Monday, July 30, 2012

Make Learning a Priority

I am often astounded by the number of people I meet each week whose biggest reason for not being 'where' they want to in their careers, or not having achieved 'what' they want in their lives is a lack of education.  

'My boss won't pay for me to take any courses' they lament.
'Our company doesn't offer tuition reimbursement'
'I can't afford to pay for these programs myself' 

Yes, I agree...  formal education can be expensive.  However, not continuously learning what you need to stay current, if not ahead of the pack, is perhaps the biggest disservice that you can pay to yourself and your career.  It's an easy and ready excuse to blame others for your not continuously learning and exposing yourself to new ideas and concepts, especially when all the 'reason' brings you is the end result of NOT having what you need to succeed.

Continuous Learning is a Key Success Trigger

In today's electronic age, it is easier than ever to access - for FREE - the information, training, programs and tools that you need to learn what you need.  Not accessing it, not reading it, not learning it  - well, the fault rests solely on your shoulders, since the cost issue is truly no longer a barrier.  Of course, the second most common reason I'm given for not learning is that it takes 'time', and time is one of those commodities that everyone seems to have in short supply.

Certainly we all have a myriad number of things vying for our time and attention over the course of each day.  However, you are ultimately the one making the choices about how you choose to allot your time.  If you find that you have little trouble in finding the time to keep up with a number of your favourite shows on television, then you have time available for learning.  You are simply not choosing to do so.

The beautiful thing about learning is that no one can take it away from you.B.B. King
Try out any of the following ideas for increasing your access to new thoughts, messages, skills and learnings.

  1. College Programs.  There are a growing number of Colleges and Universities that are beginning to post free programs on the internet, for all to access.  Even colleges like Harvard and MIT have joined into the mix.  Check out iTumesU for a listing of many you can access or search for Open Curriculums in Google to find a subject and program that interests you.
  2. Blogs.  Given the multitude of blogs on the net it should not be a problem in finding someone who is an expert in an area you are not and follow them.  Let them research the topic for you, condensing it and sharing their insights.  Consider checking into well-known and admired publications for blogs that they offer from respected guest-bloggers (such as Harvard Business Review's blog)
  3. Online Videos.  Video blogging and posting is growing at an exponential rate and is a great way to gain exposure to new concepts and thoughts.  Many are quite short and give you exposure to ways of thinking and insights you might not have otherwise.  Although many might not be in your direct field, it is always interesting to discover how an insight made in one field can create a new awareness in another.  My favourite of course is Ted for interesting talks on topics I might never have learned about otherwise.  You can even search for a talk based on time.  Only have 5 minutes?  Ted can offer you talks that fit that timeframe.  Even Youtube has many educational resources you can tap into.
  4. Podcasts.  Another great resource, also accessible through the itunes library, are podcasts.  Many experts in their field offer a regular podcast on short topical issues and discussions.  Search through the various offerings and check out a couple to follow to keep yourself informed.  Download them to your favourite electronic device and listen on your way to or from work.
  5. Books.  Often overlooked but definitely my favourite resource.  Reading not only expands your mind,  but it also helps to develop your vocabulary and communication skills, helps to train and develop your brain's ability to think and conceptualize ideas. Although you can certainly purchase your books directly, whether in hardprint or in a downloadable format, don't overlook the value of your local library.  My card is well-used.  I will often borrow business books on tape to make use of my commuting time to help keep me well-informed and up-to-date.
“Whatever the cost of our libraries, the price is cheap compared to that of an ignorant nation.” ― Walter Cronkite

With so much information available to us with no cost beyond our investment of time, there are no barriers to continually growing and advancing our knowledge-base.  I guess the only real question to ask then is one we often ask our children over dinner...

What did YOU learn today? 

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