Jim Rudden is the chief marketing officer at Spredfast, the Austin-based social media marketing agency that works with big brands including Whole Foods and Warner Brothers, and which just merged with social media visualization leader Mass Relevance. As one of the firm’s creative leaders, he’s found that one of the best ways to train his brain to give direction is to find time to submit fully to taking it.
Rudden advises to find something that you want to learn how to do–preferably not work related–and hire (or convince) someone to teach you. “I’m taking time to learn new things from scratch–but be taught,” he says. “So for example I’m learning guitar right now. There’s two reasons I’m doing it: one is that I’ve always wanted to do it, two is that I think the older you get, you forget how hard it is to learn new things. When you have kids or you work with kids, it’s really easy to say, ‘I don’t know why you don’t get this,’ because you don’t remember what it’s like to be at ground zero and have to produce and do something.”
In addition to guitar, Rudden also approached fitness as a total newbie, using trainers and other pros to guide him. “My only rule for myself is that I’m going to hire a teacher to teach me. Because in my professional life, I need to structure things for other people. So sometimes I want to just show up some place and go, ‘What’s next?'”
Individual learning style, of course, is a factor. People who learn more effectively by self-teaching may not get the same benefits–although forcing yourself to sit back and take something in is probably still valuable. “It gives you a break from having to be ‘on,’ it allows you to just be part of something,” says Rudden. “But at the same time, you’re building and doing. You get to be in the position of the people who are waiting for your instruction.” And then of course, you have to deliver on what you’ve learned from a vulnerable position. “There’s nothing like having to perform. It will take you back to junior high school music classes. I’m working on a band right now–which is such a cliché in Austin.”