What drives your learning?

What drives people to take up my offer of free Skype coaching? Most testers when asked give on of the following reasons:

1) they want to pass an exam 2) They are having difficulty at work and need to get over some particular obstacle 3) They want to test themselves 4) They want a particular question answered 5) They want to know more about a topic 6) They want to learn how to coach other testers 7) They want to become a better tester - topic irrelevant

Many come to coaching with a mixture of frustration in their work or because they feel disillusioned.

It we seems that for many,  testers need drivers and general discontent to push them into learning something more. Few testers come forward wanting to simply learn.

It's not all that surprising. I myself have just completed a gruelling year of full time work. It's hard to allow yourself time to reflect and pause when you hop from one crisis to another and when you do, its more likely to be related to the challenges your working on at the time.

But I really admire the the testers that come wanting to learn more. Willing to take a punt at contacting someone they've never met and ask them to be coached. I salute you!

What drives these people? Is knowledge some kind of drug to these people? Do they simply want to know more? Do they want to be the best at what they can do?

I think its important to understand this question as people who want to learn for the pure joy of learning have a major advantage over others. They continue to learn and grow despite the daily challenges around them. Its not the challenge or goal that drives them to learn, its the learning that drives them to challenge themselves.

Common external drivers are completing a project, passing an exam, getting a job promotion and getting external approval from others. But what happens when the inevitable happens and the goal is completed or the challenge disappears? What happens to your thirst of learning? Does it die away?

Does that tell you anything?

Removing external oracles (those things you judge yourself by) casts your thirst for knowledge in a very different light, but its not a bad light, its an honest one and it belongs to you.

I believe we have to own our own learning. Drivers to learning can often be short lived. Have a goal to become a test manager, only to discover you've plateaued?  I suspect your learning may be driven by goals.

Imagine a world where you can tap into this love of learning as some testers do. Imagine learning for the pure enjoyment of discovering something new. Feel the satisfaction of overcoming a hurdle you have set yourself.

These testers they have taken responsibility for their learning. They see it as a way to develop and grow themselves. Their oracles to learning are inner satisfaction and self respect. They shine with the confidence of owning their own learning.

So do yourself a favour, spend a little time identifying what's driving your learning and ask yourself "how is that working for me?"

Post Note:

If you want an example of a tester that learns for the love of learning, read Pete Whalen's post on Rising from the Ashes.