“The capacity to learn is a gift; the ability to learn is a skill; the willingness to learn is a choice.” – Brian Herbert
The term “lifelong learner” gets used a lot, and it’s meant as a positive thing. It’s so positive, in fact, that everyone you meet claims to be a lifelong learner and talks about the importance of being a lifelong learner, and how everybody should be a lifelong learner, etc. It sounds great, as though everyone on earth is trying to soak up as much knowledge and wisdom as possible.
Some people are. Unfortunately, for a lot of people, all that talk about lifelong learning is just lip service. A number of those people want to be lifelong learners as long as it’s easy. As soon as it becomes really challenging or requires work, they no longer seem interested.
Leaders aren’t always serious about lifelong learning either. I’ve seen way too many leaders whose interest in learning seems to evaporate once they get to a certain point in their careers, or to a certain age. They go from being intellectually curious and soaking up whatever knowledge they can to putting their brains on cruise control and just rolling to retirement.
Think about yourself. Are you seeking out opportunities to learn and grow on a regular basis? Notice I said “seeking out”. Real lifelong learners, the kind who are always growing and who continue to get better and better at what they do, don’t just sit around and hope some learning comes along. They actively go seek it. They purposefully think about what they need to know and what they’re going to need to know in the future, and then they make sure it happens.
Do you do that? Do you sit down on a regular basis – at least annually – and think about your learning? Do you think about what skills or knowledge you’re going to need in 3-6-12-24 months’ time? Do you think about how your role will evolve and the changes you’ll have to make to stay relevant?
Too many leaders don’t do that, and it means they eventually arrive at irrelevance. And given the pace of change in today’s world, they arrive there quickly. Don’t be one of those leaders. Don’t rest on your previous accomplishments or knowledge or skillset, because those things aren’t going to mean that much in the future. Take a look down the road, figure out where you’re going, and starting preparing yourself. Never stop learning.