I recently spoke with someone who told me they loved learning. Not only is this a sentiment I share, but I also had just recently read an article that stated that asking about books that people recently read is a great way to learn a significant amount from that person. I was interested in pursuing the conversation, so asked how the person preferred to learn, and gave some “gimme” prompts in there like books, user groups, forums, hands on, etc. The person I was speaking too said that they did not read books and only learned hands on. I was rather disappointed by the remainder of the conversation and I lost interest. I think that it was the combination of having to balance what was said versus demonstrated.
Don’t get me wrong, I prefer hands on, one-on-one discussions on complicated subjects. This helps me understand and dive deep into the subject matter. I was most bothered by the fact that everyone I know who really loves to learn will take learning in any and all capacities they can. This includes trade publications, online forums, newsletters, books, conferences, user groups, etc. All of these have a place in the learning process, no matter how simple or complex a subject you are pursuing. I felt as though the person I was talking to was using a catch phrase about loving to learn generically, but when put to the test to follow through, did not do it.
Would it have been different if the person had said that their preferred method to learn was hands on, but reads something else for other value (even if it was as simple as reading fiction to relax and unwind so their brain can rejuvenate)? I think it would have to me. Even those people I know who dabble in hands on experimentation (software programming, cooking, etc) use reference material (online, offline, tv, magazines) so they are not recreating the wheel, and also getting a broader view. By limiting yourself to one, you lose out on a lot of perspective.