How to Actively Create Rather than Passively Consume

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In this post, we’ll cover:

  • Why learning in public is so important
  • How to turn your learning process into a creation process
  • How to write blog posts, create videos, write social media threads, or build projects around what you’re learning
  • A step-by-step guide to getting started with each kind of active creation

When you’re learning, it’s easy to just consume content and feel like you’ve checked the box. “I learned something today! Great, what’s next?”

But learning isn’t just about consuming. In order to integrate and retain information, you want to actively learn, and even more importantly, actively create.

Creation is important for three reasons when you learn something new:

  1. It helps you retain information
  2. It helps you build a reputation around the things you’re learning
  3. It helps you attract a community of people interested in a similar topic

When you talk about what you’re learning — whether through writing, video, or some other format — you remember it better. Forcing yourself to re-articulate ideas in your own words helps integrate your thinking.

More importantly, when you’re talking about the things you’re learning, your network sees it, and it becomes a part of your reputation.

Proof of learning is really important. When the world around you knows what you’re learning, you get credit for it in the way the world measures you. When people know you’ve learned about certain topics, they’re going to measure you based on your knowledge of those topics.

TK Coleman calls this practice “learning out loud” — the art of sharing what you’re learning, as you’re learning, and then creating around that acquired knowledge. You don’t need expertise to be “qualified” to talk about a topic — as soon as you’ve learned something, you’re qualified to pass it forward by sharing it with the rest of the world (and more importantly, your own network).

The best way to learn is to learn actively, share the things you’re learning, and document your process of knowledge acquisition, one step at a time.

There are a few different ways you can integrate active creation into your learning process. In this blog post, we’ll walk you through how to get started with each one!

First, let’s discuss mindset

Proof of learning is really important. When you’re learning something new, your ability to think, create, and work improves with the new knowledge you’ve gained. However, that doesn’t mean the world around you can see it yet! Creating proof of learning  whether blog posts, videos, social media threads, or podcasts  enables you to communicate your interests, your knowledge, and how you might want to create value for other people.

When you’re learning in public, you’re able to both learn and create at the same time. Publicly sharing what you’re learning holds you accountable for actively engaging with information, and for following through with your study. At the same time, talking about what you’re doing helps you stay aware of your growing knowledge, instead of passively consuming and forgetting.

And when the world knows about what you’re learning, people will take notice of the interests you have and the skills you build. You’ll be able to make network connections around your areas of interest, and perhaps even land opportunities in your field of choice. Learning in private expands your mind; learning in public expands not only your mind, but your field of opportunity.

Now that we have that out of the way, here are our top 4 favorite ways to actively create and learn in public!

Learning in private expands your mind; learning in public expands not only your mind, but your field of opportunity.

Write a blog post

Blogging is one of the best ways to document what you’re learning, and translate your consumption into creation. It’s also one of the best ways to retain information.

When you sit down to write about something, you’re forced to organize your thoughts in a clear and concise way. As the adage goes, clear writing means clear thinking. Written thoughts are the most organized and the most articulate — and because you’ve taken the time to sit down and write about the topic, and think about it deeply, you’re much more likely to remember it.

Blogging is also an easy way to build a portfolio around your learning. Think of each blog post you write as a portfolio piece, and your blog page as your portfolio showcase. If someone goes to your blog, they’ll see everything you’ve learned about and documented — and you can send people links to blog posts as proof of your knowledge on a topic.

If you can get your work published on a third party-site (especially a publication on the topic you’re learning about), you can build an even stronger reputation.

Each time you learn something new, you can write another post and add it to your portfolio — and build credibility in a variety of topics over time.

Here's how to get started

  1. To start a blog, you can create an account on a platform like Medium or Substack, or you can start a blog page on a platform like Wordpress. (Not sure which one to use? Join our learning community to ask for advice!)
  2. Choose a topic you’ve learned a bit about (I’d recommend having read at least 3 articles on the subject).
  3. Flesh out your notes, then organize them. Set them up in a logical order, and create a quick bullet-point outline of the article you want to write.
  4. Write a first draft of your blog post. Length doesn’t matter (unless you’re submitting your finished piece to a publication, in which case you want to conform to their length standards). You want to choose a length based on: a) the amount of space required to explain your thoughts clearly but concisely, and b) the length you think your audience is most likely to read.
  5. Edit your post. If it’s helpful, set up time blocks to focus (using something like the pomodoro method), to help keep your eyes sharp.
  6. Publish the piece you’ve written. Once it’s live, share links across your social media accounts (because you want to make sure people actually see the portfolio piece you’ve created)! Here’s an example of how to do that.

