An Independent Learner Finds Accountability and Support in Circles
By Emma Castleberry
Peter Meyers is a self-described “independent learner.” With a background in journalism and technology, Meyers has always loved learning about new things. He simply prefers the unfettered nature of self-teaching to classrooms and group learning.
An independent content strategist based in NYC, Meyers not only learns alone, he generally works alone, too. Independence is a lifestyle for Meyers.
Which is why it might surprise you to learn that he has been a passionate, involved member of a circle since last year. An old school friend of Circles founder Dan Hoffman, Meyers joined a pilot program in the early days of the program and even helped produce some of the early materials for Circles.
But, even if he wasn’t friends with the founder, Meyers says he would have sought out Circles.
“I was looking for some kind of structured tool to help me tackle topics of high interest for me,” he says. “I’ve always been one of these life long learners, but I was doing it all by myself. Circles came along and gave me that tool to do that exploration with other people.”
While many circles have a theme — from business management to mindfulness—Peter says his Circles group has intentionally avoided narrowing their focus.
“We have purposefully been topic agnostic,” he says. “We’ve gone all over the place. If I had to identify a theme, it would be that we are a group of people who complement each other in different ways. We’re not alike by any stretch. We’ve grown to like and enjoy each other and we have a similar interest, as a group, in things we want to learn about.”
Every other week, the circle meets to discuss their learning and choose a new topic. Peter says members toss out ideas and they reach a “consensus through brainstorming.”
Peter’s circle tackles subjects from the lighthearted—cooking, raising money for charity, an interesting book—to the deeply personal—behavior, habits, and family life. Peter recalls an early circle where one of the members, essentially a stranger at the time, shared an intimate struggle.
“This woman I didn’t really know, she talked about dealing with her father’s mental and physical decline in pretty descriptive and graphic terms,” Peter remembers. “I found it incredibly moving. It became the seed that grew into what I would now call our relationship.”
Peter says the perks of circle learning aren’t just practical, in the sense that you can bounce questions off of other people as you process an idea, and have members hold you accountable for your own progress. There are also emotional benefits, in the sense that the circle provides support during struggle.
“We’ve tackled some fairly heavy, emotional topics,” he says. “Having support from a group of people who aren’t my wife and friends has been very valuable.”
While heavier topics can make for very fruitful experiences, Meyers notes that his circle learned some important things about topic selection.
“We discovered a pacing,” he says. “You can’t do heavy stuff over and over again. You have to mix it up.”
Lighthearted or heavy, Meyers’ circle has been an invaluable resource for this lifelong independent learner.
“It has confirmed for me the value of learning with other people,” he says. “It doesn’t preclude me from continuing to do stuff on my own, but it makes me hungry to always have some social learning in my life. It has reminded me how important it is to tackle these kinds of problems with other people.”
Published to Circl.es on January 23, 2018.