I heard a radio ad that suggested that the best investment could be made on… you. This seemed like a solid idea. I wanted to know more. I had even refrained from scanning the radio to hear their answer and it was: getting an MBA. An expensive investment and one I don’t know how to hedge the risk on. I was expecting an ad for Rosette Stone or something along those lines. I was hoping for something much cheaper. I wanted low risk, high return. And I wanted to investment in me not a university. So how can you invest in yourself?
Learn something new. Learn it with a project. Create a project that generates positive results financially, socially, or some other way while learning. Let your learning have a positive externality on society. Project learning is low risk, high return and here are the 6 reasons why:
- It is important to have a purpose in everything. Is a goal needed? Yes, but possibly more important is the reason for that goal. So the goal may be to learn Photoshop but what is the immediate reason? That reason is your most important learning tool. That reason becomes your project.
- Learning from projects is practical. Life problems aren’t given at the end of a chapter where the solutions to the problems are located several page turns back. The knowledge that is needed to solve problems isn’t all located in even a single book much less a chapter. So it makes sense to do projects that are built upon. Where the solution is developed not found. Real life problems are novel and therefore so are there solutions so learn in a way that reflects this.
- The project limits the scope of learning and gives structure to learning. As there is too much information to learn, an intelligent method to limit the material is needed. You have limited time, resources, and focus they need to be concentrated to be effective. This is one of the reasons for the “more is less” and simplicity movements for increased productivity. Learning too much becomes impossible as there is no where to start or finish and without a finish there is no way to win.
- Things that are scheduled get done. You have probably heard this one but how do you schedule learning? One chapter a day or a week… this doesn’t work. A project comes with natural deadlines; it has to be done at a certain time. There is a reason for this deadline. It is not arbitrary. This deadline will help you keep motivated.
- Homework, end of chapter questions, and reviews are typical components of most learning techniques but this kind of structure often prevents deep understanding. The understanding of the connection betwixt ideas is often lost. In a project it is essential that everything fit together for the leader. It is essential that the leader have a working, practical knowledge of the material in its entirety not just one chapter at a time.
- Projects often involve teams. When you are working on an interesting project you can often enlist the help of others. Others can help you grasp new ideas faster and often expand the project in interesting new directions. Much like jogging with others can motivate you to keep at it, working with others on a project ensures you don’t quit.
Who learns faster: the doctor reading a med school book or the one practicing in a developing nation? the person watching basketball or the person playing? If you want to know about something read, watch, or talk about it, if you want to learn it then practice it.