Learning in Action: What it Means to Live on the Edge

If you’re not willing to fail, you don’t have much chance to learn in action. 

Most of us, if we were honest, are risk adverse.  Many of us actually move from being risk adverse to being willing to live more on the edge.  I call those folks edge-dwellers. 


I think the catch is to recognize the dimension of excitement, the sense of adventure that’s actually out there, as long as you have safety nets.  Meaning some really powerful ways, with the right kind of mentors and reverse mentors, you actually feel more capable pushing yourself out on the edge and recognizing that, yeah, you’re going to mess up and you’re going to fail, but you most of us fail and learn from those failures.

In fact, once you kind of got used to constantly kind of messing up in a way you suddenly discover that you’re learning those exponentially up.  As you may know I’m very fond of studying of bizarre things; although, I’m trained in mathematics and computer science.  I study extreme surfers; people that are now world champion surfers.  Kids that become world champion surfers and come back to possibly how that was possible these particular kids that I study. 

But there’s no question, every day they’re willing to push themselves and fail, fail, fail because it is failing is a sense of not figuring out exactly how to catch the lip of this particular kind of wave.  How this particular move and shift of weight balance as a wave is crashing down on you could have helped you kind of escape that.  Maybe you go through the tunnel even faster and further and so on and so forth.

It’s only about constantly trying and looking at what are the most nuance moves that you didn’t make that made the difference.  So in some sense, if you’re willing to kind of reflect in a state of failure or after the failure, then you’re learning becoming amazing.  And I think if people step back and think about it, learning in action is kind of fun.  Not necessarily learning by reading book after book after book; although, some of us brought up that way and did pretty good at it and kind of liked it, but an awful lot of us like action. 

And the real question is how do you learn in action.  If you’re not willing to fail, you don’t have much chance to learn in action, but if you’re willing to fail then learning in action can be phenomenally powerful and very exciting.  From this point of view, all change becomes in fact a learning opportunity and a new kind of adventure. 

This lesson is derived from Big Think Edge, an online learning platform designed to help employees help their companies cultivate the new skills and knowledge necessary to invent new products, new markets, new business models, and new industries.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

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