The Secret of All Successful People, “The Habit of Lifelong Learning”

By Greg A. Pestinger

Last month we talked about creating a “growth mindset” and there is no better way to do that than to commit yourself to lifelong learning. With the end of the year fast approaching and millions of young leaders back in school, I thought it only fitting to dedicate this month to continuous learning.

Long gone are the days when we can simply learn a trade or profession and expect those skills to see us through to retirement. Our world today is quickly changing and if we are not moving forward at an accelerated pace then we are falling behind. Our ability to open our minds and find learning in all of our experiences, through traditional means and through our everyday search for meaning and purpose is critical if we are to reach our full potential.

All successful people spend their free time learning. The single most important way to ensure that we are reaching our full potential is to commit ourselves to a lifetime of learning, especially in our chosen field. The great news is that any one of us can apply this secret to our own success. Everyone who today is in the top 10% of their field was once in the bottom 10%, the difference, learning. Learning also helps us position ourselves as experts and in turn we become much better mentors, managers and coaches to others. So, what do we need to do to use lifelong learning to ensure our success?

First, we must have clarity in exactly what we want and set clear goals to achieve it.

Second, we must be curious. What have you always been interested in but never took the time to learn about? Take a look on line, research a topic that interests you. Determine the skills that you will need to achieve your goals.

Third, be honest with yourself. Do an honest assessment of yourself and identify the weaknesses that could get in the way of achieving your goals. What skills will you need to grow and improve? Your weakest key skill sets the height of your income, your success and limits your ability to reach your full potential.

Fourth: Determine the one most important skill that you will need to achieve your most important goal, then tackle that one first. You can make more progress by going to work on the one skill that is holding you back more than any other.

Now that you know the skill that is holding you back, where might you look for learning to help you conquer it? Below are sources that I have found to help me move into the top 10% of my field.

1. Learn from Others:I find this to be one of the most valuable sources of learning. Mentors, coaches, teachers, friends, clients, competitors are all great sources of learning. Observe them, listen to their stories in particular the mistakes and successes they have had over a lifetime. Have an open mind, surround yourself with diverse people that are different than you. Study successful people and learn how they achieved greatness and copy it. Yes, I said do what they did, no reason to reinvent the wheel, if it worked for them is will work for you too.

2. Read Books in Your Field:Turn off your TV and pick up a book. TV is great entertainment when used in moderation but its topline approach to programming does very little for learning. Most everything you see on TV is available online or in a book at a much more detailed level. I get up an hour and half early every morning to read. I have found that this time allows me to digest a book in my field every week. For me that equates to about 54 books a year (the average person reads one book a year) Comparatively reading 54 books over a year’s time is equivalent to achieving a practical advanced degree every two years. That edge makes a big difference in your ability to apply the learning to deliver value to your students and clients.

3. Listen to Podcasts and Audio Programs:Brian Tracy recommends turning off the radio in your car and using the time for learning through audio programs and podcasts. He calls this Auto University. I have also found that listening to podcasts, Ted Talks or other on-line audio programs during workouts helps me perform those workouts better. Both not only replaces the monotony with learning but also inspires you to focus and perform at accelerated levels, making both driving and work outs a lot more enjoyable.

4. Teach Others: This is by far my most favorite and soul filling way to learn. Many of you know that I spend my work and volunteer time coaching, training and mentoring high performing businesses and individuals. Business and individuals that are very good at what they do but know, with a little outside help, that they can be great. What you may not know is that those relationships and the learning that comes through them go both ways. I often find myself leaving our time together better than when I started. I often learn more in our sessions than I teach. The relationships and the learning that comes through them, often vulnerable and transparent discussions, has become the joy of my life. Learning through teaching I have found to be learning that gives back 10X and helps you grow and reach your own potential as well.

5. Take a Class or Seminars:Take a university course, learn a trade or get that degree you have always wanted. Attend as many conferences, workshops and in person events as you can. Nothing is more impactful than hearing from a person who is an expert in their field. It also allows you to have discussions with people who have similar interests in the same field of study you have interest in. I have found this dialogue to produce learning that is greater than the sum of its parts. Learning that often leads to more questions that in turn leads to more learning.

6. Have a Growth Mindset, Learn from Yourself:Be positive and look at your life as a learning lab. Push yourself to places you have never allowed yourself to go before. Face and find ways to overcome your fear, the fear that makes you uncomfortable, push through it and you will be surprised what you find on the other side. The learning in and of itself is unimaginable, the learning about yourself and your capabilities to overcome is priceless. Learn from yourself, take chances, makes mistakes, learn, adjust and move on.

Finally, Learning, actually the application of learning, must always lead to action to realize your success. In the spirit of Kaizen, continuous and never-ending improvements often occurs in small improvements that eventually lead to big changes over time. It’s in these changes and the additional learning that comes from them that truly impacts your life in a significant way.

Well there you have it, a life of continues learning that will take you places you never imagined possible. Places full of possibility, new ideas and creative ways to apply them. Places where you will find yourself making a difference and in turn cementing your place in the top 10% of your field.

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