Learning and Career Success

The July issue of SUCCESS Magazine is out.  As usual, it is filled with some great life and career success advice.  If you’re not already a SUCCESS subscriber, I suggest you go to http://www.success.com and do so as soon as you finish reading this post.

I was struck by an article in this month’s SUCCESS about Jenni Flinders, VP of Microsoft’s US Partner Group.  The article begins with some great career advice…“Jenni Flinders believes in being a learner, not a knower.”

Tweet 81 in Success Tweets, my career advice book says, “Become a lifelong learner.  The half-life of knowledge is rapidly diminishing.  Staying in the same place is the same as going backwards.”  Tweet 82 says, “Learn faster than the world changes.  In a world that never stops changing, you can never stop learning and growing.”

Ms. Flinders offers three tips on becoming a learner…

  1. Listen.  Don’t assume you already know the answer.  Every idea has merit and deserves to be heard.
  2. Open your mind – to new ideas, people and cultures, and you’ll find new solutions.  Encourage collaboration and nurture innovation.
  3. Be a mentor.  You aren’t just imparting knowledge and experience – you’re gaining it too.

This is great common sense career advice, presently simply.

Let’s look at each of these common sense ideas in a little detail.

Listening is the best way to learn.  I always tell my career success coach clients to listen hardest when their initial reaction to what someone says is, “that’ the craziest thing I’ve even heard.”  You’re most likely to learn something in this situation.

Tweet 109 in Success Tweets says, “Use the 2/3 – 1/3 rule. Listen two thirds of the time; speak one third of the time.  Focus your complete attention on the other person.”  You’ll learn something by listening to understand.  I have three bits of advice for becoming a learner by being a good listener.  1) Ask lots of questions; 2) Pay attention to what the other person is saying; 3) Ask clarifying questions to make sure you understand.

Open your mind. Tweet 124 in Success Tweets says, “Everyone has something to offer.  Never dismiss anyone out of hand.”  It’s easy to dismiss people whose ideas are different from your own – especially if they are from a different culture, race, gender or religion.  Ms. Flinders is right when she points out that different perspectives lead to innovation.

Successful people have a deep respect for the dignity of each individual.  It doesn’t matter if the person in front of you is the President of the United States, your boss, a co-worker, a taxi driver, a security guard or the housekeeper at your hotel.

Cathy, my wife, is the best example of someone who values every person she meets.  She is friends with everyone – the pharmacy techs where we get our prescriptions, the couple who own the dry cleaners where we do business, the supermarket checkout people and baggers, the servers at the restaurants we frequent, and on and on and on.

Cathy is genuinely interested in these people.  She knows their names, their spouses’ names and their kids’ names.  She inquires about their lives.  She knows about their vacations, what grades their kids are in school and lots of other things about them – all because she values them as individuals and takes the time to get to know them.  She is one of the least judgmental people I know.

If you want to create the life and career success you deserve, take a lesson from Cathy.  Pay attention to the people around you.  You will learn a lot and your life will be richer for it.  Don’t judge people by what they do.  Get to know others as individuals.  You’ll be surprised at what you learn.

Mentoring. Ms. Flinders right again.  Just as it’s important to find someone you respect to mentor you, it also important to mentor others.  You don’t have to be in a formal leadership position or have years and years of experience to mentor someone else.  It’s never too early to become a mentor.  We all have something to give, and the sooner you begin giving, the better.  If you’re in college, you can mentor high school students.  If you’re a recent graduate, you can mentor others still in school.

I take great joy in mentoring other people.  I love it when I can use my experience to help accelerate the growth of someone else.  It takes the sting out of some of the negative consequences I’ve experienced because of poor judgment.  I think to myself, “At least he or she won’t have to go through that.”

I’m participating in the Women’s Vision Mentor Walk here in Denver tomorrow.  I love the concept.  I’ll be paired up with two or three people and will stroll around Denver’s City Park talking life and career success.  The summer weather in Denver is beautiful.  The flowers are in full bloom in the park — what a great way to start my Saturday.

In his great book, Love is the Killer App, Tim Sanders tells the story of how he turned one of the people who worked for him from a “mad dog” into a “lovecat.”  The advice is simple: “Offer your wisdom freely… And always be human.”

Tim is right on.  Mentoring is a great way to become a lovecat by serving others.  The more you serve others, the more confidence – and career success – will come your way.  Besides that, you’ll grow by mentoring.  As you reflect on your life experiences and distill them into some nuggets that you can share with others, your knowledge will become wisdom.  In addition to being better able to help others learn and grow, you will be better able to take advantage of what you know.  You never learn something so completely as when you teach it to another person.

The career success coach point here is simple common sense.  As Jenni Flinders of Microsoft points out, you can enhance your life and career success by becoming a learner.  She suggests three simple ideas for becoming a learner. 1) Listen.  Don’t assume you already know the answer.  Every idea has merit and deserves to be heard. 2) Open your mind – to new ideas, people and cultures, and you’ll find new solutions.  Encourage collaboration and nurture innovation.  3) Be a mentor.  You aren’t just imparting knowledge and experience – you’re gaining it too.  Follow these simple ideas and you’ll learn all sorts of interesting things that will help you create the life and career success you want and deserve.

That’s my career advice on learning for career success.  What do you think?  Please take a minute to share your thoughts with us in a comment.  As always thanks for reading my daily musings on life and career success.  I value you and I appreciate you.


PS: If you haven’t already done so, you can download a free copy of my latest career success book Success Tweets Explained.  It’s a whopping 390 + pages of career advice explaining each of the common sense tweets in Success Tweets in detail.  Go to http://budurl.com/STExp to claim your free copy.  You’ll also start receiving my daily life and career success quotes.

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