Daniella Whyte

Use It or Lose It (365 Days of Spirited Living – DAY 196)

Use It or Lose It

“Those who know, do. Those that understand, teach.”
— Aristotle

Have you ever taught something that you learned or even developed yourself to someone else and found out that it was easier for you to remember? When you share information after you have read it or heard about it and find that it is easier to retain and bring up in conversation later?

The reason for this is because when we teach someone what we know, our brain is able to identify and index the information quicker. When we read something, even if we read it more than one time, we don’t consciously remember it. But when we are in conversation or in the role of teaching, our brain is forced to recall what we have read.

Research finds that people retain information in a pyramid format developed in the 1960s by the NTL Institute in Maine. On average, people retain:

  • 5% of what they learn from lectures (not good for students or professors).
  • 10% of what they learn from reading (so much for spending time in the library).
  • 20% of what they learn from hearing and seeing (keep your eyes and ears open isn’t just for law enforcement).
  • 30% of what they learn from watching a demonstration (short-term visual loss).
  • 50% of what they learn in group discussions (because in groups, you’re forced to think and contribute).
  • 75% of what they learn from hands-on experience (you learn by doing and practice still makes perfect).
  • 90% of what they learn when they teach someone else (if you are privileged to teach, you’re forced to have a lesson plan).

This research is especially true for those who are learning a new skill, trade, or profession. Personally, I have learned the most (90%) about english and writing by tutoring students in those subjects. I have retained more information about psychology by answering students’ questions on the topic. Similarly, I have learned to write myself by reading (5%), but mostly by hands-on experience (actually writing, that’s the 75%).

If you want to learn how to become better at anything, it isn’t enough just to listen to others, read what others have to say, or watch others do it. You need to learn as much as you can and then try to teach what you know to someone else. “Use it or lose it” as they say. By teaching what you know, you will learn more, make connections with people, and possibly find new opportunities.

And here’s the thing, you don’t have to be an expert. You don’t have to have a certain level of experience, or qualifications, or be certified to teach. You don’t have to have 30 students in a classroom or a conference room full of attendees. You grow your audience by teaching. Just start sharing what you know where you are right now.

If you think you have to have all the answers, you’ve got it all wrong. You don’t and you never will. You don’t have to “feel” like a teacher either. James Clear said, “successful people start before they feel ready.” And successful teachers do too. There is always someone who doesn’t know what you know but who wants to learn. The key to always growing is to always be learning and to then dispense what you know so others can grow and learn too.

“In learning you will teach, and in teaching you will learn.”
— Phil Collins


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