Learning from experience, step 1

“The things we have to learn before we do them, we learn by doing them” – Aristotle


Last weekend me and Allison travelled by car down to the French north coast – also called Cote d’Opale – a beautiful place of beaches and cliffs. We ended up taking a chance for a hostel (suspiciously cheap at €10 per night) in a village called Montreuil-sur-Mer. It proved to be a great choice as the hostel was located within the compounds of a medieval castle – which we had to ourselves!

Staying a night a hostel in a small french town in a medieval castle was an experience that I won’t forget. One of quite a few in the past year. My work and AIESEC has enabled me to be in many places and meet a lot of different people – as well as do things I wasn’t prepared for. This has left me thinking many times – how do you make the most of these kind of experiences?

Since a long time back (think Aristotle & Confucius) people have known that we learn by doing, by experiencing. In 1984 David Kolb published a book that has since shaped the discussion on the impact of direct exprience in learning – he created a model describing learning to start from experience, continue with reflection and abstraction of key concepts and then action or practical use of the learning acquired. As any model, it’s certainly not perfect and much can be said about it – but it does provide you with a framework to make the most out of your experiences.

With this framework in mind I have three personal things that I try to do in order to have more effective experiential learning in my life. The first of which I’ll share today.

1. Seek out new things to learn – and never stop! Stimulate your divergent thinking by being in new and unexpected places. I find travelling for me, like our trip to France, is a way of discovering new and unexpected things to learn and try to understand- but your ways will of course differ.

The key is simply to always be curious and try to go deeper, understand better and look at it from a new light. If you find yourself ever thinking “that would be cool to do” – then write it down and make a deal with yourself to go ahead and try. This type of experimentation got me to try things like hang gliding, not me in the video (I saw it on a Discovery show, wrote it down and then tried it) – a sport I would really like to take up for real.

“Tell me, and I will forget. Show me, and I may remember. Involve me, and I will understand.” – Confucius

Btw. today is a good day to start.

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