It is said that the most important investment in your life is the investment you make in educating yourself. Formal education is no doubt essential. However, US labor statistics indicate that around 43% of people do not end up working in their field of education. Formal education teaches you specific labor market-related skills, and these skills are fundamental for you to land a job. Professor Hanushek from Stanford University presented an interesting analysis of employment opportunities by age and education type. His analysis indicates that if you learn a specific set of skills through formal education, that has an 80% probability of landing a job. But what happens towards the mid and later stages of the career of such people if they do not work on learning broader competencies is that they are less likely to stay employed or grow in their careers. So the point to get that competitive advantage, one has to continuously learn and master the art of continuous learning to develop broader competence.
Sustainable competitive advantage depends on constantly seeking opportunities to build broader competence, work on building relationships, seek information, make sense of observations, and share ideas through intelligent use of new technologies, and all of this requires continuous learning.
Listed below are a few steps to help you become a continuous learner.
Step # 1: Seek new challenges
This will give you new experiences and learning opportunities. The first step to seeking new challenges is understanding and becoming familiar with the principles of that new thing you are about to learn. Principles don’t change; they remain constant over time. By understanding the principles, it will become easy to learn what you are trying to learn, and you will be able to overcome the challenges you are dealing with.
Develop your own rituals to set aside time and dedicate a space for learning. Also, bear in mind that repetition is a key to learning. Repetition leads to commitment to learn, which in turn leads to long-term memory. Consequently, once the learning is embedded in your long-term memory, the next thing that happens is you achieve mastery.
Habit # 2: Humble self-reflection
Take some time to think about what you have learned and assess how much you have learned. Studies in Neurocognitive science show that information is very quickly lost if you don’t review it often enough. This self-reflection will give you an understanding of how much you have retained from what you have learned. It is a process based on critical thinking where we weave together our thoughts, experiences, impressions, and feeling to make meaning out of them.
Another good way to test how much you have retained is to teach the subject to someone else. By teaching, you are making sure you are imparting complete information, and you can go into the depth of what you have learned as you will have to simplify it for the person you are teaching. This will lead you to go to the Beginner’s mindset and ensure you have a more detailed understanding of the knowledge you have gained. Some other ways to reinforce learning are by writing a blog post or noting down ideas that you have contextualized.
Habit # 3: Solicit feedback
Talk to the experts who already have this knowledge and ask them for feedback on how you are doing on the things you have learned. While doing so, ask them to be brutally honest with you and take the feedback constructively. By doing so, you can identify gaps and ask them for support on how they have overcome their gaps so that you can adopt the same. By mirroring what they have done, you can achieve the same success. What matters today is being inducted into a wise network of trusted individuals who can help us filter helpful information, expose blind spots, and help us navigate our way.
Habit # 4: Careful Listening
This is an essential skill. Practice careful listening when talking to experts who can give you advice, guidance, and feedback. Take keen note of the insights they provide you with the gaps in knowledge that you might have. Their viewpoints or suggestions may conflict with yours, but practice paying attention and listening nonetheless because you may be missing opportunities to improve if you focus on areas of disagreement. Instead, it is better to focus on a different view and why they have this viewpoint and ask questions that will help you build your connection with them, build a relationship with them, and improve your learning technique. Exchange resources, ideas, and experiences and collaborate with your colleagues within your network. This helps build respect and trust by being relevant.
Habit # 5: Embrace curiosity
A curious mind is a receptacle to learning, and one way to do that is to read widely and read often. Develop reading other ways that suit you, whether it is online videos, blogs, etc. but make it a part of your daily schedule. Bite-size reading for about 8-10 pages a day can make you read 18-20 books a year on average. That would mean a large amount of knowledge and insight. As we grow from a child to an adult, we lose the skills of inquisitiveness, which is to refrain from asking questions and curiosity. But remember, when you ask a different question, you get a different outcome as well. It is said that the quality of life you have also depends on the quality of questions that you ask. Embrace being inquisitive and continue the learning.
Sabeeh can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org