The most effective teams and the highest performers are fast learners.

It's true, trial and error is one of the best ways to learn. Unfortunately, though, it's also the approach that takes the most time. There are too many lessons in business and in life to learn everything the hard way. 

Growing up, I had a difficult time learning through traditional methods -- textbooks, tests, and memorization. No matter how hard I tried, it was tough for me to understand the practical application of some concepts. So, at a young age, I got into the habit of asking others for advice. 

As I attended football summer camps, shadowed my dad as he fixed things around the house, and listened to my grandparents' stories, I quickly realized something; I could drastically shortcut the learning process if I were willing to hear others out.

Think about it. The last time you asked someone for advice did they quote a textbook? Highly unlikely. (If they did, you probably don't remember because it was a little annoying and boring--explains why I've completely forgotten long-division.) Instead, they dig into their gold mine of life lessons and offer insights gained through real-world experience. 

In the moment, it may be hard to think of your mom's or boss's advice as anything more than an unsolicited rant. However, being open to feedback, and learning from others' perspectives and mistakes can help you avoid making a few of your own.  

Here are four simple questions you can ask to prompt others for actionable advice: 

  1. What was life/work like before your experienced "x"? 
  2. When did you realize that you had made a mistake or needed help? 
  3. What did you change after you learned from the experience?
  4. How have these changes affected your life/business? 

Imagine how much needless frustration we could avoid if we just learned from others' life lessons. It takes a little humility and a lot of patience, but if you can get into the habit of asking others for advice, then you can save yourself time and collateral damage from errors.

It's wise to learn from your mistakes, but it's wiser to learn from the experience of others.