It’s that time of year when the summer days shorten, the morning rush hour gets busy again and the nation’s children pack their bags for school. But what about the rest of us? What are we packing? What are we planning to learn?
While we often hear phrases such as ‘you learn something new everyday‘ or ‘it’s never too late to learn’ – it’s always worth reflecting on how active you are in doing this: Do you sit down and reflect at the end of the day and ask yourself – what did I learn today? Did I improve myself? How can I do better?
I am always so impressed by the participants I work with who are continuing to learn throughout their careers. I mentor managers on IMI’s Business Research Programme who, having initially undertaken a Diploma programme are now on the road to earning a Masters. Their projects are always all the more relevant and interesting because they have emerged from their own learning journey.
Taking the first step can be daunting. The challenge is often in overcoming the feeling that you are somehow too far along in your life or career. I’ve even heard people say ‘I’m too set in my ways to learn anything, too old to change‘ – this attitude infuriates me! I am prompted to tell a story about my Grandad.
I had the privilege of having the company of my grandparents for a long time into my adulthood. They were always interested in current affairs, in our young lives and followed everything closely. They were also keen followers of sports and my Grandad in particular, Jimmy, loved to travel to matches and race meetings in his younger days and then, as he aged, he got great joy from sports on television. One day he asked me did I follow the cricket. He then went on to say how he had taken it up recently. He had never really understood it before but now that he had taken the time to study and learn the rules he understood the game and was getting a great kick out of it. I found this inspiring – to take the time to understand something new and different, to figure it out so that he could appreciate it better. If Grandad could take on a new sport at his age – I could learn anything! Did I mention he was 100 at the time?
It’s never too late to learn. This year don’t just watch the kids do it, think about going back to school yourself or take the time to understand something different and unfamiliar. Find your thirst for new knowledge and skills. Don’t stay in a work silo, talk to new people, look at others’ perspectives and needs, figure out how you can work better with new ideas and experiences.
It was that same positive attitude of wanting to learn something new, to make the effort to understand something different that helped keep Grandad interested, alert and up-to-date, right to the end of his life, even as he dipped his toe in a third century. (J.F. Meagher, 1887- 2002)