You have to keep learning

I love to learn and I can think back to my learning experiences with great joy in most cases.  One of the most important things I have learned about learning is that most learning takes place in non-classroom situations.  Ironically, I learned this tidbit of data while in a classroom at Peabody College of Vanderbilt University in either 1995 or 1996 while completing a Masters Degree in Human Resource Development.  Malcolm Knowles, known as the “Father of Adult Learning” had done substantial research on how people learn and one of the summaries of his research is shown below:

I completed that degree in 1996 and have kept on learning since then, with most of this learning taking place in real-life work situations where the context of the situation gave grounding to the knowledge and information I was gaining.

I’ll share a few of my most pertinent, if not painful, learning experiences below so you can gain a better understanding of how we learn outside of the classroom:

  • In 1983 I learned that what may first appear to be a bad break can be a good break.  This occurred when I was laid off from my first job.  By being out of work this allowed me to spend the last 8 days of my father’s life by his side.  Even though there was no income coming in, the experience to be with my father is one I still cherish to this day.
  • In 1987 I learned that not everything I hear needs to be repeated, and it may not even be true.  This occurred when I heard that one of my co-workers was about to be laid off during a downsizing.  I approached her to express my sorrow, and she looked very surprised to hear that she would be losing her job.  About 15 minutes later her boss paid me a visit and instructed me to keep my mouth shut when I heard rumors that may be unsubstantiated.  A painful, yet valuable, experience was gained that day.  I have never forgotten this, although I still can have a big mouth.
  • From 1990 through 1996 I learned that perseverance is a good habit to gain.  This was learned while I was first a volunteer, and then an employee, of the YMCA in the Nashville, TN area.  I helped form a group that ultimately resulted in the formation of a new YMCA in a community that had a tremendous need for this kind of enterprise.  I am proud to say today that this YMCA continues to flourish, and it makes me smile to meet other volunteers and staff members who have been involved and been changed by the presence of the Y in that community.
  • From 2006 until now I am learning that there is value in taking risks.  This began when I gave up my paying job with tremendous benefits to enter the search and consulting world.  There was great security in the role I left, but my passion was to help organizations find and develop individuals to help them grow and flourish.  I also learned that people buy primarily from people, based on trust and integrity.  While I have certainly had my failures during this time, the highs far surpass the lows and I feel that God has continued to bless me in the work I do by putting so many interesting and engaging people in my path, both as colleagues and as clients.

I could go on, but that is enough for today.

I would challenge each of you to reflect on your own life and identify those times when you have learned outside the traditional constraints of the classroom.  I suspect you will gain great insight into who you are and what you value by doing so.