Experiential learning creates skill — The power of active practice

Knowledge doesn’t automatically make us better. We get results, make progress and acquire skills through practice.

If your goal is to acquire a new skill or make real progress in any area of your life, don’t just aim to gain knowledge — no matter how valuable it is.

Aim to practice, apply what you learn or do something with that knowledge.

Learning something new does not necessarily transform or improve you if you don’t get past the knowledge acquisition phase. You lose what you don’t use, apply or practice. But you gain a lot by doing something with it.

Better learners are active learners

They practice what they learn. The application of knowledge creates skill. When you make learning an experience, you acquire skills for life.

Creating goals is a popular practice. Many people have all sorts of ambitions. They are good at learning good knowledge but fall short of taking actionable steps. They find comfort in passive learning — receiving knowledge.

Passive learners are good at acquiring the right knowledge to get what they want. But they can’t get to the next and even better stage of learning — active practice (learning by doing).

“An estimated 60 percent of people are passive learners” according to Lominger, a leadership development firm.

In fact, formal schooling involves a lot of passive learning. We get to understand a lot of theories, concepts and ideas.

And then we take tests to recall what we know. The aim is to pass on knowledge or get good grades in an upcoming exam.

I studied Law at the university, but I never had practical courtroom experience. And I never had the opportunity to learn business law actively.

I studied to get a degree. Today, I’ve forgotten a lot of what I learned.

I have learned more about becoming a better entrepreneur or writer in the past five years through practice than I could ever learn from books.

These days, my learning experience is more fun, enjoyable, and utterly different from my formal education approach. I apply both passive and active learning at the same time. It’s a far richer experience.

Tamara L. Chilver once said. “Thirty minutes of active learning is equivalent to several hours of passive learning.”

If you want to build better or lasting practical skills but can’t commit quality time to practice the good habits you read in books, you won’t get the results you want. Your goals will always remain a distant dream.

Learning something new and practicing new knowledge delivers different results

Acquiring complex and difficult knowledge is hard, but it’s a strong foundation for informed judgment.

Active learning creates skills for the rest of your life. It also empowers you to make real progress in your career. Use your long-term goal as a guide to choose the type of learning you need to get what you want.

Active learning is experiential

“Learning is not so much an additive process, with new learning simply piling up on top of existing knowledge, as it is an active, dynamic process in which the connections are constantly changing, and the structure reformatted. — K. Patricia Cross

To become a great expert or specialist (doctor, lawyer, engineer, architect, programmer, online entrepreneur, writer, podcaster, YouTuber, etc.), you have to take practical action. You have to embrace both passive and active learning at the same time. Medical students are great at it.

You can invest in the most valuable tools about how to become an online entrepreneur or writer. But that knowledge will be a waste of money if you don’t launch or start writing.

It’s the experiential learning process that helps you become good at anything. “When you know better you do better.” Maya Angelou said.

There’s nothing wrong with accumulating knowledge or improving your mental models — it’s the foundation for thinking better.

“Not to mention that soaking up new information can help you make more informed decisions when you do decide to take action,” says James Clear.

Passive learning can make you an active thinker. But if you want skills to improve your life and career, do more with what you know.

Spend more time practicing new knowledge. Passive learning tools like books, podcasts and videos are meant to help us take action.

When you do something with knowledge, you improve retention, get feedback and do more of what’s working. You learn more in a year than you could ever learn in a decade from books.

“All genuine learning is active, not passive. It involves the use of the mind, not just the memory. It is a process of discovery, in which the student is the main agent, not the teacher.” Mortimer Adler said.

At least 70% of your learning time should be spent practicing knowledge

It’s one of the best ways to gain wisdom, insight and skills for life.

If you want to learn how to acquire any skill or get better at an existing skill, there’s no substitute for experiential learning.

This article originally appeared in Medium.