Lifelong learning is the first step to becoming an outstanding performer. In today’s fast-paced world, if you’re not learning, you’re not standing still, you’re falling behind. One of my favorite Gandhi quotes is about lifelong learning…
“Live as if you will die tomorrow. Study as if you will live forever.”
He is right. None of us should ever give up learning. I have a thirst for knowledge and I do my best to quench it by learning. I try to learn something new every day. Sometimes my learning is trivial, sometimes deep. No matter what, I keep learning.
On days when I feel like I haven’t learned anything, I turn to a little book I’ve called Live and Learn and Pass It On. The subtitle is: “People from 5 to 95 share what they’ve discovered about life, love and other good things.” I usually find something there that satisfies me.
Here are some insights from the book that helped me…
I have learned that if you wait for all conditions to be perfect before you act, you will never act.
I learned that if you want to be promoted, you have to do things that will get you noticed.
I learned that 90% of what happens in my life is positive and only about 10% is negative. If I want to be happy, I just have to focus on 90%.
These are small life lessons that I find useful.
On the other hand, I had a great learning experience the other day. I figured out how to podcast. I’ve been wanting to turn my blog posts into podcasts for a long time. However, I never consider the time it takes to become proficient. I promised myself that I would learn in early 2010. I spent about four hours on Tuesday figuring out how. It wasn’t that hard, the information I needed was on the web. Now I know how to podcast.
Podcasting is an important technical skill for me. I had to learn this if I wanted to reach my target audience with my common sense tips for career and life success. What important technical skill do you need to learn to stay current in your area of expertise? How can you learn it? I suggest you set a deadline for learning this skill and then do whatever it takes to learn the skill by the deadline.
All the people I know who are committed to lifelong learning have a few traits in common. All of them…
…They are modest. They admit what they don’t know. This is the first step in learning what they need to know.
…Question the status quo. They understand that because something is right today, it may not be right tomorrow. They know that doing things “the way we’ve always done them” is not good reasoning.
…They are intellectually curious. They really want to learn and find learning fun, interesting and stimulating. They see life as a journey where they are constantly learning.
…They are ready to try new things. They experiment and see what works. When things work, they use them.
…Don’t be afraid of failure. They see failure as an opportunity to learn. Just as they incorporate what works into their repertoire, they use failures as springboards for other experiments.
…They are tolerant of ambiguity. Learning creates ambiguity. These people are willing to let go of past ways of doing things in order to devise new ways of doing things in the future. The gap between past and future can create an uncomfortable present.
…Focus on being ahead of the rest. They are the first adopters of new technology and new ways of thinking. They understand that knowledge today has a short half-life. They are constantly learning how to stay ahead.
The common sense point here is simple. Successful people are outstanding performers. Outstanding performers remain outstanding performers by becoming lifelong learners. They continuously expand their knowledge in order to get ahead of the pack and stay there. Begin your journey of lifelong learning by focusing on your strengths and working to improve them every day. Building on your strengths is easier than overcoming your weaknesses. As you build up your powers, you can make incremental improvements. However, if you have a glaring deficiency in your skills, address it now. Don’t wait to make the necessary quantum leaps. What do you need to learn in 2010? How do you plan to learn it? Remember what Ben Franklin said: “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”