Learning and Career Success

W. Edwards Deming is the father of the six sigma movement.  The other day, I saw a great quote from him that has important career success implications…

“Learning is not compulsory.  Neither is survival.”

If you read this career advice blog with any regularity, you know that I believe that lifelong learning is important to creating your career success.  Tweet 82 in my career advice book Success Tweets says, “Learn faster than the world changes.  In a world that never stops changing, you can never stop learning and growing.”

In today’s fast-paced world, if you don’t keep learning, you’re not standing still, you’re falling behind.  One of my favorite quotes from Gandhi nails it when it comes to lifelong learning…

“Live as if you were to die tomorrow.  Learn as if you were to live forever.”

He’s right.  None of us should ever quit learning.  I have a thirst for knowledge and do my best to quench it through learning.  I try to learn something new every day.  Sometimes my learning is trivial, sometimes it is profound.  Regardless, I keep on learning.

On days when I feel as if I haven’t learned anything, I turn to a little book that I have called, Live and Learn and Pass It On.  The subtitle is, “People ages 5 to 95 share what they’ve discovered about life, love, and other good stuff.”  I usually find something in there that satisfies.

Here are a few of the learnings in the book that have helped me…

I’ve learned that if you wait until all conditions are perfect before you act, you’ll never act.

I’ve learned that if you want to get promoted, you must do things that get you noticed.

I’ve 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 need to focus on the 90%.

These are little life learnings that I have found helpful in my personal life and career success journey.

All of the people I know who are committed to lifelong learning have several traits in common.  They all…

…Are humble.  They admit what they don’t know.  This is the first step in learning what they need to know.

  …Question the status quo.  They realize 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.

…Are intellectually curious.  They truly want to learn and find learning fun, interesting and stimulating.  They see life as a journey in which they are constantly learning.

…Are willing to try new stuff.  They experiment and see what works.  When things work, they use them.

…Are not afraid to fail.  They see failure as an opportunity to learn.  Just as they incorporate what works into their repertoire, they use failures as stepping stones to other experiments.

…Are tolerant of ambiguity.  Learning creates ambiguity.  These people are willing to let go of past ways of doing things in order to come up with new ways of doing things in the future.  The gap between the past and future can make for an uncomfortable present.

…Focus on staying ahead of the pack.  They are early adopters – of new technology and new ways of thinking.  They realize that knowledge has a short half-life today.  They keep learning to stay ahead.

I like what Louis L’Amour, the great American writer of stories about the old west, has to say about lifelong learning…

“There will come a time when you believe everything is finished.  That will be the beginning.”

I know a lot about career and life success.  I’ve written several books on it.  I give lots of talks about it.  I’ve coached hundreds of people – helping them build the life and career success they want and deserve.  I write this blog.  At one point, I thought I knew it all.

And you know what?  Every time I write about life and career success, every time I speak about it, every time I coach someone offering my career advice, I gain a deeper understanding of what it takes to create life and career success

I begin anew every day, doing whatever I can to learn about life and career success so I can pass on this knowledge and wisdom to others.  I choose to keep learning.  So should you.  Pay attention here – this is solid career advice.  I’ve learned that if you don’t keep learning, you don’t stand still – you fall behind in the game of life.  I’ve also learned that what I learned after I knew it all was some of the best and most important of my learnings.

Thomas Carlyle once said, “What we become depends on what we read after all of the professors have finished with us.  The greatest university of all is a collection of books.”  He lived in the 19th century.  If he were alive today, he might have amended his statement to say, “Books and the Internet are the greatest university of all.”  Today, so many of the great books, as well as other life and career success information, are available on line.  The Internet is a great way to access this information.  The important thing is to keep learning – how you do it and where you get your information is secondary.

I have a huge collection of books on a variety of subjects.  These books are the first place I turn when I am looking for information to post on my blog, when I am working with my career success coach clients, when I am preparing a speech and when I am designing a training program.  When I can’t find what I’m looking for in my books, I go on line.

My best common sense suggestion for becoming a lifelong learner is simple.  Read.  Read technical journals.  Read trade magazines.  Read business publications like “The Wall Street Journal,” “Business Week,” “Fortune” and “Forbes.”  If you think they’re too stodgy, read “Fast Company.”

Read your company’s annual report.  Read your competitors’ annual reports.  Read your local newspaper and “The New York Times.”  Read news magazines like “Newsweek” and “Time.”  Read business and industry blogs.  Read ezines and eBooks.  Read books.  Reading is the best way to stay up with what’s happening in business, in your industry and in the world.

There are other things you can do to keep learning.  Attend seminars.  Join the major groups or trade associations for your industry.  Attend their meetings and participate.  Volunteer for committee work.  Become known locally in your field.  Take a class at your local university.  Use your company’s tuition reimbursement program to get a free undergraduate or Master’s degree.

Your education doesn’t stop when you graduate from college or get an MBA, it begins anew.  There are many ways to keep learning.  Decide which ones work for you, and then follow through.  Outstanding performers are competent.  They stay competent because they are lifelong learners.

As Albert Einstein said…

“Wisdom is not a product of schooling but of the lifelong learning attempt to acquire it.”

The common sense career success coach point here is simple.  Successful people are outstanding performers.  Outstanding performers remain outstanding performers by becoming lifelong learners.  They continually expand their knowledge in order to get out in front of the pack and stay there.  They follow the career advice in Tweet 82 in Success Tweets.  “Learn faster than the world changes.  In a world that never stops changing, you can never stop learning and growing.”  Begin your lifelong learning journey by focusing on your strengths and working to improve them every day.  Building on your strengths is easier than overcoming your weaknesses.  When you build on your strengths you can make incremental improvements.  However, if you have a glaring gap in your skills, address it now.  Don’t wait to take necessary quantum leaps.  What do you need to learn to create the life and career success you want and deserve?  How do you plan on learning it?  Remember what Ben Franklin had to say, “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”

That’s my career advice when it comes to lifelong learning.  What do you think?  Please take a minute to share your thoughts with us in a comment.  As always, thanks for reading my daily musings on life and career success.  I value you and I appreciate you.

Bud

PS: If you haven’t already done so, I suggest that you check out my career advice book Success Tweets and its companion piece Success Tweets Explained.  The first gives you 140 bits of career success advice tweet style — in 140 characters or less.  The second is a whopping 390 + pages of career advice explaining each of the common sense tweets in Success Tweets in detail.  Go to http://budurl.com/STExp to claim your free copy.  You’ll also start receiving my daily life and career success quotes.

PPS: Have you seen my membership site, My Corporate Climb?  It’s devoted to helping people just like you create career success inside large corporations.  You can find out about it by going to http://www.mycorporateclimb.

 

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