You’ve studied, read, watched, and listened, but nothing has really changed and you aren’t getting as much value from reading as you did before.

Or maybe you’re not studying, you’re stuck dealing with the day to day actions, and again things aren’t moving forward.

We’ll look at this simple scientific analogy to understand why, and what the top performers do to learn more effectively and grow way faster than everyone else.

Potential Learning

Potential energy is stored energy. Just like an elastic that has been stretched, a ball at the top of a hill, or a fully charged battery that all have energy just waiting to be released. This energy doesn’t come from thin air. Other forces acted on these objects in order to put them in that state.

This is similar to our studying and information consuming habits, they’re passive. We’re storing potential in our brains. I refer to this as Potential Learning, outside sources from other’s experiences and observations that we try to keep inside of us for future value. But like most objects they can only hold so much energy at one time. However, part of the trouble is exactly this, future value of some unknown kind. The learning you get in this style is often very broad. It’s most useful when you know very little about your topic, but becomes increasingly less beneficial the longer you stick to only Potential Learning.

This is for a couple of reasons. Its not hyper specific to your situation. There is a very unlikely chance that someone else’s situation will match yours exactly. Also, despite how much you read about other people’s experiences it won’t actually prepare you emotionally for the situations you will face. And, it simply prolongs procrastination of what’s necessary, taking action. We do this to mitigate risk, because we’re afraid to fail. It can help in some situations, but you’re going to hit failures anyways, and learning through those is the type of hyper specific learning I’m going to talk about. Most people sit in the consuming and preparing stage far too long, way longer than is beneficial.

While not a perfect analogy, the moral of this can also be said, you can’t learn to swim by reading a book. However, learning about the behaviours and risks of water can help prepare you. This is similar to formal studying at the beginning of a new career. Beneficial and crucial, but you can’t stay in this headspace.

Kinetic Learning

This brings us to kinetic energy. The ball that is rolling down the hill, the elastic that has been released, or the flowing electrical current. These all have energy that is in motion, and they will continue to expel all of the energy until it is either interrupted, or has run out of energy. If we consider the knowledge we get by taking action, and the feedback results of the actions as Kinetic Learning, we can begin to see how this can accelerate your learning tenfold.

Learning What You Don’t Know

Kinetic Learning, knowledge from actions, gives you hyper specific information about your situation, and lets you know exactly what you don’t know, that you should. You will learn tactical skills and emotional skills as well, but if you analyze your actions and results it’s like reading an unfinished book about your situation that no one can write but you. It has some crucial new information, but your job is then to figure out how to fill the gaps.

Look, your situation is different than everyone else’s. Your specialty is at least slightly different. Your personality is absolutely different. Your customers are different. Your skillset is different. There is NO WAY you can hope to get a 10 step playbook answer for exactly what you need to do that checks every one of your boxes. And especially when those boxes keep moving around because of technology, your desires, attitudes, and customer needs.

So Kinetic learning eventually leads to knowledge gaps. This means that it’s insufficient on its own. And more importantly, if you’re only taking action and not strategically learning, like the battery that will eventually run out if you don’t add more electricity, your Kinetic learning will also begin to slow if it’s left to fend for itself. If you only continue to do tasks and not evaluate the feedback and results, and don’t consider outside information about the feedback you also will not progress at all.

Connecting Learning Styles

So, if Kinetic Learning gives you specific insights and shows you what to focus on, Potential Learning can be used to fill the new gaps in your knowledge for which your situation can’t teach you. This is exactly how the world-class do what they do. They study a topic, they take action, learn new things by doing, receive feedback (in terms of results), assess where they want to be instead, realize what they don’t know to get there, and study that. It’s a constant cycle that keeps them moving forward.

This is how you can learn faster and more accurately than simply studying information. If you get stuck in Potential Learning, you might think you’re still “preparing to start”, but after a while the information can only help you so much. The chances each new article will help you succeed become less and less. But if you apply action, Kinetic Learning will speed up your growth, your focus on real tasks, and your results.

The Ebb And Flow Of These Learning Styles

The ratio of Potential to Kinetic learning will fluctuate back and forth throughout your work. For example, while studying your wellness specialty you hit the books hard. Then you finally get to put it into practice and test out your knowledge a few times, and you’re going with a balanced blend of hands on actions, and theory learning. Then later in your career you’re doing much more in-the-trenches learning, with a little bit of studying. This is only until you decide you’re not moving forward enough, and want to begin a new technique, modality, or business strategy, and you switch back to doing more studying. Hopefully your new path has been fueled by knowledge or insight you’ve gained from your previous or current actions.

It should be a constant cycle, back and forth between action and studying, Potential and Kinetic. Fill your well of knowledge, then apply it, fill again, and apply. Too much of one and you will run out of the other, and stagnate. Or worse, actually go backwards.