Create a Video

In the same spirit as a blog post, a video allows you to build a portfolio piece around a specific topic. In a video, like a blog post, you can outline and document everything you’ve learned on a specific subject.

There are a few key differences between a blog post and a video:

  1. The constraints of the format. Sometimes, complex ideas come across more clearly in written form (depending on topic, of course) — and sometimes having more visuals and diagrams in video format can be helpful.
  2. Your personal presentation preferences. Some people prefer speaking over writing; others prefer the editing process of a blog post over the editing process for video. I always recommend choosing the documentation format that feels most natural to you. The most important thing is documenting consistently every time you learn something new, so you want to choose the format that’s easiest for you!
  3. The preferences of your audience. If your target audience uses YouTube regularly, that’s the best place to publish. Maybe they’re on LinkedIn instead, or TikTok. But if your network connections seem to rarely click on video links, a blog post might be a more valuable portfolio piece for you. 

There are a number of great examples of people creating vlog channels that serve as portfolios. This one, Joseph Rodrigues’ channel, is a great example of using videos to summarize what you’re learning as you read.

Here's how to get started

  1. Set up an account on your video publishing platform of choice, like YouTube, if you haven’t already.
  2. Download a free video editing tool, if you don’t already have one on your computer. Depending on the format of your video, it may not require much editing, but at the very least you’ll want to be able to trim your recordings.
  3. Create an outline of what you want to cover, and how you want your video to be formatted. It may be helpful to look at some inspiration videos you’ll be modeling your content off of, to help spark ideas for structure. Because video is such a customizable format, there’s lots of room to get creative.
  4. Settle on an editing style, and make sure you have clear bullet points of what you intend to cover (the clearer your presentation, the better. Focus = good, rambling = bad).
  5. Record! You can use the webcam on your computer, the camera on your phone -- whatever works best for you.
  6. Edit your recorded footage, and add any extra footage, visuals, special effects, music, etc. you’d like to include.
  7. Publish your video! Once it’s up, make sure to share links across your social media accounts to get views on your finished work.

Write a Twitter Thread

Twitter can be one of the fastest ways of documenting what you’re learning. Because it’s a platform designed to capture people’s thinking in real time, it’s very conducive to sharing your initial insights after reading content on a topic.

There are two ways you can use Twitter:

  1. You can share quick insights + a link when you learn something new
  2. You can share a longer-form breakdown and analysis of what you’ve learned

Here’s an example of a quick insight + link:

And here’s an example of a longer-form breakdown:

Twitter is also great for networking purposes. Because it’s social media, it’s intended to facilitate connections — and some fields and industries (e.g. tech, crypto, education, startups) have strong communities on the platform. Sharing your learning on the platform — and engaging in conversations already happening in existing threads — is a great way to not only share your learning but also build network connections.

There are a number of accounts on the platform that are great examples of this, including David Perell and Alex and Books.

However, all these same principles also apply to other social media platforms. You can use the same steps on LinkedIn, Facebook, or any other platform that feels relevant.

Build a Project

One of the best ways to demonstrate your knowledge on a topic is to put it into practice — not just by talking about it, but by showing how your knowledge can be put to use in the real world.

Projects work best as portfolio pieces for harder skills and more tangible knowledge — things like technical tools and knowledge of systems.

For example: if you were learning about cryptocurrency, a great way to document your learning would most likely be a blog post or a Twitter thread — but if you were learning about programming, a great way to demonstrate your knowledge would be by building something.

Alternatively, if you’re learning about design, you might write a blog post about some new design principles you learned — or you might put the principles you learned into practice and create a set of designs. Even better, you could design a line of tshirts, set them up on a platform like Zazzle, and create an e-commerce store.

Here’s the thing about projects: demonstrating theory (your knowledge on a topic) is useful, but demonstrating tangible and measurable accomplishments (things you’ve built and results you’ve driven) is always more valuable. Somebody who’s running an awesome t-shirt store signals stronger skills than somebody who’s just written blog posts about design.

Whenever possible, take opportunities to put your learning into practice.

There are many different types of projects you can build: websites, e-commerce stores, tech tool integrations, apps, courses, e-books, etc.

Putting all this in practice

Next time you consume content — a stand-alone article or podcast, or a deep dive into a topic — create a piece of content (or a project!) around what you’ve learned.

Document the new knowledge you’ve acquired, publish your finished overview, and share a link to the finished product on social media.

If you’d like us to see (because we’d definitely like to see!), tag us in your post at @EdvoOfficial.

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