I fell into speechwriting like most people fall into speechwriting – by accident. In the mid-1970s, I was working on a big issue project for my company, an executive needed a speech on the topic, and so I wrote one. I’d written speeches for myself before, but not for someone else. But it seemed to go OK, the executive liked it, and soon I was writing more speeches.
It was a learn-by-doing effort. And one of the things I did was to read speeches – famous speeches, business speeches, political speeches, not-so-famous speeches. A good friend suggested I start reading poetry on a regular basis, because it would help in speechwriting. He was right. I started with T.S. Eliot, Wallace Stevens, and Dylan Thomas, and went from there.
Almost 20 years later, something very similar happened with electronic communication. In the early and mid-1990s, it was beginning to explode in public consciousness. I started my team on an email newsletter. Then producing a CD-ROM. And then the company’s first web site. And all through this process I was reading everything I could get my hands on (which wasn’t much) – I was trying to understand why this form of communication was so appealing to me.
I was learning to learn. I did it frontwards, backwards, and sideways. But there is a better way, and writer Zak Schmoll describes it in Learn to Learn: 8 Steps to Developing New Skills Efficiently and Effectively.
In this compact book, Schmoll describes the learning process in eight steps, starting with what is probably the least obvious – assume that you don’t know everything. It sounds obvious, but I worked for corporations for 40 years where it could be a career disaster to admit you didn’t know everything. For effective learning, though, beginning with a good dose of humility is vital.
From there, you become familiar with the new material you want to study. You fill in the details. You identify problem areas and bolster them. You test and quiz yourself. You identify gaps and work to fill those. You then practice by explaining the new information to someone else and let them ask questions. And then you look for and move into associated fields.
Schmoll is very methodical in his approach. I did variations of all of these, but not necessarily in order. I might have learned better if I had followed an orderly process.
Schmoll received a degree in Business Administration from the University of Vermont in 2013, and he’s working in Ph.D. in Humanities degree at Faulkner University. He’s a member of the Vermont Chargers Power Soccer Club for power wheelchair users. He blogs at Entering the Public Square. He is also the author of Contending for the Christian World View: 30 Days of Reflections on Faith, Culture, and Apologetics (2016).
I wish I’d had Learn to Learn available a few decades ago.
Top photograph by Aaron Burden via Unsplash. Used with permission.