Why You Should be a Non – Stop Learning Machine

Webster’s defines learning as “To gain knowledge comprehension or expert by experience or study.”

I have a question that I would like you to consider. The answer has to be very honest. How many books have you read in the last month? The last three months? The last year? To show you that I practice what I preach – I can tell you that I read four books per month, twelve books a quarter and about 48 to 50 books a year. It may not seem like much but in a twenty-year period that is over 800 books! Here is the point- some of that knowledge has to sink into my brain.

Unfortunately, many people in our society once they have graduated from high school or college just quit learning. They say to themselves “no more homework” and “I never have to read another book again!” They are done. Interestingly, commencement doesn’t average “finished” it method “to start.” At some point these people get stagnant and ultimately may lose motivation. Why? They aren’t staying fresh and giving the brain of theirs the old workout.

What is a Learner?

What is a learner? To me a learner is someone who has an incredible thirst for knowledge. I think that learners can be identified by the following activities and characteristics:

oThey read books As a continuous learner, you must read regularly. I have a rule that I have made for myself. During the year I only read books which are non-fiction, mainly “how to” books and books on motivation and success. When I am on vacation or during time off and holidays, I read fictional novels and enjoy the “mind candy” they provide. As a suggestion, you may want to set up a plan for your reading. Decide on how many books you are going to read every month and mark them in your planner. At the end of each month take out the planner (or P.D.A.) and check your progress. Part of your plan should also be to decide on a reading strategy. Decide what areas you need to enhance in and then create a list of books that could possibly help in those areas. If you don’t know of any books on that topic, go to Amazon.com and do a search, or search the computer at your local library by topic.

oThey ask others Ask other people that you know and respect about what books they are reading or have read that have had an impact on them. Write down their suggestion and head to your nearest local bookstore.

One of the barriers to reading a large amount of books, is the fact that they are just so darned expensive. There are some creative ways around that:

oBudget for it I am sure that you budget for other items- it would be reasonable to budget for your own self improvement.

oGet a library card Most towns have a local library where books can be checked out, for little or no cost. You will then have the ability to check out books by the dozen.

oWatch for sales My local “big chain” bookstore has a whole “bargain book area”, where books can be bought for amazingly low prices.

oFind your local used book store Most communities have a local used book store, In my area there are two great used book stores and I can buy 5-6 books for the price of one new hardcover. One other bonus these stores have, character that the big book chain store can’t create.

oFlea Markets and Thrift Shops I have found many great titles for my library at Flea Markets and thrift shops. I have bought many typical books for ridiculously low prices.

oBuying Online There are several great web sites where you can buy books. Sites like Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble.com are easy to use and the best characterize are their search capabilities. You can search for books by subject, title and author. Lastly the prices are fairly competitive and shipping is fairly quick.

We have determined that learners read, but there are other activities that learners embrace on a regular basis:

o They Search the Net You can use the Internet as a source of information and research. By using many of the search engines and meta-search engines, you can locate tons of valuable information on the net. The Net is an amazing mix of websites, research, magazine articles, and commercial sets that you can subscribe to for a fee. The only frustration that I have found with the Net, is knowing exactly where to find the information. Because of the overwhelming amount of information, it makes sense to learn how to search the web as efficiently as possible. There are many great books on the market, which teach you Internet search strategies. For example the way a topic is entered on a search engine can change the results. The topic with quotation marks around it can change the results from the search, with no quotation marks. The rules are different with each search engine. Crazy isn’t it?

oAsk Questions I want you to think of A.S.K. Ask So you will Know. When a subject comes up and you don’t understand something, ask! I have worked with many people in the world who will not ask a question and will pretend that they know. The only way that you can get smarter is by seeking out information, which you do not understand. Seek out S.M.E.’s (subject matter experts) and tap into their skill. My uncle, Scott Camp is the consummate “asker.” He is always asking questions. We don’t see each other often, but when we do he wants to know what is going on in my life and work. When I tell him about my work and life, he then asks tons of questions. He is a human sponge who soaks up information at a rapid rate, and he is very smart. Why? Because he is a non-stop continuous learning machine. He understands that the more questions he asks, the more he will learn.

oRead Periodicals and Magazines Continuous learners subscribe to and read many different magazines every month, on many different topics. I highly recommend reading the magazines of your industry, magazines about business and magazines that are about success and motivation. I also would encourage you to read magazines that relate to topics that are hobbies, or you are passionate about. You should be reading about what cutting edge companies are doing and what leading thinkers are thinking about. Reading about other people’s success stories is very uplifting and motivating because when you read about people like you who have achieved amazing things, it proves the belief that anything is possible. You will read it and then say to yourself, “If they can do that why can’t I?”

oWatch Videos/CD ROM’s I don’t think there are many topics obtainable that don’t have CD/ROM’s, that can help you learn about a topic or already gain new skills. For example if you want to learn how to kind or already how to kind faster, there are many computer programs and CD/ROM’s that are on the market. These programs work well because they allow you to practice and already give you feedback. I hear people say at times “well I couldn’t do that I don’t know how to …” well come on wake up world! If you don’t know LEARN NOW. You cannot allow the limitations of the knowledge you have now to stand in your way.

oListen to tapes Every year in our country, people excursion thousands of miles, literally hundreds of hours and they listen to the radio. I have a question. How much will you learn by listening to one hundred hours of your favorite radio “shock jock”? I would say not much. I also think radio won’t help you get motivated, or stay motivated because radio can be the opposite; negative, average spirited, and depressing. The old garbage in, garbage out, formula applies. As much as your local morning DJ is entertaining, in my opinion you are wasting precious learning time. Decide what topics you want to learn about and find audiotapes on that topic. Some people have referred to their cars as their “rolling classroom.” There are many different types of audiotapes. There are “how to” audios, motivational titles featuring well known speakers and biographies, just to name a few categories. Maximize your time by taking advantage of your driving time.

oSeminars There are many great companies that travel around the country. They conduct one, two, and three day seminars. Keep an eye out for these seminars as they are offered publicly. The seminars are generally high quality and reasonable in price.

oTraining Programs Many corporations and organizations offer training programs as part of employee development. If your company offers training, sign up for as many courses as you can. In general these programs are well developed, tested and are conducted by training professionals. Take advantage of these great programs.

oEmployee Education Assistance Many corporations also offer educational benefits for employees. These programs often offer reimbursement for educational courses and often will pay for a percentage up to 100%. Find out if your employer offers this assistance.

oCommunity Schools There are many schools in various communities that offer many non degree classes. They have a great variety of classes in many subjects. Find out what is offered in your town and find out how to enroll. The other advantage of these kinds of programs, is that they are often very inexpensive.

Why You Should Keep Learning

The bottom line is that the world is going by rapid change and you should be willing to reinvent yourself every year. Because the world will not stay the same, you can’t stay the same.

Let’s take the example of Warren Sapp, a defensive lineman for the world champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In the 2002 season, Warren Sapp was the sharpest that he had ever been and helped take his team to the playoffs. The year before Warren had had a bad season, he was trying to figure out why. He studied tapes in the off season and made a determination, that he had gotten “fat and lazy” (his words) and apathetic. He decided that he had to get better. In the off season he dieted, worked out, lost weight, and was in the best shape of his life. If a Pro Bowl quality level player is willing to reinvent himself each year, shouldn’t you?

Every year you have to be a better, faster, smarter version of yourself. Just like new computer software, every year you have to upgrade to a better version of you. You have to be a You 1.0, and then a You 2.0 and then a You 3.0. be willing to upgrade!

Remember if you are not growing you are slowing!

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