Guest Post: Life-Long Learning

Chris Mortenson is a leadership consultant for a Canadian oil and gas company, a retired Air Force officer, and an experienced Toastmaster who lives in Colorado Springs and is pursuing a PhD in Education.

“In times of change, learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.”

Author Eric Hoffer is credited with this quote, and although he passed away in 1983, this statement is probably more true today than it was in his lifetime. It wasn’t so long ago that people would get a job and could expect to do basically the same work using only those skiils for the rest of their working lives. Although it still happens occasionally (my father has worked for the same government agency doing basically the same kind of job for well over 40 years), it is very rare and is getting rarer. Even if we stay in the same job, most of us (including my Dad) will need to learn new skills, adapting to the latest software upgrades for word processing, email, and other functions. In our personal lives we are being offered new service capabilities to figure out, from banking to television to how to make the next phone you buy do at least of few of those “bells and whistles” features you’re paying for.

The only constant is change. We need to continue to change with it. We need to continue to grow and to challenge ourselves to expand beyond what we already can do and expect to need to adapt. Constant change can be very frustrating when you have built up a great knowledge base that is suddenly useless, but that is reality. So when a new capability or technology starts to appear at your workplace or in your home, you have a choice: You can try the crotchety old poop method of complaining and trying to avoid it, or you can try the “curious learner” method and embrace it. You can tell yourself, “I want to master this new thing and become the expert on it,” or you can complain about just one more thing that you have to learn about. By the way, research shows that adults actually learn better than children in part because they have a much better frame of reference. I find adults just complain about having to learn a little more than kids (but not a lot… believe me. I have teenagers).

So when some new technology comes along that looks like it is something you will have to deal with eventually, you might as well put in some time and effort up front to master it, because more than likely you’re going to have to figure it out eventually, and you might as well get the most out of it starting now… until the next thing comes along.

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