Being calm, non-reactive, self-aware, and reflective enough to take conscious control over your life isn't a requirement to have philosophical discussions and learn some things. But it is needed to best apply what you learn. Without a good degree of control over your actions, you can't choose to try out new behaviors or lifestyles. And if you can't try out your ideas and see how they work, you won't be able to learn much from them and improve yourself.
Being calm does not mean being unemotional. The important thing is not to be instantly emotional. Just delay it a little bit so you can use some judgment and thought. Then if you don't see any problem, let the emotions come. The point here is to have the opportunity to consider your reactions, so that if you have some reactions you aren't happy with you'll be in a position to do something about them.
If you have an idea for how to handle a situation better, you'll need to be self-aware to know when the situation has come up, and to notice if you're doing your new idea or not. If you don't pay a lot of attention to yourself, then you'll just go through life by habit, intuition and emotion and miss out on a lot of opportunities. To be self aware, it's helpful to be calm and keep situations in perspective.
The best way to improve in these areas is through reflection. After you're out and about and do stuff, then later that day take some time to go over the events in your mind. Look for any problems that came up, or things you'd like to do differently, and then imagine handling them the way you want to. In this way, you'll get more comfortable with your new ideas and they'll be more natural to do in the heat of the moment. And by mentally reviewing your day, you'll get better at being aware of how you handle things.
Suppose you can be calm for, say, ten seconds. And suppose you're familiar enough with a new idea to think of how to do it in the current situation in less than ten seconds. Then you'll get the chance to try your new behavior! That's when philosophy really starts paying off: when you can implement ideas in your life. Once you get that far, it's really practical.