Unteachable.... Non Intellectual.... A doer, not a thinker....
What I learned about myself when I dropped out of college.
I never was a great student in high school and I did not do well in college. There were a lot of issues that I had with school, changing schools 3 times after 7th grade led to some introverted tendencies that left me disinterested at times, overwhelmed at others with heavy doses of disenfranchisement and disillusionment throughout.
I did not enjoy the learning of complex theories and algorithms with classes stuffed full of other students I didn't know. It felt like torture to me having to listen to one person impersonally lecture about things I had no idea how to put to use in my life for an hour or more at a time. I made it through high school fine, but my lack of trust and faith in a system that seemed to only cared about me when time to collect tuition money led to a growing feeling of apathy. I did not retain the college lectures or the assigned reading well and nothing stuck. This resulted in my being tossed into the bucket of non-intellectual dropouts who didn't have the ability, desire, or brains to finish with a degree.
In many ways I was fine with school not working out great for me, I started a horse training business and loved it. Quickly though, I realized that training horses was far from the un-intellectual trade meant for those not smart enough to get through school. Working with living breathing animals who possessed personalities complete with quirks and tendencies unique to each proved to be far more than just grunt work. It proved to be much more psychology, meticulous planning, and physical science. To be as good as I wanted to be I was going to have to gain a whole bunch of knowledge that I did not have.
I began reading, listening to lectures, and soaking in all of the information I could in order to give myself a chance to succeed. I discovered something about myself, I actually could learn. I actually could retain things I had read, and I loved lectures from some of the most monotoned speakers I have ever stuck my ears near. Turned out that I just needed to have a passion for what I was learning. My learning progressed with each video I watched and every book I read.
I still wasn't satisfied though. It wasn't good enough, I put in a lot of time and effort into learning and was definitely making measurable progress, but at a slower rate than I could stand. There had to be a more efficient way to learn than to read a book, test its theories, re-read it, test it again, and so on and so on. My frustration grew until I was able to overcome my introverted tendencies and I began seeking the counsel of the professional trainers around me.
This was the hack. This worked like magic. I could spend short periods of time with them, watching what they do, asking some simple questions about the issues I was facing, ask them for constructive feedback on what I was doing. My progress and the speed at which I learned felt like I had climbed out of a horse drawn carriage and into a fighter jet. The books and the videos were great and helped me develop a foundation and strong understanding, but nothing could compare to the peer to peer interaction with real world professionals in my industry who were willing to help me out.
Not only did I apply this learning principle to working with horses, but I used it to learn more about the entire world around me. My perspective on the world widened and I grew to have an insatiable appetite for soaking in knowledge about it. I love to learn about world issues, discoveries in technology and medicine. I am inspired by the incredible experiences of people in our past, and I am fascinated by the scientific theories that continue to evolve. I also have learned some practical white collar skills, I learned how to do some minor programming and how to design and develop complex web applications, I learned how to create and build advertising campaigns that reached hundreds of thousands of people. I learned financial skills and how to use complex tax codes. Each and every time the learning I was gaining from books and research was rocket boosted into the stratosphere because of the help and insights I received from actual real world professionals.
So what kind of student am I? Am I incapable of learning? Hard headed? A doer, not a thinker? I learned that I could both think and do. As long as what I was learning stemmed from an issue I was facing, a challenge I needed to overcome, or simple curiosity I could retain information, develop theories of my own, test them via the scientific method, and make progress. I no longer felt like I fit into the box that I was put in when leaving school. I wasn't unteachable, I loved learning, it has become a large passion of mine. Every time I learn something new, my appetite to learn grows further, and everytime I meet someone who is willing to share their wisdom with me, my learning accelerates by 100x.
Many of us are much too dependant on our Educational System. Naively expecting them to be the one overarching answer to our learning and indicator of our potential. Trouble with this over dependence is the fact that the majority of our school system has stripped itself of most (if not all) practical or experiential learning opportunities. They have never been great at facilitating or encouraging the exploration or discovery of each student's passions or talents. Those things are simply not what they are good at. The system is not built to empower the individual, it is designed to provide basic knowledge to the masses through industrialized principles.
For people like me to succeed, we have to have the opportunity to develop our passions. This happened for me when I started a horse training business. Now I had a real need for learning, I had to get better if I wanted to be successful. Our learning has to be continuous and supplemented with exploration, discovery, and on demand experiences. We need a good reason for what we are doing, and we need access to the answers in a real world way.
We do not have to become what others or systems label us. We can be specialists and experts in anything we want if we are passionate about it and can find the resources to learn it. Our potential is unlimited, and does not have to be determined by anyone around us who doubts us, or a system that is built to cull us out.
This is the reason that I am dedicated to the LearnIRL project. We are building this platform to give anyone the ability to learn whatever interests them in real world practical ways. Our vision is that LearnIRL will be a place that anyone can come to connect with a real world expert and learn specific skills or explore careers that interest them and accelerate their learning and knowledge in immeasurable amounts. Our learning should be an on demand, real world experience. Whether we are learning theories or skills, the information should be available to us when we want it, because that is when it will be useful to us. This is my perspective and why I love the LearnIRL project.