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The hard truth by 'Z': How's your learning curve?

The lessons never stop coming unless you ignore them

by on
in Leaders & Managers,Management Training

Good teachers say they’re always learning from their students. Millionaire salespeople say they’re still discovering how to sell after 30 years. Grizzled CEOs—the best ones—say they’re constantly learning from their employees and customers.

I buy that.

I’ve never stopped learning. It’s a big reason I got this far.

I’ve never claimed to know more than I did. Early on, I’d pick the brains of folks who knew their game. One was a number-crunching consultant who taught me to read spreadsheets. I never worried about asking dumb questions.

Apply it now

When you learn something new, go beyond saying “How interesting” and filing it away. Integrate it somehow into your thought process. Apply it. Otherwise, it will fade over time.

For example, a new hire told me about open-book management principles that his old firm embraced. I wasn’t sure how it worked, so I had him explain the steps. I decided that unless I put at least some of these ideas into practice, pronto, I’d forget the whole thing.

Knowledge alone is nice, but it doesn’t produce results. It’s only when you harness it that your learning pays dividends.

If you learn something new but it seems hard to apply, don’t let it pass. Experiment with it in small doses. Whenever clients mention emerging trends in their businesses, I rush off to research these issues on my own. I want to know how markets will change before they change, and the only way to do that is to pounce on any strands of information that I can capture.

Write it down

My high school biology teacher would pause just after he’d tell us something important. Then he’d say, “Write that down.”

The act of writing reinforces what you learn. It sinks in deeper when you force yourself to commit a fact or insight to paper.

I carry a little notepad in my pocket. Whenever anyone cites figures, mentions people I should know or asks a good question I can’t answer, I reach for my pad. When I’m in an elevator or waiting in line somewhere, I’ll review what I’ve written lately. I may decide I need to confirm a fact I’ve heard or find an answer to a question and get back to the person who asked it.

Prove yourself wrong

You know you’re still learning if you find yourself saying, “Wow, I was wrong about that.” Every so often, your preconceived notions and long-held beliefs should be shaken.

Open your mind to new information. If it bumps against “the truth,” reassess what you view as reality. Don’t assume the hard-and-fast rules you learned a few years ago still hold true. Acknowledging change, rather than resisting it, can help free your mind to embrace new ideas. Admitting you’re wrong is a sure sign you’re on the right track.

“Z” offers insights into what it really takes to get ahead. This 25-year veteran of the corporate battlefield has climbed the ranks to head a $100 million information services company. We have agreed to protect Z’s identity in return for his promise to hold nothing back.

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