Long-term success in anything requires a keen propensity for learning. Natural ability or luck alone is never enough to be successful over a lifetime. Learning a new skill, trade, or organizational systems requires knowledge and a learning curve. In today’s economy, learning to adapt, redirect, and change has become a critical skill for survival! If you don’t believe me just ask Kodak, Blockbuster, or MySpace about learning to survive.
Along this year-long journey to unlock opportunities in life and in business, we are actually learning a process for uncovering new possibilities. Learning new things is natural, and for most people, a process that is continual, however, with the explosion of information that we have experienced in the last decade, it is almost impossible to keep current on what we thought we already knew! And while learning is the key to success, how do you filter through what you need to know to keep up? If you (like me) can find it all overwhelming sometimes, check out my 4 tips to keep learning accessible and manageable in this era of data-overload!
1) Ask questions:
Try to capture learning opportunities every day. Surrounding yourself with smart people and listening to them is priceless! Every day I hear a variety of perspectives on everything from pop culture news, to free trade agreements to why my team, the Cleveland Browns lost… again!
Family, co-workers, and even total strangers can provide great sources of continual updates and ideas. Learn to engage people with questions like, “What do you think about that,” “Why do you think that happened,” and “What would you do in that situation?” However, questions are only half of the solution. You must really listen to what they say and think about their response to really benefit. These small encounters provide an ongoing insight into how people think and their emotions, while allowing you to test your thinking as well. At home, at work, or even in the subway, listening to others is a valuable way to learn about the world around you, and the people around you as well!
2) Take small bites at first:
Every day, I check a various news sources, as headlines and sound bites are a great way to be aware of current events quickly. From freeway closings to new business openings, gathering the news in small bites is a quick way to stay current and contribute to conversations. Now, I mentioned that I check several different sites because sound bites and headlines can also be very misleading! Be sure that you research the sources you rely on because believe it or not, sometimes you just can't trust what you read to get facts right. As you scan the headlines, allow yourself some time to dig into any that look interesting or pique your interest. I find some of my speaking topics buried under an interesting headline!
I must admit, I don’t know anything about Fantasy Football. I am totally clueless as to how it works or why it has grown so much, but I am OK with that. Lots of people get a great deal of enjoyment from learning the players and engaging in the competition. Right now, I am busy learning (trying to learn) to speak a little Spanish. I am also reading a fascinating book on the power of habits, but that is just my personal priority right now. Everybody has their own priorities. Learning fun things and learning how to enjoy life is something we all need to know how to do, too. So, be intentional, and choose whatever YOU would like to learn, and then dig in and enjoy learning something new!
4) Know how and where you can learn more:
My son has always told me, “We live in an age where speculation is un-necessary.” He usually is saying that as he pulls out his laptop to find the answer to a question that I have posed. While the questions are often, “Who is that actor?” or “How long is a flight to Barcelona?” this new thinking has taken the pressure off to know everything. Because Internet access allows us to view most current data on almost any topic with just a few keystrokes, knowing where the answers lie has become almost as important and knowing the answer. Learning online, how-to videos and mastering an Internet search is becoming the method of choice for keeping up with the information explosion that we are experiencing. It is definitely a new learning process for those of a certain age-- understanding how to use the technology of today is no longer optional, it is a requirement if you want to unlock opportunity in your job or your personal life.
In today’s environment of rapid change and explosion of available information, it is impossible to know everything. You have to decide what you need and/or want to know and then commit the time to learning it. Learning is essential to success and rest assured that there has never been a better time to be a life-long learner!