For many years my business partners and I would begin our training seminars with a statement that said there are usually three types of people in a session like this.
The first type we called Hostages– they really didn’t want to be there and had so many better things they could be doing.
The second type of participants were the Vacationers– who would rather do anything then go to work.
The last type we referred to as Lifelong Learners- those people that took every opportunity afforded to learn something new and figure out how they can apply it in their jobs or in their lives.
One of the obvious reasons to start off like this, was the humor involved as this statement usually disarmed the hostages and called out in a respectful way the vacationers. But the hidden meaning behind this introduction was to bring out the inner competitor that lives inside of everyone and hopefully engage the participant to include themselves in the category of lifelong learner. These are the people that are always pushing the boundaries and driving organizations to become better than they are.
Who wouldn’t want to be included in this high performing group?
While it seems most everyone would like to view themselves as a Lifelong Learner, sadly so many others feel as though they have learned enough and are content to exist much as they always have.
Anyone can become a Lifelong Learner once they make the choice. Let’s explore the characteristics and habits that describe this type of individual and learn if we qualify ourselves.
- Recognize that no matter how much you know, there is still so much more that you don’t know. Lifelong learners have a built in need to keep obtaining new information and new ideas, even when those new ideas contradict what they already know. Sometimes this new information adds color and depth to what they’ve already learned and allows them to better utilize and make sense of old information to make the application in the current tense.
- Life-Long Learners understand that learning can come from just about anywhere and from anyone. When you make it your sole focus to learn something, your brain goes into hyper-drive to extract some sort of meaning and value from the experience. Conversely when you repeatedly tell yourself that this is a “waste of time” you brain is now looking for ways to prove you right. Realize that your attitude towards learning goes a long way to being able to learn anything.
- Life-long learners tend to ask this question “What can I learn?” more often than the question “What do I get?” The hallmark of high achievers is they do not look at situations simply as a transaction that allows them to get something, but rather an opportunity to better themselves or find a different way of thinking that they didn’t have before. For them, the “What’s in it for Me” is the chance to gain knowledge which they have identified as their “Secret Weapon” for achievement.
- Lifelong learners understand that there are many different ways to keep learning both traditional and non-traditional. A common misconception is that these types of people must have gotten good grades in school and that knowledge can only come from a book. While decent grades and reading books should not be discounted- it’s not the only path to lifelong learning. Our modern world now provides so many other forms of learning like podcasts, audio books, video seminars, and other digital learning tools. Many are proven to be more effective than traditional learning. Just because you weren’t an A student or do not like to sit still for hours reading a book doesn’t exclude you from the category.
- Life-Long learners tend to be more interested, than a need to be interesting. Asking relevant and probing questions and actually listening to the answers is a great way to start down the path of lifelong learning. There are over 6 Billion people on the planet, each has a story to tell and a perspective that is unique to them. Many of our best teachers are around us every day. It’s amazing how much we can learn once we make a conscience effort to hear what others have to say.
- My first coach used to say, “The teacher always learns more than the student” If you have a willing student in front of you, take the time to teach or coach them on what you have learned. Teaching a skill or concept to someone else helps you gain a new level of understanding and provides a higher degree of accountability since it’s hard to teach something you aren’t willing to practice yourself.
- Seek constructive feedback from people you respect and trust. Look, I understand that it’s nice to hear positive feedback and hopefully we all have people in our lives willing to do so. High performers also recognize that the only way to get to their next level is by getting constructive feedback on a consistent basis. Hearing what you can do differently helps us make those necessary course corrections to achieve at our highest potential. If there is a quicker and more efficient way for personal and professional improvement than feedback from those you trust and respect- please share it with me. Until then, encourage those around you to provide both positive and constructive feedback. And most importantly Thank them when they do.
There’s the short list of characteristics for Life-Long Learners- My belief is if you have read this far than you probably fall squarely in the category of Lifelong Learning yourself!
Please feel free to add you own qualities and share this article with others.
Here’s to you, your success, and most importantly your health
One Quarter Turn at a Time
Thoughts for the week:
If you are not willing to learn, no one can help you. If you are determined to learn, no one can stop you. –Unknown
An investment in knowledge always pays the best dividend. – Ben Franklin
Learning is not a product of teaching. Learning is a product of the activity of learners. -John Holt