By Ron Price
“I no longer say, ‘I learned this’.”
This was advice I received from one of my mentors back in the ‘90s. He said, “As soon as I think I have learned something, I discover I haven’t learned enough, and I have to start learning all over again. It doesn’t matter whether it is about business, my relationships, or even me. I have chosen to say, ‘I am learning’ from now on instead of ‘I learned’.”
At first, I thought my mentor was just having some fun with syntax and language. However, as I have grown older, I have come to realize the wisdom in his statement. We do learn, but never enough to be able to assume that we have learned all that there is to learn on any specific subject. I have invested decades in learning about leadership, innovation, culture, strategy, performance, relationships, spirituality, physical wellness, emotional intelligence, financial management … and the list goes on and on. And yet, I understand now better than ever how little I actually know.
What is a person to do? His answer was simple, “Keep learning!” We have all kinds of plans in life. We have vacation plans, financial plans, exercise plans, work plans, wedding plans, retirement plans, and on and on. What about a learning plan?
During our formal education there is a plan. In the early years the plan is determined for us by teachers, parents and curriculum experts. As our education continues, we begin to get more choices in creating our learning plans. From electives to majors and minors in college, to theses and dissertations, we eventually gain more and more control over our choices in learning. But what about after formal education as ended? Do we still have learning plans that are as clear, intentional, and organized?
In today’s world of constant change, continuous learning is more important than ever. There was a time when companies and organizations took care of our learning plans as adults. This is no longer enough. The mobility of employment has shifted the responsibility for continuous learning away from our employer. Today, the most powerful and rewarding form of learning has become self-directed learning.
Self-directed learning is when we decide it is our responsibility to create an ongoing learning plan. Often, we can find support and resources in our organizations. The organization may even have specific learning goals to help us advance our performance and careers. But if we are to become the best possible version of ourselves, we need something more. We need an intentional, strategic vision of the learning that will help us align with our sense of purpose, our vision for our future, and our values. And no corporation or other entity can do this for us.
It was this respect for the individual’s power for self-directed learning that inspired us to create The Complete Leader Community. The website TheCompleteLeader.org was launched in 2014 as a resource for those wanting to grow their leadership skills and influence. As our own learning has continued to grow, the website has become much more. Today, being a member of The Complete Leader Community provides resources, expertise, experiences, and relationships to support self-directed learning. Though I have tremendous gratitude for the hundreds of resources and interactions that have been contributed by The Complete Leader Faculty over many years, it is still such a small part of what makes for meaningful growth. The real magic of our mission and our work is the self-directed learning that comes from an individual’s appetite for living a life that is filled with continuous learning. It is the clarity, focus and consistency that comes from individual commitments that are made and kept to oneself.
How about you? Have you discovered the potential in self-directed learning? Have you developed your own strategic learning plan? Have you created the habits and routines that help you keep learning and give you an excitement about your future? Once experienced, there is no other approach to learning that will satisfy you more. Every learning opportunity opens up new avenues of fulfilling your commitment to becoming the best version of yourself and, in your own way, to make your dent in the universe. At least, that is what I’m learning all over again.