The Rhythm of Learning

Photo by Joe Cavasos

Photo by Joe Cavasos

We’re surrounded by cycles.

Winter follows Autumn. January brings a clean slate. Rest gives birth to meaningful work.

Rhythm can be found even in mundane objects—like sponges. I think this porous sage has much to teach us about how we grow. Sponges prove themselves useful through three life stages: soaking, synthesizing, and sharing.

Sponges soak up liquids. Throw one down on some spilt OJ and presto, clean countertop. It works even better if you give it a squeeze first (more on this later).

Sponges also hold liquids in. What once stood outside of the sponge is now contained within it’s cellulose fibers. These are now synthesized.

Then it’s time for wringing out the sponge. Give the sponge a squeeze and you can now share the OJ with the sink.

Yes, I know this is all a bit cheesy, but stay with me.

Humanity’s no stranger to viewing the brain like a sponge. We take information in, hopefully think about it, then share with the world what we’ve done with it. I think many teams we break this meaningful cycle.

A few situations and symptoms I have observed:

Soaking and Sharing, No Synthesis

  • bookworms talking more about “having read” rather than truly diving into the reading experience
  • motivational speakers regurgitating famous quotes instead of taking time to process their inspiration and make it their own

Sharing and Synthesis, No Soaking

  • young earth creationists refusing to accept archeological findings
  • obese people relying on the same fad diets to get them slim 

Soaking and Synthesis, No Sharing

  • employees hoarding insights from the market so they can get ahead of their team members
  • hearing about a specific need in your sphere of influence and refusing to take a stand

We’ve all seen these scenarios. I understand there’s a variety of factors that influence these behaviors, but I think this learning cycle is a helpful lens to look at these issues through.

Now, here’s some tips on cultivating a healthy learning cycle:

Soaking

  • listen to range of trusted information sources
  • mix up your intake mediums with podcasts, conferences, luncheons, blogs, books, and newsletters
  • limit the number of daily emails you subscribe to
  • listen to listen, not respond

Synthesizing

  • take time to meditate on new ideas and experiences
  • if you read quickly, leave a few days of buffer time before starting a new book
  • keep a journal handy
  • intentional create space to be bored - your morning train commute doesn’t have to be spent on Instagram

Sharing

  • teach someone your own unique approach to an old problem
  • frequently put yourself in environments that challenge your normal way of looking at the world
  • remove anonymity from your life; saying something means standing behind it
  • provide relevant context when making public controversial statements

Soak, Synthesize, and Share. Let’s keep the flow going.

Michael Curtis

A mastering engineer and composer who loves helping you sound awesome.