So Much to Learn

I have been fortunate over the years to work along side some smart people. Some of them were so smart that they even knew they had a lot to learn. Unfortunately, while some of them were smart they weren’t exactly smart enough to know that they didn’t actually know it all.

I’ve learned a lot over the years myself, including this little nugget of truth…the day I’ve learned all I need to know will be my final day on earth. I have so much more to learn that I may live forever!

Several years ago I was on the interview team for an open marketing position. One candidate in particular seemed very qualified. He had great experience and at first it seemed like he would fit the culture well. The interview was pretty much done and we were just kinda talking and I mentioned I was in the process of earning a Marketing Executive Certification. We talked about all the classes involved and he stated that he would never do something like that.

When I asked him why he said, “I’ve learned all I need to know about marketing.” “There isn’t anything else left to learn.” I had worked with people who seemed to think they knew it all before but I had never before heard anyone actually say it out loud.

Now the interview was really done and so was this guy’s chances of joining our team. He was maybe in his early forties and he was convinced he knew it all. Not only knew it all, he knew all that would ever be known about marketing.

It was obvious he wouldn’t be a good fit for a company with learning in it’s DNA. I actually felt kind of bad for the guy because I knew his future was going to be full of missed opportunities and limited success.

The amount of learning a person does seems to be directly linked to the amount of success they have. Let that sink in a bit…do you understand what that actually means? It’s fantastic!

It means that since a person’s ability to learn is limitless so is their level of success. It means that so long as we keep learning our opportunities for success keep multiplying. It means that your potential success is completely within your control and totally unlimited.

That is incredible.

If you’re looking for success you now know exactly where you’ll find it. You will find it in a mentor. You will find it in a book or a classroom. You may find it in a TED talk or a blog. If you’re really committed to succeeding you will find it everywhere you look.

Keep in mind that the goal of learning isn’t packing more information into your head, it’s taking action based on that information packed into your head. Successful people never stop learning. They also never stop adapting based on what they have learned.

So…what do you have to learn today?

Learning from Mistakes

Mistakes happen. They are a part of life. With any luck they are also part of learning. Actually luck has nothing to do with it. Humility does. Honesty does. A desire to grow does. Authenticity does.

You will never learn from a mistake you will not admit. You will never learn from one of your mistakes that you attempt to blame on someone else.

People who will not admit a mistake are not much better off than the people who won’t try anything outside of their comfort zone because they are afraid of making one.

Mistakes you don’t admit you make again and again. Mistakes you blame on other people you make over and over. There is however a school of thought that says after you make the same mistake 3 or 4 times it’s not a mistake anymore, it’s a decision. I am firmly enrolled in that school.

Successful people are not afraid to admit their mistakes. They accept responsibility for them, learn from them, use what they can to grow and then they move forward towards greater success.

But even better than learning from your mistakes is learning from the mistakes of others. This is most commonly accomplished by paying attention, having a mentor and asking the right people for advice. Notice that I didn’t say asking for advice, I said asking the right people for advice.

It is my belief that the right people are those who have already accomplished something that I’m hoping to accomplish myself. The right people won’t only tell you how to do something, it’s likely they will show you. They can also provide you insights on how not to do something and that’s the advice that can help us learn from their mistakes.

I say “can help” because in order to learn from the advice of others you must be willing to both listen to the advice and do something differently than you otherwise would have because of it.

So let me offer you this advice: Make a mistake! In fact, make lots of them. A good portion of your success will be determined how fast you can make your mistakes. The rest of your success will be determined by how fast you can learn from those mistakes so you don’t repeat them. Extraordinary success will find you if you’re able to learn from the mistakes of others rather than making them yourself.

Everybody makes mistakes. Not everybody can learn from them. Which everybody are you?

Are you Determined to Learn?

If you’re not willing to learn then no one can help you. If however you are determined to learn then no one can stop you. Learning is a choice. The decision to improve your lot in life through education is one of the best decisions you’ll ever make. I have never met a very successful person who hasn’t at some point in their life made the decision to learn.

Learning doesn’t stop at the end of the school year and it shouldn’t stop when you’re handed a degree. It’s never been easier to learn. If you’re a bit careful where you look there is a wealth of great learning opportunities to be found on the internet.

There isn’t anyone alive you can’t learn from. Heck, thanks to that same internet you can even learn from dead people. Everyone you meet can teach you something.

People who you wouldn’t normally hang out with can teach you something. People who look and sound different than you also know things that you don’t. If you’re willing to push the limits of your comfort zone a bit and take a chance you can learn from them too.

