Stop waiting. Start learning.

Have you ever caught yourself in a meeting thinking, “How does that guy know about that and I don’t?”

Have you ever toured a new place and wondered, “Why didn’t my boss show me this sooner?”

Have you ever left training saying, “Why didn’t the company send us to this years ago?”

If you’ve had those moments, you’ve seen what you’re missing by waiting for others to drive you to learn.

You don’t have to wait.

You can drive your own learning.

There are lots of ways to drive your own learning, but if you’re more interested in steps that in multiple strategies, you can try these four steps.

Step 1: Choose to drive your own learning.  It really is that simple to start.

Step 2: Read.  You’ll have to read books if you want to learn at a fast pace.

Step 3: Create opportunities to see new things and meet new people.  This step varies depending on your strengths.  If seeing new things and meeting new people sounds awful to you, focus on finding a person who likes those things who’s willing to bring back all the best information to you.  It’s not an ideal set up, but it’s better than nothing.

Step 4: Find the training you need and figure out a way to get it. Often finding training is easy; figuring out a way to get it is harder.  If at first you’re told no, don’t give up.  Find another route.

Step 5: Practice with the books you’ve read, the people you’ve met, the places you’ve been and the things you’ve been told.  Only through practice will you get better at anything.

Are you willing to drive your own learning?

If you’re nodding at the computer screen, fabulous.  I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.  If you want some hints or tips on Steps 2 through 5, let me know.

If you’re shaking your head, wondering if driving your own learning will make any difference for you, maybe hearing what it felt like for me to come to Step 1 and what I’ve done since, will push you off the fence.  You can check out my story below the fold.

If you’re not interested in driving your own learning, let me know if you change your mind.  I’ll be here.

My story:

It’s January 2003.  It’s a typical wet and dreary January day in the Pacific Northwest.

After slogging half a mile through the spitting mist I finally arrive at my cubicle, gloomily tucked away on the second floor of a bland office building, I find my mind wandering (and it’s not even 8 am).

I’ve been at this job for a few years. I don’t go to as much training as I did when I was a new hire. I’m doing some interesting work, but it’s not keeping all of my attention.  I need more.  I wish I could learn more and learn it faster.

I catch myself thinking, “Why don’t I get to go to more training classes? Why don’t I get invited on tour or new projects?  Why won’t they help me?”

But then, it hit me:

I wasn’t doing anything on my own to increase my understanding of my work, my world, my history.

I remember realizing, “Why am I waiting? I don’t have to wait for anyone else.  I can go at my own pace.”

I resolved then-and-there to learn what I wanted, when I wanted.

If I could go back in time and thank myself for that decision, I would.

Since 2003, I’ve read more than 175 books (if you’re interested in which ones, see the link for a list posted on my other blog), attended several amazing training classes and had countless memorable opportunities to learn.

I could probably tell a story about how I’ve applied almost every one of those opportunities to drive change.  All those stories are probably why I started this blog.

If you’re looking for someone to coach you through starting your learning journey, I’m here to help.  Keep checking back for more.  Or, post a comment and I’ll do what I can.

Why not try? What have you got to lose?

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5 thoughts on “Stop waiting. Start learning.

  • January 19, 2010 at 9:42 am
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    I very much agree April. There is no reason to wait. Within the last couple years I have become a true believer in the value of becoming a life-long learner. I’m usually taking one or two classes a semester and when I’m not doing that, I like to read. My #1 strength is intellect, so it isn’t a surprise that I like to learn. However, I think most people will find value in learning something new. It’s a great way to “sharpen the saw.”

  • January 19, 2010 at 10:39 am
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    April, I’ve found getting past ‘No’ in step 4 is to simply assume the person speaking doesn’t know the right answer. Often times the ‘no’ comes form unintended ignorance.
    Pat

  • January 20, 2010 at 9:50 pm
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    You forgot Step 6: Read Engine for Change blog!

    Seriously though, finding good blogs can be a great way to get a handle on unfamiliar concepts in a short amount of time. The trick is finding the ones that add value for the time you spend reading them. But if you have an Input strength, that could be half the fun!

  • January 23, 2010 at 7:25 am
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    Amazing how you just crawled inside my head and pulled out a concept that has been driving and guiding me for years. You never know about the possibilities unless you personally ask questions or take the initiative to seek out knowledge, educational opportunities and or leadership experiences. For me if I am not learning, at home or in my job no matter if it is as a waitress, manager or CEO, if I am not learning and seeking out new opportunities I am unhappy and unfulfiled. It’s about creating a culture of learning where individuals are engaged and actively involved in making themselves better, personally and professionally by driving their own learning agenda.

    Great blog April. I am looking for more inspired posts!

  • Pingback: A Guide to Breaking All the Rules « Engine For Change

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