new and exciting experience. The voice felt like a grand prosecutor, questioning me over, trying to convince the jury the price wasn’t worth it. I could put the money towards our mortgage savings. I could use the time to train, work longer hours, or with my wife Natasha.

The voice was quickly building a compelling case of evidence that I should not and could not afford this cost.

And in this moment I realized in simply posing the question “how much will it cost?” I was already on the losing end of the battle in my acquisition for meaningful continual learning.

With this flash of understanding I quickly clicked accept and embarked on the new adventure of shaping my very first custom surfboard.

No regrets, no hesitation – I immediately felt excited as I knew I was onto my next learning adventure.

Tyrell Mara - surfing a handshaped board in Mexcio

The Cost Fallacy of Continual Learning

A lot went on in those few minutes of deliberation, and it made me question what are the key dynamics that make continual learning so valuable?

And, why are the stories we tell ourselves around the cost of adventure, experience, and learning so negative?

The Meaningful Learning Equation

There are a combination of factors I look for when quenching the thirst to learn and grow as a human being. I recently told a colleague and mentor of mine that when I get this equation right it equates to exponential “intangible” growth. My mentor quickly cut me off and highlighted that the benefits and learning that come out of these experiences are not “intangible” but actually quite real and meaningful as they impact every aspect of our lives from the translation and application to work and career, to the creativity and sub-conscious processing accessed, and of course overall happiness and energy boost.

So what does meaningful learning look like?

Here are the 5 criteria I look for in every learning opportunity.

Feeding passions

Throughout life I have identified several core passions that fuel the deepest parts of my soul and being – they truly are the fuel that drives my most powerful engine. I have defined some of these passions as hobbies such as surfing and adventuring the outdoors, while others are environments I look for like surrounding myself with intrinsically motivated colleagues and leanding high performance teams.

As life unfolds I know these passions will evolve and shift. However in the present moment I have a very clear sense of the areas of life I am excited and passionate to drive forward.

This is an easy one, with an important caveat being the requirements of deeply understanding and knowing what drives you as a human being.

Intrinsically inspires and motivates

This is one of those “intangibles” that has very real translation. There are mountains of data showing the value of intrinsic motivation in our lives.

This effectively is the practice of doing more of the things that light a fire inside of you. Intrinsic motivation is the life force that fuels your passions. There are some easy ways to identify how intrinsically motivating activities and pursuits are for you in your life. Think of an adventure, experience, work or learning opportunity and ask yourself these questions:

  • Would you be fired up to go through that experience if you knew you wouldn’t get paid a cent to do it? Would you still go ahead if you had to pay to play?
  • If you envision yourself practicing the same craft or continuing to learn in that space 10 years from now do you feel yourself being as excited?

There is a clear difference in feeling between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. It takes time to hone that internal gauge but as you do you will realize that paradoxically, it is the intrinsic drivers (typically not providing direct compensation like extrinsic rewards) in your life that will create the most value and wealth over time, if honored.

Tyrell Mara - public speaking on leadership and personal growth in sport, work, and life

Gives energy

Another essential “gut feel” based test for assessing the value of new learning opportunities is determining the energy impact the pursuit offers. These are important both inside and outside of work. For example have you ever had a task you had to execute that you didn’t enjoy at all and every time you performed it you just felt like you were dragging?

A perfect example of ‘energy suck’.

On the flip side, you likely have experienced activities both inside of and even more likely outside of work where you felt like you were on top of the world. Where the end of the experience leaves you energized and optimistic about the state of life.

These are the experience that fill you up with energy.

The more energy fill you identify in your learning opportunities, the more holistic value they will drive.

Produces Flow States

As I have discussed previously, working in “Flow” states is our quickest way to effectively hack growth and learning.

Some of the classic tests for Flow states are as follows:

  • Have you ever been doing something you love, only to look up at the clock and realize hours have flown by in what seemed like minutes?
  • Conversely, in the athletic pursuit or game of your life, you may have had an experience where time seemingly slows down and allows you to see everything that is going to happen before it unfolds.
  • Finally, many times both in work and in life Flow states leave us buzzing with a full body energy high experience.

Working in these high performance states allow us not only to learn exponentially faster and transcend these learnings across multiple fields, but it is one of the most ultimate positive energy boosts out there.

Stretching Comfort Zones

Maybe one of the most important underlying factors to accomplish the 4 states described above is stretching and many times stepping outside of your comfort zone. This again is one of those pre-requisites for transformational learning.

Stepping outside of your comfort zone significantly ups the anti. It puts you on a whole new playing field immersed in the unknown – this heightens our senses and puts us in an ultra focused mindset.

And we all know this feeling.

The sharp ping in your gut, the sprint pace of your heartbeat against your chest, the knot in the back of your throat.

These are all indicators that you are crossing the elusive border of your comfort zone. Despite this being an incredibly nerve racking feeling, if you have started to check off points 1 through 4, take this as one of the strongest signs that you are on the right path.

Don’t hesitate – jump in.

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The Value of Learning and Positive Feedback Cycles

Over the years I have become highly conscious of which learning experiences have truly added value to my life across all functions and facets. Through reflection and observation I have been able to identify where learning from one area of my life has been applied and upped my game in another area – this creates a positive feedback loop which empowers me to continue to effectively jump into new learning experiences knowing at the end of the day it is increasing my value and net worth as a human being.

We all have these inspired learning opportunities in our lives, my challenge to you is to pull the trigger on that exciting learning experience that seems just out of reach. The opportunity that you would love to take on but have convinced yourself with one excuse too many that it is not worth it.

I’m telling you it is.

Take the leap and don’t look back!

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