Lifelong Learning and Career Success

Lifelong learning is an important key to your career success.  I was speaking with my aunt, Sister Mary Eligia Dworakowski, over the holidays.  She is 91 and in a wheel chair.  As we were finishing our conversation, I asked her what she was planning on doing that afternoon.  She told me that she is studying French and was planning on spending a couple of hours with her tapes.

91 years old and still learning – good for you, Sister.

Tweet 82 in my career success book Success Tweets says, “Learn faster than the world changes.  In a world that never stops changing, you can never stop learning and growing.”  This is true – and important career advice.

In today’s fast paced world, if you don’t keep learning, you’re not standing still, you’re falling behind.  One of my favorite quotes from Gandhi nails it when it comes to lifelong learning…

“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”

He’s right — and it’s not just good career advice, it’s great life advice.  None of us should ever quit learning.  I have a thirst for knowledge and do my best to quench it through learning.  I try to learn something new every day.  Sometimes my learning is trivial, sometimes it is profound.  Regardless, I keep on learning.

On days when I feel as if I haven’t learned anything, I turn to a little book that I have called Live and Learn and Pass It On.  The subtitle is, “People ages 5 to 95 share what they’ve discovered about life, love, and other good stuff.”  I usually find something in there that satisfies my thirst for knowledge.

Here are a few of the learnings in the book that have helped me…

I’ve learned that if you wait until all conditions are perfect before you act, you’ll never act.

I’ve learned that if you want to get promoted, you must do things that get you noticed.

I’ve learned that 90% of what happens in my life is positive and only about 10% is negative.  If I want to be happy I just need to focus on the 90%.

These are little life learnings that I find helpful, and think are some great career advice.

All of the people I know who are committed to lifelong learning have several traits in common.  They all…

…Are humble.  They admit what they don’t know.  This is the first step in learning what they need to know.

…Question the status quo.  They realize that because something is right today, it may not be right tomorrow.  They know that doing things “the way we’ve always done them” is not good reasoning.

…Are intellectually curious.  They truly want to learn and find learning fun, interesting and stimulating.  They see life as a journey in which they are constantly learning.

…Are willing to try new stuff.  They experiment and see what works.  When things work, they use them.

…Are not afraid to fail.  They see failure as an opportunity to learn.  Just as they incorporate what works into their repertoire, they use failures as stepping stones to other experiments.

…Are tolerant of ambiguity.  Learning creates ambiguity.  These people are willing to let go of past ways of doing things in order to come up with new ways of doing things in the future.  The gap between the past and future can make for an uncomfortable present.

…Focus on staying ahead of the pack.  They are early adopters – of new technology and new ways of thinking.  They realize that knowledge has a short half life today.  They keep learning to stay ahead.

The common sense career success coach point here is simple.  If you want to create the life and career success you deserve, you must become a lifelong learner.  Continually expand your knowledge to get out in front of the pack and stay there.  Follow the career advice in Tweet 82 in Success Tweets.  “Learn faster than the world changes.  In a world that never stops changing, you can never stop learning and growing.”  Begin your lifelong learning journey by focusing on your strengths and working to improve them every day.  Building on your strengths is easier that overcoming your weaknesses.  When you build on your strengths you can make incremental improvements.  But on the other hand, if you have a glaring gap in your skills, address it now.  Don’t wait to take necessary quantum leaps. 

What do you need to learn to create the life and career success you want and deserve?  How do you plan on learning it?  As Ben Franklin said, “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”  Follow the example of my 91 year old wheel chair bound aunt, Sister Mary Eligia.  Keep learning as you long as you keep living.  Lifelong learning not only will help you create your career success.  It will help you live a full life.

That’s my take on lifelong learning and career success.  What’s yours?  Please take a minute to leave a comment sharing your thoughts with us.  If you know any people like my aunt – serous lifelong learners – please share their stories.  As always thanks for reading.  I hope that 2011 is your best year yet.


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