The Israeli Air Force discovered one of the best training methodologies I have ever encountered. In this KEY you will learn more about what I discovered during my fighter pilot course: talking out loud can make you more efficient. It can even save your life.
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Lesson from the Israeli Air Force - Start Talking to Yourself
The Israeli Air Force is one of the most effective learning organizations in the world. Developing highly skilled pilots and innovative solutions to impossible problems require a portfolio of best practices and exceptional capabilities.
Even before my first flight as an Air Force pilot trainee, I had discovered the power of learning by talking out loud. Yet there are only three types of places in the world where people regularly talk to themselves out loud: Israeli Air Force training bases, synagogues and psychiatric wards.
What do these three settings have in common? All three are filled with people who are working hard to program themselves, and they are not certain that anyone is actually listening. (Lest you feel offended, this observation is meant as a joke at the synagogues' and my own expense.)
Although the reasons why people in each of these places are intensely busy programming themselves are different, the process mechanics are similar. Talking out loud programs your mind.
How Do You Accelerate Learning?
Early in my pilot training, I was required to learn the entire contents of the airplane book and flight procedures in a very short time. Retentive efficiency and speed of learning became critical. Every moment was dedicated to study. Saturday visits back home also were filled with learning. As I studied the material, I found myself also examining how to study. For me, the optimal learning method consisted of walking out in the open fields, the small book in hand, and reading it out loud.
The two learning accelerators I experienced were the power of:
- talking out loud.
- integrating learning with kinesthetic movement.
Let's focus first on the power of kinesthetic learning. Every actor finds his or her own way to learn the designated lines. Kinetic activity helps: it engages the motor cortex-the part of the brain responsible for movement-in recording the learning. Walking is a repetitive and natural movement that directs and centers motoric energy and impulses. Instead of allowing undirected impulses to distract one's focus, such as we see in the case of young boys sitting in class, walking helps capture the learning in the kinesthetic memory. This fact has implications on how to design the work environment, and on how people may work more productively.
Your Four Memories
My Air Force training helped me discover a simple and powerful fact about learning. By directing and focusing the trillions of brain impulses to achieve the desired level of efficacy, I dramatically accelerated the pace of my learning. I found that engaging and integrating four memories into the process was fun, energizing and effective.
- With my visual/reading memory I formed mental images that enabled me to memorize the pages and the order of the lines.
- My sound/hearing memory recorded the tone, rhythm and content of my speaking voice.
- My motor memory captured the rhythmic cadence and recoded the flight checklist with kinesthetic syncopation.
- My spatial memory portrayed my location and the landscape. Since I walked for hours, the large eucalyptus tree, citrus orchard and plowed field became the scenery and backdrops for learning.
Activating these four types of memories provides a powerful training method. A method that enables you to bring all your energy-what you do + what you see and perceive + what you speak and hear-into a singular point of focus.
The fastest way to build a new habit is to "etch a program" into your system. For example, during my Air Force training I memorized the sequence of actions pilots are required to take in an emergency. By simulating emergencies in the cockpit and speaking aloud the actions I take in "real time," I developed the action memory I needed to keep me safe. It turned out that hearing my own voice describing what I was doing as I was taking the actions "programmed" my system in a very powerful way.
Your Greatest Teacher
The Air Force learning technique reveals that Need is the greatest teacher in the world. The Israeli Air Force found powerful methodologies because it focuses on getting results, solving urgent problems and addressing pressing needs. In a similar way, innovation teams in a variety of fields discover breakthrough methods when they allow the need to guide them.
Necessity is the mother of invention and innovation. Learning in action, at the point of need, is about ten thousand times more effective than the best university course.
Great companies let the need guide and lead their efforts. Need-based discovery and solution-driven innovation become institutionalized and generate organizational folklore. The success stories passed along orally from one generation to the next form an integral part of the socialization and learning processes.
Start Talking Now
Back to the power of talking. You've got to begin to talk out loud. If you need the cover of a device in your ear, that's fine.
Unless you frame a focus and apply yourself to it with intensity, your own voice will be covered with noise. You've got to program yourself deliberately with what is most important to you. Setting goals is great. Journaling is helpful. Managing your time proactively increases productivity. To etch each of these practices powerfully in your memory, talk them through as you do them.
Having coached and worked with some of the most successful executives in the most admired companies in the world, I know that fifty percent of the value of my consulting and executive advisory is validating clients' own voice and teaching them to listen to what they say. This approach enables them to reflect upon, reframe and re-focus on their opportunities and what matters most to them.
The first thing the flight instructor told me was: "I want you to speak all the time. Say out loud what you are doing, where you are looking and what you are seeing." What should you talk about? Everything that is really important. If something is important, it is worth saying aloud. Here are 10 situations in which talking out loud may help:
- During the daily review of your purpose and goals. You can talk in the shower, or while driving to work, exercising or working the garden. Those who see you speaking will assume you are on your phone.
- When you are faced with a personal or professional challenge. Stating the facts will help separate objective data from feelings. Making this distinction will help clear your mind and allow you to focus on the real issue.
- When you are weighing a compound set of options. Saying them out loud allows you to hear how each one sounds, determine what makes sense, and identify what feels right.
- When you need to strengthen your resolve to follow your principles in the face of opposition. To help you resist the pressure of public opinion, instruct yourself out loud. Be your own persuader.
- When you are teaching your teenager to drive. Start speaking out loud the moment you enter the car. Demonstrate what you do and what you look at while driving, announcing each action as you take it. Have your aspiring driver do the same.
- When you are executing a buy or sell trade. Great traders speak out loud their trade. They say what they do so they can hear and critique themselves and correct their action.
- When you are debriefing a project. Speak out so that you can hear your own analysis and identify what you will do differently next time.
- When you exercise. When I was a competitive runner, I used to talk to my body to fortify my legs, my heart and my lungs.
- When you engage in daily activities, talk to your horse, your dog, your garden, your car. Although talking to pets and inanimate objects may not be important, doing so offers good opportunities for practice. You can talk to anything about what you need to talk about.
And of course, talk to your family, your employees, your partner and your coach. Listen closely as you speak. Have you noticed that people tell others what they need to hear themselves? Now it's your turn. Turn the key. Find opportunities to talk. Talk in the shower. Talk when you drive to work. Talk in the outdoors. Overcome the inhibition about speaking aloud in public. People will listen to you intently after you have practiced listening to yourself.
© Aviv Shahar