Think for a moment about your typical conversations with people. Are you doing most of the talking? Are you talking mostly about yourself? Are you asking questions about the other person and what’s new with them?

Most people don’t ask enough questions. I suppose that’s because they don’t want to look or sound dumb. Successful people know that a person who asks what may seem to be an ill informed question might sound dumb for a moment. But the person who is too embarrassed to even ask remains ill informed for a long long time.

You’ll never learn a thing by talking to someone. What you can learn from them is limitless if only you’ll listen to them. So ask three people who know you well what you can do to be a better listener. Then DO what they tell you. You don’t have to agree with them, you do however have to follow their advice. At least if you want to be a better listener.

When a person decides that they will never stop learning their potential grows right along with their knowledge bank. But learning begins with the decision to try. If you think you already know enough then you’re really no better off than the person who thinks they know it all.

And this much we all know….no one likes a know it all.

The Best School in the World

Almost every successful person in the world attended this school. I should probably remove that “almost” qualifier and say every successful person. It is a tough school with lessons so difficult they often seem insurmountable. Some people, the less successful types, don’t even have the courage to walk through the virtual doors of this school. 

 

It’s the school known as “The School of Hard Knocks.” Some people call it the school of life.

 

For those of you unfamiliar with this school it isn’t found in a building. It’s not located in any particular place. The school never closes, not even when you want it to. When you’re trying something new or working your butt off to succeed you can find yourself in this “school” with no notice. All of the sudden it just happens!

 

The “classes” taught there can be very challenging but once learned they tend to stay with you forever. They are frequently life changing. They are most often self-taught. The “tests” associated with these classes can leave scars that last a long time. Some of the scars can be seen but many of them are only felt. But the feeling can be incredibly painful. 

 

These lessons cannot be bought, they must be earned. As difficult as they can be I’d encourage anyone to attend “The School of Hard Knocks” because some of life’s best lessons are taught there. It seems as if that Hard Knocks place is the one that shows you how to use all those fancy degrees and formal education you received from the other schools.


Don’t shy away from life’s tough lessons. The stuff you learn in a school with four walls can help you make a living but the stuff you learn outside those walls can help you make a life.


The Smartest Person in the Room

If you’re the smartest person in the room you’re likely in the wrong room. If you’re always the smartest person in the room you’ve got a big problem. 

 

Smart people work hard to make certain they invest their time with people smarter than they are. They also know that there are a whole lot of people smarter than they are. 

 

You may be the smartest person in a particular topic but that doesn’t mean you can’t still learn from other people. 

 

If you ever actually are the smartest person in the room then you had better find a different room or fill the room you have with smarter people. But it’s highly unlikely you’re really the smartest person in the room. Believing you are is a problem, it’s a problem because more than anything else that arrogance is an attitude issue. 

 

Believing you’re always the smartest person in the room is reflected in how you speak with, or more likely speak, at people. What you say will often come out with a level of snark that everyone notices … well, everyone except you. 

 

Believing you’re the smartest person in the room also affects how effectively you listen. Actually, it completely prevents you from doing anything that remotely resembles active listening. You may think you’re fooling people into thinking you’re listening but you are not.

 

If you’re a leader with the smartest person attitude you have an even bigger problem. The most effective leaders interact with their people in a way that makes their people feel as if they are the smartest people in the room. The least effective leaders interact in a way that leaves no doubt they believe their people are less intelligent than they are. That’s no way to help people grow. 

 

You can’t grow, professionally or personally, without people in your life who are smarter than you at times. Once you find those people listen to them, watch them and always be open minded about what they say and do. 


It may not make you the smartest person in the room but I’ll guarantee it will make you smarter. 

Back to School

It is that time of year again when the youngsters head back to school for another season of learning. There are advertisements  everywhere touting “back to school” specials on everything from clothing to pencils. I’m surprised by how much stuff kids need to go to school these days, it’s an incredibly expensive investment for parents. 

 

Sadly I hear it’s a very expensive investment for teachers as well because too many of them need to supplement school budgets with their own dollars. That’s terrible but that’s also not the focus of this post.

 

The focus of this post is on the learning that takes place as a result of “being in school.” School is after all the place where kids and young adults go to learn. Whether it’s kindergarten or a graduate school program as long as someone is in school the teaching, and hopefully the learning, never stops. 

