About a month ago I connected with a gent on both LinkedIn and Facebook. Last week, I happened to catch a post he made on FB. He was attending a conference where his wife was speaking, and he captured a direct quote she made during the presentation,

“A transfer of information is not the same as transformation.”


Let that nugget sink in for a moment.

It was nothing short of profound to me.

That same day, I then read a post made by a fellow coach who also publishes a thriving podcast where he interviews a guest every week. His target audience is other coaches. He coaches other coaches on how to build their business and be a better coach. In his post that day, he shared how one of his podcast guests said he listens to audiobooks at 3x the regular speed.

Apparently, this is akin to speed reading, and the guest’s comment was that the brain adjusts to the speed. So the coach posed a question to his FB followers: do you speed listen, and at what speed?

Many of the people who answered the question just posted their speeds, ranging from 1.25 to 2x. Some even went on to qualify their response, saying they were working up to 2x or 3x. [If you’re not an Audible listener, you can adjust the speed of the playback to be slower or faster than the original speed of the narrator, from .5x to 3x.] It was almost like a competition to see who among the coach’s followers were as good as the podcast guest.

There was one guy who had a sense of humor, and posted this response, which I totally appreciated:

“I listen at 5x because I don’t actually listen.”

I responded it was the most honest answer so far!

It was after his levity-inducing post that I decided to flip the conversation around with the wisdom I had acquired from the earlier post I read by my new connection. Here was my response:

“Hmmm, perhaps getting more information isn’t really transformation. It’s just more information. It’s what you do with it/how you apply that is transformational.”

The podcasting coach in this story targets other coaches – they are his clients. His guest came on the podcast, challenging him and his listeners to bump up their listening, but for what purpose? To consume more content?

There is no shortage of content available. We’re in a knowledge economy right now. That means every business with an online presence is now in the business of creating content. So that must mean we as consumers have to ingest as much content as possible to remain relevant, right?

Or have some of us lost our damn minds and fallen victim to the Fear of Missing Out syndrome? One of my clients, who I’ve written about before, Hank, has the Fear of Missing Out. He tells me some nights he gets sucked into Reddit or some other social platform because, well, there are cat videos that SOMEONE needs to watch, and he’s the man for the job.

As a result of buying into the insanity and consuming mountains of content, are you actually smarter or better equipped to do your job? Are you more informed and able to apply the concepts you’ve learned? Or are you just overwhelmed with more information?

What’s the purpose of reading, anyway? If it’s for enjoyment, why would someone want to speed read or speed listen and get through it as fast as possible?

If the purpose of reading is to acquire more knowledge, how does speed reading or speed listening make one smarter? Most concepts can’t be integrated, understood, and mastered merely with one viewing or listening.

Going back to the original quote that brought about this line of thinking, a transfer of information is not the same as transformation. Transformation does NOT occur by amassing kilobytes or megabytes of data.

In the context of this scenario, one might think the coach who posed the question to his tribe is into helping other coaches transform their businesses, their lives, and the lives and/or businesses of their clients. Upon quick scan of his website, I found this to be the case. The language used on his website hints at transformation; more profit, more ideal clients, less guesswork and wasted time on stuff that doesn’t work. All good stuff; certainly what new coaches need in order to build a thriving practice.

But to me it comes across formulaic, even predictable and doesn’t address the underlying issue. It’s a lot like treating the symptom and not uncovering the root cause.

In 2006, four co-authors [Tsao, Takahashi, Olusesu and Jain] at The University of Georgia’s Department of Educational Psychology and Instructional Technology contributed a chapter on transformative learning in the book, Emerging Perspectives on Learning, Teaching, and Technologyedited by Michael Orey. Transformative learning is defined as “learning to purposively question one’s own assumptions, beliefs, feelings, and perspectives in order to grow or mature personally and intellectually.” In their chapter, they also share an important distinction: the process of transformation occurs in 10 phases.

That’s right.

Transformative learning happens not in one speed read or speed listen, but when one has undergone a developmental process that takes 10 entire phases. For your own edification, here are the 10 phases you will need to experience in order to say you have truly transformed:

  1. a disorienting dilemma;
  2. self-examination with feelings of guilt or shame;
  3. a critical assessment of assumption;
  4. recognition that one’s discontent and process of transformation are shared and that others have negotiated a similar change;
  5. exploration of options for new roles, relationships, and actions;
  6. planning of a course of action;
  7. acquisition of knowledge and skills for implementing one’s plans;
  8. provisionally trying out new roles;
  9. building of competence and self-confidence in new roles and relationships; and
  10. a reintegration of new assumption into one’s life on the basis of conditions dictated by one’s new perspective.

Note #7 is the acquisition of knowledge and skills, followed up by trying out new roles, and building competence and confidence. You can’t go from acquiring the knowledge from a book to being competent with the skills learned just by listening faster.

The Dreyfus Method of skill acquisition outlines a competency model as containing 5 levels: novice, competence, proficiency, expertise, and mastery.

“Competence develops when the individual develops organizing principles to quickly access the particular rules that are relevant to the specific task at hand; hence, competence is characterized by active decision making in choosing a course of action.”

Translation: you can’t be competent with the new knowledge you acquired from a book [or any resource, for that matter] until you’ve taken action, tried out the new knowledge, and made new decisions as a result of that knowledge.

I suppose that’s why on the home page of my website I state, “Change your thinking… accelerate your business.” Because I believe you must undergo change; true transformation of your thinking in order to accelerate your business results. My approach is to address the root cause of your professional challenges, not just to treat the symptoms. Fast is slow, and slow is fast.

So…. at what speed do you listen to or read books? ;o)

Sometimes the hare, sometimes the tortoise, always your strategic thinking partner!

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