Always be Learning

Successful people learn something new almost every single day. The most successful people use what they learn. 

Never in the history of humanity has it been easier to learn. Information is everywhere. 

New data suggests that 1.2 Zettabytes of information (1.3 trillion gigabytes) is now stored in cyberspace – which amounts to 339 miles of fully-loaded iPads stacked to the sky.

The information base is growing so quickly that researchers say a state of “persistent uncertainty” exists and that there are no exact numbers, only educated guesses. So I guess it could be 340 miles of iPads. 

Now, there is one tiny little caveat; not everything you find on the internet is true. I know that may come as a shock to some people but the fact that not everything on the internet is true is in fact actually true. But still, there is a ton of valuable information available, more worthwhile information than ever before, all you have to do is click.

Despite the unprecedented explosion of available information there remains one substantial barrier to learning. That barrier is called want. If you don’t want to learn you’ll find it very difficult to learn. You can be required to attend a class, you can even be forced to listen to the instructor but no one can make you learn, no one that is except you.

People decide to learn for a variety of reasons, some need a new skill or additional knowledge for their job. Others simply want to stay up to date on new technology or brush up on changes in their industry. Some people just have a need to grow intellectually and are constantly looking for ways to broaden their horizons. They seek to understand not just “what is” but “why it is.” 

Some people believe it’s their employer’s responsibility to provide them the skill and knowledge they need to succeed. It’s great when you work for a company that offers training and education but successful people understand that their success is up to them, not their employer.

This is somewhat of a generalization but by and large, leaders are learners. If education is provided they take it, if it’s not they make it. They seek out advice, coaches, mentors, and additional training and education. 

Leaders learn for a purpose, they understand how much and how fast they need to learn something. They, as Stephen Covey said, “begin with the end in mind” and envision how they will use their new knowledge or skill. Leaders know their objective for learning and they create for themselves a vivid picture of the benefits of obtaining that additional knowledge.

Successful learners know that they can learn as much or perhaps even more by failing then they can by always succeeding. Whenever you take on a new task or challenge you’ll possibly be tripped up and fall along the way. Don’t look at the fall as failure, look for the lesson in the fall on the way down. Use that lesson to push yourself back up. Ultimately it’s those falls and the ability to get back up that will make you a success. “Successful falls” also encourages more risk taking and more learning in the future. 

A truly successful day should include learning. Don’t let your day end without gaining at least a nugget of new information that you can use to grow your personal knowledge bank.

That stack of iPads is growing this very minute, you might as well get in on the action and learn!

 

Do you Know Enough to Succeed?

So, when do you know enough to know that you can stop learning? 

I have no idea when I’ll know enough to believe that I essentially know it all, or at least know all I need to know. I do know for sure that I still have much to learn, in fact, I doubt I’ll actually live long enough to know as much as I need to.

But I’ve have come across people who do know enough…at least they think they do.

I’ve written before about a marketing consultant who I was thinking about hiring to evaluate the effectiveness of some training we were doing. He noticed the credentials after my name and asked what they stood for. I explained what they were and then said perhaps he might be interested in the marketing certification. He politely told me that he already knew “all there was to know about marketing” so he wouldn’t be interested. 

I knew in that moment we wouldn’t be using his services. Successful people learn something new almost every day and believing that you already know it all can make it very difficult to learn something new. If you can’t learn you can’t grow and if you can’t grow it is unlikely your success will continue for very long.

Recently I had a conversation with a similarly minded person. They have done very well for themselves, advancing up their organization’s ladder very quickly. By anyone’s measure they certainly appear to be a true success….at least for now.

There were a few of us talking and the subject of this blog come up. Someone asked this highly successful person if they subscribed to my blog. The successful person looked a bit puzzled and then said “why would I read his blog, I’m far more successful than he is, and “besides I know pretty much everything I need to know to succeed already.” In defense of this person they did not say it with apparent malice or contempt, they clearly meant me no harm. They simply said it in such a way as to indicate that they truly believed it.

Probably because of what I do for a living I instantly wondered how this person had achieved their level of success with that kind of attitude. I also knew immediately that this person had in fact much to learn. They needed to learn a bit of humility but beyond that they needed to learn that everyone knows something that they don’t. That means that there isn’t a person a earth that we can’t all learn something from. The most successful people know that, they also know that learning never stops. 

In my book the day you stop learning is the day you start declining. I wish nothing but continued success for that highly successful person but it appears they believe they have already reached the pinnacle of their success. Maybe someone should tell them that once you reach the top there is no where to go but down.

If success is your goal feel free to stop learning the moment you think you’ve achieved success. If long-term success is your goal then you need to know that you don’t know enough. You don’t know enough today and you won’t know enough tomorrow.

Keep learning and keep learning from anyone and everything you can. Learning is a life-long endeavor and here’s hoping you have a very long life!