 

But what about when you’re done with school? What happens when you’ve graduated and moved on? What happens when there are no more “school years” and you have years that are a full 12 months? Year after year.

 

Well, for many people the learning stops when school stops. The most successful people however know that learning must never stop. They understand that failing to continuously learn most often leads to continual failure. I’d actually say that failing to learn is the leading cause of personal failure. 

 

Years ago when I was selling Dale Carnegie Training I would see people on an almost daily basis who were unwilling to pay to take a course. They wanted to take it but would only attend if their employer would foot the bill. 

 

They were unwilling to invest in their own future but they had no problem expecting someone else to invest for them. 

 

What about you? Are you willing to invest in yourself? Willing enough to go “back to school” regardless of your age, stature in your organization or your past success? 

 

I know this next statement sounds a bit like a cliche but it is 100% true…the most successful people, in any walk of life, never stop learning. Never!

 

Those most successful people know that “school” isn’t a place, it is a mindset. They find learning experiences everywhere and from everyone. They also set aside time for more formal learning experiences. They take both traditional classes and online classes. They attend conferences to learn and many of them have mentors to help them identify their learning opportunities. They regularly invest in themselves. 

 

Look around and keep your eyes and your mind open. You’ll see “school” all around you. It has never been easier to find people and experiences that can help you expand your potential. But you have to want to learn. 

 

When you have the desire to learn no one can stop you. If you don’t have the desire to learn no one can help you. You can skip the stores and back to school supplies but if you want to achieve your full potential you cannot skip the learning. 


I think I hear a bell ringing….must be time to head to class. See you there!

Leading from a High Horse

I had a nice long “catch-up” conversation with a friend I’ve known a long long time. Since High School actually so it’s kind of a shockingly long time. 🙂

 

She works for one of the largest manufacturing companies in the world, she started right out of college, and she has done very very well for herself. She runs a very profitable part of the company and has a significant number of people who report either directly to her or to one of her direct reports. 

 

During our conversation she asked me something that I thought, given her success, was pretty surprising. She asked me how she could get her people to stop giving her their opinion without hurting their feelings.

 

When I asked her why she wanted them to stop giving their opinions she said it was just a matter of time. She simply didn’t have time to listen to people whose opinion didn’t really matter. 

 

It was at this point that I had to just stop for a minute (seemed like an hour) and think of how to respond. There was so much wrong with the statement I didn’t really know where to begin. Now this is a person I have great respect for, I remember her when she was so afraid of her own shadow that she couldn’t try out for the cheerleading squad. She has truly grown so much through the years and she is a wonderful person. 

 

But the statement was so incredibly insulting to her people that I couldn’t hardly believe she had said it. 

 

I asked her how long she had felt that way and she couldn’t pinpoint when it started but she said the feeling was growing and she was getting more frustrated with her people by the day. 

 

So I offered her these two ideas. I said that she really didn’t need to do anything, the “problem” would soon take care of itself. I said if her team had any brains at all they would soon realize that she didn’t value their input and the input would simply dry up on it’s own. I told her that hurt feelings would be the least of her problems because her team would simply disengage and be far less valuable employees and that the disengagement would be her responsibility. 

 

Then I told her that it wasn’t her team’s responsibility to stop offering ideas and suggestions; it was her responsibility to get down off her high horse and learn to value their opinions. I said if she had hired someone, or allowed someone to be hired, that she couldn’t learn from then she had allowed the wrong person to be hired. 

 

She was pretty quiet. 

 

I reminded her that when she was moving through the ranks that her leaders DID value her opinions and encouraged her to share them frequently. It was one of the big reasons she advanced in the company. I asked her where she would be today if her former bosses had thought of her opinions that same way she was now feeling about her people’s opinions. 

 

Here’s the lesson folks; sometimes we “lead” by letting the people we lead teach us. Sometimes we lead by simply listening to our people. We always lead by demonstrating that we value the people we lead. 

 

If you’re a leader who has gotten so full of yourself that you can’t learn anything from the people you lead then you have gotten to the point that you can no longer actually lead.

 

If you’ve forgotten that you can learn from anyone and everyone then you’ve forgotten how you became a leader in the first place. Get down off that high horse and retrace your path to becoming a leader, you may just be surprised at how much you don’t remember.


By the way, I’m happy to report that my good friend now keeps time open on her calendar each day just to be available for any member of her organization to drop in to her office with ideas, concerns, opinions, and suggestions. She’s a great leader and she already knew all that stuff I told her, she, like everyone else, just needs a reminder once in a while.