“If you will spend one extra hour each day in learning in your chosen field then you will be a National Expert in that field in 5 years or less.” Earl Nightingale

How much of your day is devoted to intentional learning? Note that I specified intentional learning.

Every day we each become obsolete in some ways. Something we were just certain was true has ceased to be true as of now. We used to think that gasoline in America was relatively cheap. We used to believe that the best way to teach was to present information in a classroom. We used to think that nobody could run a mile in under four minutes. We thought that 60 was old and that people should retire at 65.

We thought selling was done best through persuasion rather than collaboration. We once thought that children “should be seen and not heard.” Our ancestors even believed that the Earth was the center of the Universe and the Sun revolved around us. We used to believe that we could get by without learning how to use a computer and that the Internet was just for geeks. It goes on and on.

Most adults were trained to live in and deal with the Industrial Era. We believed that organizations were machines and behaved accordingly. Then we discovered that an organization is an organism of living beings and it behaves more like a plant or a person than like a machine. That changed the way we sell, manage, organize and plan. In the

Industrial Era, we were taught that Physics was the right discipline to apply to business, then we discovered that Biology was a much better guide. In Biology you begin with the assumption of an ecosystem and the interdependency of all the participants within it. In fact we live in an Organic Era. We now understand that the Earth and everything within it is alive.

So, enough theory, let’s get down to behaviors. Who is in charge of your continuing education? That’s right, you are. As a child, others were in charge of your learning. They chose the curriculum, presented the lessons, scheduled the tests and gave you grades. But today you are in charge. You have the freedom and the responsibility to select what, when and how you will learn. In fact, you even determine your grades by how well you apply what you learn.

In a typical day you are surrounded by information. In fact you are bombarded by it. There is the radio, television, highway signage, internet sources, podcasts, websites, emails, text messages, alerts, and then there is “snail mail”, the old reliable paper based data. You also have books, e-books, DVDs, CDs and a zillion other forms of data competing for your attention. But what do you learn?

You learn what you attend to. If you scan five newspapers but don’t pause to reflect on anything you’ve read, you won’t learn much. Likewise a full day of TV viewing won’t necessarily enlighten you at all. Only when you focus on a message and then think about it do you truly begin to learn.

“Without reflection there is no true learning.” Kevin Buck

The vast majority of people do not learn intentionally most of the time. They accumulate knowledge but that’s about it. It’s kind of like being able to quote Scripture but having no idea what it means.

That is why it is so easy to get ahead in this world. Really. It is relatively easy, when you are intentional about it. All you have to do is devote a portion of each day to focused and conscious learning. By adding learning to your breakfast time, your drive time, your workout time, your dialogue with others and your relaxing time you will vastly increase your chances of success.

Here are some simple ways to begin introducing learning into the niches of your day.

1. Start your day in silent reflection on your goals. What matters most to you? How is your current behavior guiding you toward it? What do you need to know and do to reach your Desired Outcomes?

2. Be selective in your listening. Choose radio stations, podcasts, music and other media that will advance you rather than only entertaining you. Seek new knowledge and insights.

3. Listen beyond the obvious. If listening to music, notice more; notice the beat, the instruments, the meanings of the lyrics, the vocal techniques, and the metaphors. If listening to a commentator notice his or her point of view, question their sources, ask why this matters. Challenge yourself to be a more active listener.

4. Load your iPod or digital player with books on tape and podcasts in addition to entertainment. Entertainment is valuable and has its place but there must be room for inspiration and education as well.

5. Choose a subject to master. Decide now that you will learn a new topic or skill. Set a time goal and build the learning into your drive time and workouts. In a matter of weeks you can learn a new language or master a subject. Study history, philosophy, interpersonal skills, business strategy, financial mastery, or whatever you can benefit from.

6. Make the learning organic. Build it into your existing routines so that you don’t have to change your lifestyle in order to improve your life. Make it easy for yourself. “Ride the horse in the direction it is going, and then guide it gently to where you want it to go.”

7. Cultivate interesting discussions with friends and colleagues. I started hosting a series of Parlor Discussions to involve my friends in meaningful dialogue. We talk about whatever topics we wish but we really dig deeply into them. I’ve invited guests to join our discussions as we explore; psychology, philosophy, business, relationships, interpersonal issues, music, humor and more. Find ways to use this concept in your own world.

8. Seek out learners. Get around people who are constantly growing and improving. Connect with people who are ahead of you and still growing. Learners love spending time with other learners.

For more on this drop me a line, I’m happy to help you grow. And please let me know what you have done to include more learning in your life.

Copyright 2011 Jim Cathcart

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