 

When You Know It All

A while back I was meeting with a representative of a company that helped learning organizations measure the effectiveness of their training. We got off track a bit and were discussing various certifications and I mentioned a certification for marketing executives that I had initially earned several years before. I told him that there was a lot of education and testing involved in earning and maintaining that very challenging certification. 

He stated that he wouldn’t need anything like that because he already knew all he needed to know to succeed in his career. I was polite and finished out the meeting but I knew in that moment I would not be using this person or their organization. 

If he already knew everything then it meant that he had nothing left to learn. It may have even become impossible for him to learn. I couldn’t help but wonder how this know it all would ever learn enough about my organization to actually help us. I figured if we used him we would be getting some cookie cutter measuring system that was a “one size fits all” deal. That was not what I was looking for… at all.

Talking with him reminded me of the story about the United Sates Patient Office closing in 1899 because “everything that could be invented, already was.” The office never actually closed but there were “know it alls” at the time who recommended that it should.

Truly successful people will never be a know it all. They know they can’t know it all and they know that they don’t have to. They also know what they don’t know. 

Truly successful people learn something new every day. They are always looking for the newest idea. The best idea doesn’t have to be their idea, they will use and benefit from good ideas no matter where they come from.   

The most successful people are in constant learning mode, they are as far from a know it all as you can get. 

The biggest problem with being a know it all, other than annoying everyone around you, is that once you believe you know it all you see no use in trying to learn anything new. Much like the patient office, you have learned all there is to learn. You’re done!

When you’re done learning you’re done period. Whatever success you’ve had will begin to wane. If you’re not pushing your limits to learn, if you’re not trying new things, if you’re not taking risks then you may be playing life to safe… or you may think you already know everything you need to know. 

Either way, you’re likely seriously limiting your potential. 

You can’t possibly know it all, the good news is, you don’t have to. The great news is you can learn something new this very day. Keep your knowledge base fresh and your success will always be fresh too! 

Leaders are Learners

Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.John F. Kennedy

A leadership position is not a destination. No one should “arrive” at a leadership position and just sit tight. A leadership position does not make you a leader, it merely gives you the opportunity to grow into one.

To grow as a leader you must learn. Continually.

The most successful people learn something new everyday and so do the most effective leaders. It doesn’t have to be an epiphany every day but you should add to your knowledge base each day.

If you want to be a better manager then learn something about stuff, if you’re intent is to become a better leader then learn something about people. Learning something about people in general is good, learning something about your people specifically is great.

Invest time each day to learn what motivates your people. Learn what their goals are, discover their challenges and even more important, how you as a leader might help them overcome those challenges.

The best leaders are not afraid to show the gaps in their knowledge and the very best leaders do not believe it is a weakness to learn from the people they lead. It’s pretty tough to learn when you’re struggling to keep your “I already knew that face” on.

So open your eyes, open your mind and perhaps even open your heart to new discoveries every single day. Never forget this basic leadership fact: when you stop learning you likely stop leading too.

Never stop leading!

Learning for Life

The most successful people learn something new almost every single day. They never stop, their level of success, their age, their already substantial wealth of knowledge does not stop them from learning more. 

In all of history there has never been an easier time to learn something new than right now. The internet alone is a vast and ever growing source of knowledge. Google estimates there are currently 637 million websites and 250 million blogs. The depth of human knowledge has never been so easy to find and transfer from one person to another. Now, it’s important to keep in mind that not everything you see and hear on the internet is true. I know that might be hard for some people to believe but the fact that not everything on the internet is true is one fact that is most certainly true. 

There are certainly other sources that are available too. 

Read newspapers, books, magazines, and periodicals. Everyday! Here’s a pretty well documented fact: the most successful people read more than less successful people. Technology allows us to carry a ton of books with us right on a laptop, tablet, or even a smart phone. Everyone “waits,” either at a doctor’s office, for a sales call, for the plumber, and the most successful people don’t waste that wait time. One of the more effective ways they use it is to read. 

The “boob tube” more commonly called the television is another great source of knowledge. If you make it so. There are programs available that inform and educate, truth be told they aren’t the most watched programs but perhaps they should be. When was the last time you sat down and watched something that did more than just entertain you? 

Talk to your mentor. Here’s a problem for most people… they don’t have a mentor. Most people don’t but the most successful people do. If you don’t have a person whose brain you can pick and who you can bounce ideas off of, you should find one today. 

Meet someone new and different. If you’re only associating with people like you, who think like you, then you’re limiting your potential to learn something new. Interact with people different than you, people who you do not always agree with. You can, and should, learn from people with different backgrounds, from different cultures, and with different perspectives. 

However you choose to go about it understand the “success imperative” of consistent, constant learning. If you haven’t learned anything from this post the keep looking, you only have 249,000,999 blogs to go.