Five Lessons to Help You Learn from Others

“If I have seen further than others, it is because I have been standing on the shoulders of giants.”

These are the words of a giant about the giants that preceded him. These are the comments from Sir Isaac Newton, the father of classical physics, who credited his success to the scientists that came before him, and from whose ideas he learnt.

Newton’s lifetime was a period of great scientific upheaval. Though scientists like Copernicus and Galileo had shunned the misconceptions of ancient scientific thought, science as a knowledge was more of a loose assortment of seemingly unrelated facts.  Besides, pure science was often viewed as a plaything of intellectuals and no one believed if it could be of any practical significance. 

It was Isaac Newton who, building upon the works of his predecessors –Descartes, Galileo, Copernicus– supplied a unified theory that could make scientific predictions, and subsequently be applied to bring about the technological revolution that seems so mundane to us today. Newton himself realized and acknowledged the importance of the foundations laid by his forerunners.

Newton studied the concepts of his precursors and then synthesized them to build the unified theory that led to many scientific and technological advances.Following the footsteps of Newton, dear readers, don’t hesitate to learn from seniors and peers and upon that learning, construct the building of your own ideas.Here are five lessons to help you do that.

Lesson One: Accept Your Weaknesses

The first step towards learning new skills and ideas is to identify and accept your weaknesses—call them your leaning needs. If you think you are already perfect and don’t need to learn anything, you are shutting your doors on new competences. It takes some courage to call a spade a spade, especially if it bruises your ego, but it is certainly worth doing.

Lesson Two: Don’t Hesitate to Make Mistakes

Albert Einstein once said, “Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new”. Let me modify this a bit: “Anyone who has never made a mistake has never learnt anything new”. If you don’t try new things just because you are afraid of making mistakes, you are blocking your learning and progression. Be it Edison’s light bulb or Einstein’s relativity theories, all human accomplishments are invariably the final product of countless mistakes and associated learning.

Lesson Three: Learn Both Directly and Indirectly

You can learn from people both directly and indirectly. Direct learning includes communication, face-to-face or remote e.g. online, with people who know better than you. With regards to direct learning, conversation is deemed better than interrogation as it provides a means of two-way learning. Indirect learning could be by observing people doing things and imitating them. Reading books, surfing internet, watching DIY videos would also fall under indirect learning.

Lesson Four: Leave Your Biases Aside

An open mind is an essential pre-requisite for effective learning. You may learn from people you don’t like but if you are biased about their personalities or views, the information you receive might be filtered, possibly allowing only the negative things to pass through. This kills the essence of the learning as what you perceive is a twisted view of the information. Be open, be ready to accept others’ views.

Lesson Five: Feel Indebted but Not Patronized

Learning from others doesn’t mean being patronized by them; it just means you are open for progress. A surprising number of people are reluctant to learn from others. They feel it is somehow demeaning or patronizing; however, this is merely a perception. All of us try to imitate the best athletes, businessmen but learning the same thing from a peer would be considered condescending. Avoid such perception; and yes, don’t forget to acknowledge the contribution of people from whom you learn.

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