Phillip Smith

Living on the "learning edge"

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the last fifteen years, it’s to live on my “learning edge.”

The first time I heard that phrase was in 2002. I was on a remote island just off the coast of British Columbia attending an intimate gathering of progressive techies. That gathering would ultimately result in my departure from the Web development company that I started with my best friend (sadly, also jettisoning my best friend in the process).

But the reason I left was to pursue this idea of living on my learning edge.

The learning edge can be a scary place. It can be uncomfortable. But it’s also exhilarating, intoxicating, and – ultimately – deeply rewarding.

When I left that start-up Web company to embark out on my own, I didn’t have a clue about how to be a flawless consultant. Eight years later, I realize that the idea of taking a “job”-job has become more frightening to me that being independently employed. It hit me the other day, as I was relating a story to a friend, that I was describing a salaried position as more risky than the path I’m on. Context really is everything.

The learning edge, however, applies to more than my work life. Thanks to good friends, I’ve managed to re-engage it in my physical life too. In just two years, I’ve gone from feeling like keyboard jockey to feeling like I’m in the best shape of my life. I’ve never enjoyed exercise, but I’ve learned how to love it.

I’ve seen this transformation in just about every area of my life that I put attention on: just acknowledging that I have something to learn – to practice – starts the transformation almost immediately.

This past weekend, after more than fifteen years, I strapped a board to my feet and threw myself down a mountain covered with snow. The day after, I just kept telling my body “the soreness you’re feeling today is just the process of experience transforming from lived to learned.” It may not be physiologically accurate, but it’s what I believe.

Learning can be exhausting work, but it makes me feel alive.

So, as a belated ‘thanks’ for US Thanksgiving (celebrated by many good friends in my life), I just want to say: Thanks to those of you who taught me to live on my learning edge, and to those that have kept me on it ever since.


Hi, I'm Phillip Smith, a veteran digital publishing consultant, online advocacy specialist, and strategic convener. If you enjoyed reading this, find me on Twitter and I'll keep you updated.


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