Learning Russian

Pursue Growth and Learning

This is a post from my My 20-day Zappos + Buffer Values Challenge

“Pursue Growth and Learning”

I love that this value can apply to personal growth and development and business growth and development. (Whilst it might not always be appropriate value for, say, a community enterprise that really doesn’t want to grow significantly, if growth is part of the plan, then focusing on it is very wise.)

In a business situation, pursuing growth seems logical, but codifying it as an aim – makes it clear that the business doesn’t want to stagnate, and seeks continual improvement in everything it does..

If you view everything as an experiment with aims to increase growth and learning, then it means everything you do will have a positive outcome if you grow and/or learn from it.

If you take that to the extreme, it’s the Lean Startup Methodology. You may not want to apply it to everything you do to the extreme – but even

“We tried putting tea cakes in the toaster. It sort of worked, but now the toaster smokes a lot, so work out another way to toast your teacakes or work out a way to do it less smokily.”

is something learned from an experiment.

When you’re making things happen:

  • Pursuing growth is good
    • because it means you can work out how to help more people
    • makes you think about learning how you can grow
  • Pursuing learning is good
    • because you can understand what drives your customers, and what it is you’re doing that makes your customers really happy
    • because you can understand what drives your growth (maybe you want to pause your growth engine whilst you understand better what drives your existing customer from satisfied to super happy)

This is something I epically failed to understand a few months ago, which caused me to re-examine my approach to learning, and to look carefully at what I didn’t know about.

Books I've read this year
Books I’ve read this year

I didn’t have a smooth relationship with my schooling, so it was well after I’d left formal education before I realised I’d been learning for fun for a long time!

Academia and I didn’t manage to align perfectly, and the medium in which most academia is conducted (thorough literary explanations, rather than applying the learning to real life problems) didn’t work perfectly for me.

Possibly one of the more useful things I learnt from school was a lecture on how it’d be useful for to evaluate areas you’d like to improve, and then rather than just say “try harder” at, say French vocab learning, to put some plans down in concrete steps: “I’m planning to improve learning french vocab by making flash cards with each set of words, and learning each set of flash cards”.

Turning a set of intentions into the concrete next steps, and then applying them with the best discipline, can really help work towards goals.

I guess my aims for this year, and my commitments from 2013201220102009 to reflect on how things went, and plan where I want to grow myself have been quite helpful. Of course, this year, I’m staying slightly more on top of things, by reviewing things every 3 months.

My preferred way of learning has often been to have a go – make a breakable toy project around a problem or desire I had, and play around with it. I guess there’s been loads of these projects that quietly concluded, and from each of these experiences, I’ve learnt something about how to do things, how hard some things are, what works, what doesn’t, what interests me, what is quickly really dull. Sometimes weekend hacks, turn into larger things, like jobs, and often just trying to learn more about things helped guide ones path in the right direction.

One of my aims for this year is to read 24 books. I’ve not said whether they have to be fact or fiction, but currently my preference is very heavily on nonfiction that will help me understand more about things I’ve naive to. I don’t think the goal is super ambitious – it’s just meant to be achievable.

A word on TV:

I have an almost certainly slightly unfair and limiting mantra that TV limits learning, but what I suspect this comes from is that while *I* find TV entertaining, there’s rarely anything super informative in any field I want to learn about. For nonfiction, it’s just a less efficient knowledge transfer medium compared to text .

This means I almost never watch TV. This week, I watched the same amount of TV as I watch last week: 0 hours.

I like entertainment, but I tend to choose to have that in the form of action sports like hiking. :)

20/20 Hindsight :: Writing Style

One of the great things about getting older, is that you have 20/20 hindsight vision of times in your past. You can look back and see how things played themselves together.

Back in 2005, I sent emails with things like this appended:

Anyway for those of you who care I dont spell check my email because whne I have to type to my *m8z* every word would show up and mostly you can understand what ive *writ* anyway….
Put it this way if you dont like my spelling send me an email, tell me, and instead of emailing you i’ll record all of what I mean to say into an uncompressed .WAv file roughly 20mb big and send it you! ;)
seriously if you dont like my spelling… I’ve got better things to to do. The point of an email is to get the messae across.QUIKLY….


At the time, when asked to explain further, I responded:

It just dosnt seem worth it to me. the other thing is that I send on average about summat like 10+ emails a day. usually not very long ones admittedly but still enough for it not to seem worthwhile checking spelling.

The mildly amusing thing about this email was it was sent to some friends and family but not an email about a funny link, a TV show.

In the email, I explained the world of Voice Over IP (VoIP), extolled the virtues of SIP over Skype, and showed off my first Sipgate phone number by asking people to help me test it out.

Yet only a few things have changed since then:

  • I learnt to write in a much less passive aggressive style.
  • In-browser spellchecking reach mainstream and I was able to easily fix things up afterwards.
  • I learnt that little bit of grammar could make things sound noticeably better.

Three years later, I got my first job as a SIP VoIP support engineer on the basis of communication skills and technical knowledge.

Today, I look back at these emails and cringe, but without them and the people who quietly put up with them (or gently explained why it was suboptimal), things wouldn’t have been the same.

I’m very grateful for those who put up with me back then!