There is a Pot of Gold at the end of the Rainbow
How do we learn? When we are small, we learn a lot – at that time, the entire world is unexplored – our elders know it and we do not – as a result, we make a lot of mistakes which are tolerated by both our parents as well as our teachers.
Formal learning, at least in the Indian context, ends once we become adults –society, as well as we ourselves, expects that we know a lot (are supposed experts in some field or the other) and are expected to behave in a certain way – all prim and proper. How can that be – if a Ph D takes about 5 years to complete and can be started only after post graduation, and even after a Ph D, you are a deemed expert on some very narrowly defined topic?Ph D’s themselves are humble because they know that they do not know far more than what they know.
Society’s expectations coupled with lack of avenues to learn lead us all to playact – all adults are children acting as adults waiting/dreading to be found out. How do we get out of this situation where we have caught a Tiger by the Tail?
Acknowledgement is a good starting point. It forces us to look the situation squarely in the eye. Acknowledgement leads to action – this comes in many forms. Some people discuss and debate topics within the family or with close friends/colleagues, read newspapers and journals, follow and observe what is happening around – all of these are means to enhance learning.
After a point, these ways start feeling inadequate/repetitive –the sameness of the group leads to only one side of a debate getting discussed; sometimes, the inherent power equations/dynamics of the group lead to certain holy cows being left alone.
A Toastmasters Club comes in as a good forum for Adult Learning: The club is a microcosm of society; it is a virtual rainbow – members come from diverse backgrounds;you Learn by Doing. You also have the option to attend meetings in other clubs to encounter/explore different points of view.
The Argumentative Indian loves a good debate. Hence, in India, there is more Talking than Doing. There is a safeguard in Toastmasters against this tendency as well – the club meeting (as well as contests/conferences, etc.) is an event. The smooth flow of the event is a Moment of Truth; it requires a lot of planning & execution. Roles have to be assigned, commitment sought from role players. You have to negotiate with people for the most precious resource they have – time and focus.
If you do this consistently over a period of time, you are learning important lessons of leadership. Magic starts to happen.
Some Six months after joining Toastmasters, you run across an acquaintance that you have not met in a while. He/she says – Ajay, something has happened, you seem more confident, I cannot place my finger on what exactly it is in your manner, but you seem a better person for it. This is when you realize that you have struck gold.
I will turn up this Sunday to pursue my pot of gold, will you?