February 27, 2018

How to Commit Yourself to a Lifetime of Learning


Article by Karima Mariama-Arthur

Education, experience, and enthusiasm are each spark plugs that work to ignite your success. If you want to build speed and maintain momentum, you’ll need sustainable fuel in the form of lifelong learning. The world is in a state of perpetual evolution, and in order to stay abreast of the latest innovations and understand how to leverage them effectively, you must strive to continually expand your knowledge base. Show me any successful person, and I’ll show you someone who continually looks for ways to incorporate new knowledge and its application into all that they do.

Consider the following strategies for cultivating your desire for knowledge and turning it into success.

Step 1: Read Challenging Material

Expanding your knowledge base doesn’t simply mean consuming more information. Rather, it is all about adding value. To enhance your understanding of your field, it’s important to seek out new, high-quality sources of information that inspire you to work outside your comfort zone. Reading challenging material is one important way to accomplish this aim. Entrepreneur and renowned life coach Tony Robbins says he has read more than 10,000 books in his life. He constantly expands his understanding with high-caliber daily reading.

While you might have to do some digging to find sources that are relevant to your fields, thought-provoking, and useful, you will be glad you did. Start your research with a leading expert in your field. What have they written? What do they recommend reading? Who are their colleagues, and what have they written? Make it a point to read four or five good articles every week and finish at least one stimulating book a month.

You should also avoid the confirmation bias trap. If there are contrasting viewpoints on any topic you’re studying – and there usually are – read all the viewpoints and understand where the points of contention are. Contrarian thought is not a bad thing.

After you’ve read something insightful, choose a key takeaway that you can immediately apply to your life. If you can’t turn theory into practice, you’re probably not reading the right materials.

Step 2: Seek Constructive Feedback

Besides making reading a habit, you should also regularly seek feedback from people who will offer you honest but constructive criticism. Learning isn’t only about what you take in from the typical sources, especially the sources you seek of your own volition. Learning is also about getting objective feedback that can help you discover blind spots and missteps you may be unable to perceive on your own.

The goal is always to become smarter and better, so your focus should be on sharpening your acumen by using all available sources.

In an article for Cambridge University Press, Bob Dignen explains the importance of feedback this way: “Working internationally, which often entails working with high levels of cultural diversity, business complexity, and within virtual teams, means we are likely to get things wrong from time to time. We will assume things incorrectly. We will communicate in ways which are confusing and possibly impolite for others. The only way to make sure we don’t continue making the same mistakes is to get feedback.”

Getting quality feedback should be high on your list of priorities. Insights gained through the fresh perspectives of others can influence brand credibility and impact your overall success.

Is feedback always easy to accept? Of course not. A third-party examination of your shortcomings can be a hard pill to swallow. No matter. That detail doesn’t change the fact that it is necessary to maximize your success. Decide in advance to develop thick skin, and welcome constructive feedback from credible sources with open arms.

Step 3: Learn So You Can Teach Others

Acquiring new knowledge and applying it to your life will help you achieve the goals you set out for yourself, and it will also help others realize their own potential as well. Your achievements will hardly go unnoticed by those around you, and when they ask you about the secrets of your success, you can direct them to the resources that have helped you. Share that knowledge openly. Don’t think of the people around you as competitors who might be gunning for your job, your clients, or your fame; think of them as potential allies who can spread wealth throughout the knowledge pipeline. Be the rising tide that lifts all boats.

Richard Rusczyk notes that teaching others also removes the possibility of self-deceit, meaning that the best evidence of your own understanding is your ability to competently convey that knowledge to someone else: “Teaching also forces you to communicate your thoughts clearly and precisely. … [H]owever, being heard is not enough. You must also be understood. Your ideas will never be more effective than your ability to make others comprehend them.”

If you think about it, there are probably many teachers – both formal and informal – who have helped you get to where you are today. While it may seem cliché, it’s also true that to whom much is given, much is required. Never miss an opportunity to share your knowledge with others.

If you aspire to be a lifelong learner who is motivated by not only your own success, but also by helping others, your goal should be to create a dynamic ecosystem that fosters continual learning and growth. Your curiosity and thirst for knowledge will inevitably inspire others, so be mindful of your purpose as you move forward in your personal journey. Sit down with a good book as often as possible, seek needed feedback, and pass your lessons around when you’re done. The world is an unfathomable reservoir of knowledge. It is up to us to root it out.

A version of this article originally appeared on SUCCESS.com.

As the founder and CEO of WordSmithRapport, Karima Mariama-Arthur brings more than two decades of comprehensive, blue chip experience in law, business, and academia to the field of professional development. A leading authority in cutting-edge adult education, Karima is distinguished by her commitment to excellence and extraordinary talent for elevating executive brands. As an expert facilitator, executive communications consultant, and strategic leadership advisor, she trains, coaches, and consults individuals and organizations on the dynamics of complex communication and high performance leadership competence.

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