Never Done - The Continuous Learning Odyssey
I dropped my oldest daughter off at college this last weekend. If there was a picture of the word “bittersweet” in the dictionary, it would likely show a picture of her on campus. As a parent, this is one of the goals, right? Raise your child to be independent and ready to navigate the world on her own? College is the perfect gateway to that dynamic. While I am exceptionally proud to see her already loving her classes and making a gaggle of new friends, I’m not going to lie...life without her in the house is a total bummer.
My younger daughter is still in high school, with two years left to go. And then when she inevitably ships off, I’ll have a brand new life without daily mom responsibilities. It’s left me already contemplating what I’m going to do with that free time.
I’ve always been a rather insatiably curious person. I’m dyslexic, so school never provided my favorite way of learning. Just sitting passively listening to someone lecture somehow doesn’t connect with how I learn. Worse, feeling like I was there solely to be tested left me stressed out about receiving good enough grades to get into college. It wasn’t until I got to graduate school and then a series of start-ups that I actually began to love the experience of learning. Nowadays, if you put me in a situation where I can engage - whether it’s through experience, be hands-on or even just a conversation with someone - I’m bound to dive right in. And just exactly why is this important? Change is inevitable. And whether it's a change in your career, your company, or your personal life, embracing the need to learn and evolve is pretty critical.
Consider this: When you are self-motivated and driven to learn, you’ll always be in a position of not just acquiring new skills, but developing new opportunities for yourself. And while I have to believe that no one would ever admit to actively wanting to stagnate, it happens all too often. Maybe we get lazy, or just don’t know where to begin. It doesn’t matter, really, the reasons we don’t do it. The important bit to focus on is the benefits of actually motivating ourselves to make this a part of our everyday. Still need convincing?
I WANT TO BE RELEVANT
You may be the master of your domain at some point in your career, but if you don’t stay on top of current trends, edit your skills, and expand the set of people you learn from, you’ll be left in the dust.
Challenge Activity: Head to an industry conference, and really engage and learn. Share that new knowledge by sharing with your colleagues at work, and highlight how what you’ve learned may have advanced the way you thought about X.
I WANT TO FEEL PREPARED
Life is full of unexpected twists and turns. Rather than sitting around worrying - or worse, not worrying at all - about change happening, it’s best to be prepared. Maybe your company got bought and you find yourself out of a job, or perhaps your partner decided to accept that amazing opportunity in Asia. When you apply the mindset that you should always be learning, you’ll likely be able to push out of your comfort zone a little easier and take advantage of new doors open to you.
Challenge Activity: Test out a free month of content learning through LinkedIn Learning, enroll in Udemy or one of the other prolific online learning sites. These resources offer an abundance of content at incredibly affordable prices - all on your time schedule. They virtually erase any excuse you might create for why you don’t have time to learn.
I WANT TO BUILD MY CONFIDENCE
Is there a better way to develop confidence than to have gained some competence in a particular area? Diving in and learning new things aids us in building a feeling of accomplishment, which leads to confidence building.
Challenge Activity: Been learning and want to test your newfound confidence and knowledge? Step out of your comfort zone and host a “lunch and learn” at your office about your topic of expertise, or head to a meetup and discuss with other like-minded people.
I WANT TO ENHANCE MY PERSPECTIVE
Diversity and inclusion are a huge focus for most companies interested in thriving long term. Exactly why is this important? Aside from the obvious humanity-focused reasons, having a diversity of mindset is an incredible skill to have. When we open our minds and challenge our perspectives and attitudes, we expand our mindsets. Being able to see different sides to a problem will build your understanding and increase your value to your team.
Challenge Activity: Take a look at your calendar this month. Carve out and prioritize time to learn every day. Whether it’s listening to a podcast while you are getting ready in the morning, or watching a TED Talk, committing a little time learning something new every day is your ticket to expanding your mind.
The majority of us say we want to be lifelong learners, but when it comes down to truly committing to the work to actually claim that title, we can all get a little passive. The first step is understanding truly how important this mindset is to your career and your personal development. The second is actually committing to do it.