Why Active Learners Own the Future
We used to derive our security from a job. Today we find our security from growth.
In many ways, I believe this was always the case. Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “I believe the most important characteristic parents ought to foster in their children is curiosity.”
Active learning is now one of the single most important traits to look for in all candidates, business partners, and bosses. Without it, employees become obsolete in short order. More importantly, active learners become drivers of change, innovation, and competitiveness within all organizations.
Far too many of us carry the notion that education ends when we graduate from school. Today, change can make education obsolete before the ink is dry. A real commitment to active learning will often be greeted with resistance. For example, “I’m too busy with completing my tasks to set aside time for learning.” O.K. But, if you were learning, you would know that your industry is shrinking rather than growing. You would also be aware of interesting and exciting alternatives well before the human resources death angel finds you.
Higher education has a number of challenges. Many students don’t show up for classes, they learn what they need from the Internet and ace their tests. If this is a bit shocking, ask your child what they are doing with your $50-60K investment. So, if higher education is no longer the end game, than what is it really? Perhaps it is time to reframe the experience as a deep dive in learning how to learn. Higher education can help someone develop one of the most important life skills for success and that is that ability to build a community that supports their vision, no matter what that mission or purpose might be.
Unfortunately, many American families have adopted the outlook of European royals, delaying conversations about work and life purpose until it is too late. If we want our children to lead effective adult lives, it is a really good idea to set new expectations early. Tell them how important it is to constantly learn as the world changes around them. Help them realize that the more they know about various professions, the more apt they will be in selecting the right education, even if it is different from the family’s history.
Those of us who understand this dynamic are changing as quickly as the world around them. In many cases, they become the cause of change, growing in exciting and unimaginable ways. Active learning allows us to become new and better versions of ourselves. We develop confidence that we will find the opportunities within the waves of change rather than being swallowed whole as we pine for the past. There is no stagnation because active learning continually renews us.
God help anyone with a decided lack of curiosity. Commonly, such individuals will use their digital devices to find answers for day-to-day questions. But, that will be the end of it. America’s purveyors of the Internet and Media are not selling education. They are selling addiction. Just this past week an executive from ATT virtually unbraided employees of HBO for producing content that causes phone users to watch a couple of hours a month. He wants a few a hours-a-day. That, my friends, is a trance. But, studying dysfunctional behavior will not give us any insights or valuable lessons.
So, what is the behavior of successful people? Polls culled from the world’s most successful entrepreneurs, category leaders, and top tier executives typically read an average of 2-3 hours per day. They attend learning programs and conventions. They watch Ted Talks and look for new mentors. The most successful people in our world have developed a thirst for awareness and knowledge. They have had enough success from the practice to become enthused about the game. Many of them don’t put off life to go pursue another degree, they “hack” their education on the Internet, learn what they need and become new versions of themselves. Or, they find the very people that can teach them to jump back into the waves with new insights.
During an interview, virtually everyone who works ought to be ready to answer questions that define whether they are an active learner or simply looking for another job.
Here are a few examples:
- What have you learned about our market recently?
- What are you currently reading?
- Please tell me the most impactful thing you learned this past year?
- Where do you go to get information?
- How is learning impacting you today?
My colleagues send articles, books, websites, e-learning opportunities to me all of the time. I read most of them. At a time when some of my peers are starting to retire or slow down, we are excitedly looking at how to use virtual learning, sophisticated digital platforms and welcome the future into our business. Candidly, I don’t think we are doing anything special because this behavior ought to be the norm for most everyone.
Here are my favorite recent reads. Each one offers a learning experience unlike others:
- The Inevitable – Understanding the 12 technological forces that will shape our future, by Kevin Kelly (Viking)
- Defenseless Under the Night: The Roosevelt Years and the Origins of Homeland Security, by Matthew Dallek (Oxford)
- How to Raise an Adult, by Julie Lythcott-Haims, (Henry Holt & Company)
- The Geography of Genius: A Search for the World’s Most Creative Places from Ancient Athens to Silicon Valley, by Eric Weiner (Simon & Schuster)
- The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Klay, by Michael Chabon (Penguin)
If you this narrative is resonating for you, order a copy of my new book, The Workplace Engagement Solution(Career Press).
Schedule 15-Minutes to Discuss Your Workplace or Career with David (Here)
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