Tips for getting the most from an education/training event (for yourself)

  Hort Snacks - December 2018
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 There is a lot to be said for education. I’m a big fan (I’d better be, given the number of years I’ve spent in a classroom). We spend the better part of our childhood and youth learning (or being encouraged to do so) and anytime we start out on a job, one of the first things we do is “train”. Training and formal/informal education (whether brief or extended/intensive) can be a tremendous benefit to us, to our lives and to our careers and businesses. It is a fairly well-established fact that well-trained individuals (whether owners, employees or other) function at a higher level than their untrained counterparts.

I think that Aristotle summed it up nicely when he saidExcellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit. You can find a selection of other deep thoughts on education and training (see above), but I consider training and education as a way to build our mental and intellectual capacity until our physical experience has a chance to catch up. Think of it as mental muscle memory, until we have actual muscle memory. And, when we’ve settled comfortably into our experience (rut), training and education works nicely to stir things up.

I know that I (and many others before me) regularly recommend that producers/growers invest time in education and training. But how do you get the most out of what you attend? How do you maximize the value of the time you spend in a classroom, on a tour, walking around a tradeshow or in a field? I don’t have all of the answers, but here are some tips.

1) Know why you go and then go with a purpose
Go into the training with some specific goals, whether for specific things to learn (that is easier if the event has clear outcomes) or even with the goal to just get 2 or 3 new ideas. If you are going, “just because” or “because you have to”, you’ve already stunted your ability to benefit from the experience.

If you set goals, or go with honest intent, you will be more likely to retain what you are taught and then apply what you learn. You’ll also find that you are more likely to be satisfied. I’m not saying that you are lowering the bar in advance, but it shouldn’t take as much to see what you are gaining.

2) Keep an open mind
Sometimes nuggets of learning come unexpectedly and from unusual angles. If you predetermine WHAT you are going to learn, you might miss out on some really valuable stuff. You might see that you could make changes to what you are doing. You might have an “Aha” moment about something. You never know.

3) Be open to inspiration
Have you ever been thinking about something, and seemingly out of the blue, an unrelated thought pops into your head? Don’t fight it. Note it down for chewing on later and just let it flow. The exercise of thinking seems to shake things up, allowing stuff we wouldn’t have considered to filter down to our now open mind.

4) Take notes (even if it is just a few bullet points)
Years ago, I was sitting in a session at a conference, busily scribbling notes on the subject. Someone that knew me, and knew that I’d spoken on that particular topic myself several times previously, questioned why I was taking notes. I responded that it serves several purposes. 1) It keeps me alert and engaged; 2) it helps to push and pull the content more firmly into my brain; 3) it opens up my mind to consider elements that I hadn’t previously thought about. The moment that you think that you “know it all”, you are hooped.

Taking notes is also important, because who can remember everything? Jot down the things that seem important to remember. I like to divide up my pages a little, with a ¼ of the page separated off from the main notes. That column is labeled “IDEAS” or something like that. By labeling it, it almost invites my brain to look for ideas on things I can ACT on, later on. Plus, I know where to look for things that I had decided were important to work on.

5) Meet someone new
I’ve often found that I learn more from the PEOPLE I meet than from things I attend. Not that speakers aren’t great, but I love to “collect” contacts. I often claim that I don’t know everything, but I know lots of smart people. So go into events with the intent of making a new friend or at least a useful contact. Collecting brains (which you can access again and again later) beats scribbled notes almost any day.

6) Exit with resolve
Whatever you learn and retain, don’t end your experience without an action plan. Leave with a plan to do something.

On the mountains of truth you can never climb in vain: either you will reach a point higher up today, or you will be training your powers so that you will be able to climb higher tomorrow.” – Friedrich Nietzsche
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For more information about the content of this document, contact Robert Spencer.
This information published to the web on November 28, 2018.