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Learning should never cease. No matter your age, gender, social economic status or any other demographic data column you fall under, you should never stop learning.
One of my favorite quotes is from Samuel Johnson, “A man ought to read just as inclination leads him, for what he reads as a task will do him little good.”
Reading is my favored form of information intake, your’s might be different. Blogs, library books, Wiki’s on specific subjects, and magazines are all great inexpensive or free resources for the written word. Whatever form of education you prefer, just make sure you keep learning or you will soon see yourself, and especially your business, fall behind the rest of the world.
What can I learn?
One way to fix what is broken, fill in the missing pieces and add value is to increase your knowledge through learning. Continuing education and training are constant buzz words in nearly any industry today. Whether you are the top dog in a large company, the sole proprietor wearing all the hats, or the employee under the first person mentioned, continuing to learn is no longer an option, it’s a necessity.
Albert Einstein has a great quote which goes:
“The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.” – Albert Einstein
You have created problems at the level of thinking you occupy now. According to Einstein, you cannot solve those problems by remaining at that same level of thinking. The only way to solve those problems is to advance to the next level, and you can only accomplish this through learning.
Knowing what to learn is critical. As a web design I am constantly asking myself, is there a new programming language to learn, a new software package I need to familiarize myself with, or training I need to attend? There is a ton of information out there, discovering which of it to assimilate into the almighty brain is the tough part.
Start with what you are already doing. What books have you read recently? What magazines do you subscribe to? What blogs do you read? What continuing education or learning seminars have you attended? Etc… If you feel adequate in your knowledge, or even if you feel like you are progressing at an appropriate pace, then keep it up. Odds are you have evaluated what you need to learn and are chasing it down right now.
If you don’t feel complete in your knowledge, then think about what you are doing now. Are the books, blogs or magazines you are reading furthering your knowledge. Are they purely recreational, taking up time which might be spent completing what you need to know? Do not stop reading for recreation, but perhaps you should take some time to read other material instead of that People magazine, or the TV guide.
Ask other people. You must have heard a thousand times you should have a mentor, here is a great reason why. Ask someone in a field related to yours, or even someone who does the same thing you do. What if you are in a unique industry with few competitors, like selling life size Smurf dolls? First, congratulations, I love the Smurfs. Second, think about what type of a business you are, selling Smurf dolls makes you a retailer. Now, find other businesses like yours and talk to them. Odds are what they read will be directly applicable to what you need to learn. If you are an employee then there has to be some one else who has a job similar to your. Talk to them about where they keep learning.
What do you want to learn? The most important question is last. As adults we are almost scared to be asked the question, “what do you want?” But that is exactly what we are doing today. As an employee, as a business owner or as an individual there are certain things you must learn. However, the first quote above says you should read what you want. Personally, I want to learn how to run my own business, so I have been reading books to teach me that. If you are a business owner and want to grow your business, read books on that subject. If you are an employee and want to be the best possible, then find materials to teach you how to maximize your value to the organization.
Try to have some fun! It’s corny and overused, but reading can take you places you could not have gone otherwise. You have to learn some things, and there is more you want to learn. Keep those two balanced. A friend of mine and I are working to build our own remote controlled boat built with a weed eater motor. There is no business benefit there, but it sure will be a ton of fun when it is done!
Think about what you need to learn in order to fix the broken pieces, fill all the missing holes and add whatever value you can. Free information is nearly limitless on the internet. Finding valuable information might be tough, but well worth the effort. More importantly, the thrill you receive from learning something new always beats fixing a nagging problem.
Find out what you need to learn, then Learn It!