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Active Learning

Can you imagine a school with a curriculum so powerful that it could teach you to overcome any crisis, face any challenge, solve any problem? Such a school exists, and it’s right inside your head. If you haven’t mastered its guidance, it’s because you haven’t yet learned…how to learn through the process of active learning. Active learning does not mean memorizing facts, as you may have done in high school or grade school. Active learning is absorbing new information, then drawing new connections, and gaining the understanding that leads to wisdom and creativity, not merely knowledge.

In the martial arts, we have an important concept: the usefulness of the cup is in its emptiness. If I want to drink a glass of tea from a cup that has already been filled with sand, that cup is totally useless to me. The only way to use the cup is to empty it first, so there is room for something more.

To empty your cup means to learn without preconceptions, without assuming you already know it all. Oh, I’ve been there before. Been there, done that. That’s the trendy saying.

I’ve seen the results of keeping a “full cup” many times. Teachers and coaches see it when they need to teach the same people the same principles over a long period.

Tony LaRussa would face the exact same team every season and have to get them ready to perform again at a high level. He had to say the same things to them. Some players said “I’ve already heard this,” turned off and missed the point. In my classes, there are students who have been with me for four or five years and have heard the principles in my talks many times, yet they can still get new information if they don’t approach it with the attitude of “I know that already.” Have you ever wondered why a young child will want to listen to the same story over and over? Their minds have not yet been corrupted by a school’s demand to memorize facts. They are actively learning by emptying their cup to hear new meanings, new mythology, new symbolism every time they hear the story.

Emptying your cup in order to learn does not decrease your confidence in what you have already learned or experienced. It simply makes room for something new to enter. The business writer Dale Dauten says the “Confidence is when you have something to teach; arrogance is the belief you have nothing to learn.” The arrogance of a full cup will keep you from expanding and growing in your inner power. If you are still alive, you still have something to learn.

No story is the same to us after a lapse of time; or rather, we who read it are no longer the same interpreters. –George Eliot

Mack Newton

Copyright Mack Newton. All rights reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced in any form without the expressed written consent of the author.