JW Way Fundamental #17: Be Relentless about Continuous Improvement
“Be a lifetime learner and continually invest in your own education, both formally and informally. Be curious and never stop improving your legal, technical, and personal skills. Embrace change. Look for a better way.”
I was raised by a schoolteacher who never stopped teaching. At the time, I didn’t enjoy it. I now count myself as being very fortunate. Answers were rarely given; instead the response was, find out what you think is correct. We lived in a small community. Over the summer I would walk a few miles to the public library pulling our Radio Flyer red wagon which usually had at least one brother or sister as a passenger. I’d load it full of books for my siblings, but most importantly, for me. Two weeks later, back to the library we’d go for a new book haul. There was a beauty to the anticipation of what new treasure we would find at the library. The public library was our Internet. It was the primary source of knowledge, information and – very importantly – the answers to the questions that my dad posed.
When I compare how hard it was to get knowledge then to how abundantly free flowing knowledge is now, it is incomparable. Information is almost constantly readily accessible and expected. Does that change our learning paradigm? I strongly believe, yes. For people who want to invest in learning, the options are almost limitless – videos, podcasts, posts, articles, webinars, and even courses. Recently, I started reading Angela Duckworth’s critically acclaimed and best-selling book, GRIT: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. The book has two main hypotheses about why some people are highly performing – one is effort, which is defined as gathering knowledge and building skills and the other is purpose. The book takes a deep dive into learning and what may appear as a natural talent vs. learned skills. Even natural talent requires an investment in training to improve their skills.
Learning takes effort. Sometimes it is enjoyable and even exhilarating. At other times, it requires tremendous focus and can be painful. It may take hauling a wagon full of books up a steep hill. A couple of days before my dad passed away, he leaned across the chain link fence to talk to his neighbor about his garden and what he could do to get a higher yield from his vegetables. The neighbor shared this story with me. He said “your dad never stopped teaching, which meant I never stopped learning.” That makes me proud to be a #lifetimelearner.
About the Author: Brenda Edwards is the Executive Director of Jaburg Wilk. She frequently writes on management topics.