Where the heck have you been? I mean, it’s been like, what, six months since I saw you!

I’ve heard this a bit lately, but somehow I’ve managed to not seriously reflect on the importance of these statements. Like many of you, fellow learning lieutenants, I’ve been shepherding several sizable projects — rewriting policy, developing new guidelines, implementing programs, teaching new technologies. As Billy Pilgrim would say, so it goes.

A reality that I now recognize is that as learning professionals our work is highly visible, but we, as individuals, often work in solitude. Trainers in libraries, or whatever we are called that week, are sometimes departments of one. Sometimes we are departments of nothing. Sometimes we work in offices completely removed from people. Sometimes we work out of the back of computer labs with no windows. I am puzzled by these arrangements considering that most of us in the land of learning are gregarious people with a touch (and need) to interact with others.

The dearth of stimulation atrophies the mind and siphons the soul. Idle in these doldrums for, say, six months and your creativity and drive are running on empty. We all occasionally suffer through these professional maladies. Consider shaking up routine by driving to work a different way each day. You’d be surprised, I might add, the number of route permutations you can construct for an eight-mile drive.

Also consider adding a midday lion hunt into your routine. A lion hunt is simply taking five or ten minutes each day to speak with a few persons with whom you normally do not interact. It can be as simple as asking, “What are you working on?” or “What do you think about…?” You will learn things about people that you ordinarily wouldn’t know. You might even learn something about yourself.

But even taking new routes to the same destination, or talking new topics with the same people might not remedy all your challenges. The key is expanding the lion hunt, so that you are getting intellectual and social stimulation from others like you – lifelong learners. Be sure to lion hunt in your professional jungle. Talk to other learning professionals to see what projects they are working on or what they think about x. Five to ten minutes with fellow professionals might help you see the forest instead of the trees.

So I challenge each of you to expand your lion hunt, and as Pat Wagoner suggests, allow yourself to be useful to others.