“The secret of a successful man is he always sees himself as a student who learns from other people.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Being a student is more than just being in class, taking tests, and making good grades. It’s about constantly learning and challenging yourself and continually learning from the world.
Many successful individuals are outstanding because they always view themselves as students. Living life as a student, always learning, proposing new ideas, and asking others for their opinion and advice; can give you great ideas to implement in your life.
The physicist, John Wheeler, once observed: “As our island of knowledge grows, so does the shore of our ignorance.” Each victory and advancement that makes you smarter also presents you with new situations you’ve never encountered before. In other words, the more you learn, the more you realize you know very little.
The nine-time Grammy– and Pulitzer Prize-winning jazz musician Wynton Marsalis once advised a promising young musician on the mindset to cultivate to succeed: “The humble improve because they consistently observe and listen. They don’t assume, ‘I know the way.’ No matter what you’ve done up to this point, still be a student. If you’re not still learning, you’re already dying.”
It is not enough only to be a student at the beginning. It is a position that one must assume for life. Learn from everyone and everything. At every step in life, there is the opportunity to learn. When starting a new project, sometimes it’s good to start from scratch — to focus on all there is left to learn and all the room we have left to improve. As UFC champion and MMA pioneer Frank Shamrock said, “Always stay a student.”
How can you continue to stay a student? Pick up a book on a topic you know next to nothing about. Put yourself in rooms where you’re the least knowledgeable person. Change your surroundings and you might just learn something new.
No matter what you do in life, whether you’re a college student, freelancer, entrepreneur, whether you work in marketing, sales, operations, or customer success, you can begin to be a student of it. Look around you and see what can change. Maybe there’s a better way to accomplish your goals, or maybe there’s an efficiency to be gained by improving a process. Maybe the way things have been done forever shouldn’t be done the same way anymore. Be open to change.
Here are 5 tips to becoming a more effective life long learner.
1. Turn Mistakes into Opportunities
Mistakes are an opportunity of introspection and self-assessment. Every mistake has some hidden lessons to learn from. Whenever you make mistakes, try to find out where you went wrong and what lesson you have to learn to enhance your wisdom. When you apply the wisdom gained through making mistakes it becomes a positive experience in your life and that in turn paves the way to be successful in your life.
Mistakes are not obstacles unless you become the victim of negative thinking. To be successful in your life, think of your mistakes as a learning experience and an opportunity for growth.
2. Try New Things Regularly
Trying new things not only keeps your brain sharp but also feeds the growth mindset. When you broaden your perspective, you start to realize there’s far more left to learn about the world than you ever imagined. There are countless reasons to try new things in your life. Trying something new doesn’t mean that you have to risk life and limb. As an example: try tea instead of coffee. Bike to work instead of drive. Go hiking instead of watching television. Travel to new places. Order something new off of the menu at your local restaurant. When you try new things, you’ll realize that new experiences are life-changing. Trying new things can even help you find a job. You might meet more people or find a way to connect with a job interviewer. So try new things and realize how it can positively impact your life.
3. Choose a Career That Encourages Learning
Pick a career that encourages continual learning. Most professional roles include some degree of learning whether it’s on the job training, workshops, or other educational encouragement. If you are in a job that doesn’t have much intellectual freedom, consider switching to one that does. Don’t spend forty hours of your week in a job that doesn’t challenge you. Pursuing a career in an evolving area will ensure you are constantly learning and developing your skills.
4. Keep a to-learn List & Set Goals
Keep a list of things you want to learn. You may want to learn a new language or skill—whatever motivates you, write it down. If you set goals for learning, you’re much more likely to accomplish them. Whatever it is you want to learn, write it down on your “to learn list” and check it off as you go.
To keep growing, you need to clearly define your goals. Smart goal setting is one of the tools to ensure constant growth.
Research showed that precise and ambitious goals increase the performance of an individual. As we already agreed, life long learners are people who care about their performance, hence they never stop improving. Developing a list of goals and what you want to learn is an excellent way to decide what the best option to start on first is.
5. Build Hobbies and Projects
It’s a great idea to be in the habit of keeping up with your hobbies and projects. Life can get busy and it’s easy to forget about the hobbies you enjoy. If you enjoy painting, being outdoors, or even reading, do your best to be intentional about keeping up your hobbies. It seems like a simple idea, but the truth is, projects and hobbies can easily slip away from us when we’re not looking. Sure, you can learn some things by watching your favorite TV show nightly after work, but what if you also pick up painting or read an interesting book every other morning?
The talented manager and business thinker Peter Drucker says it’s not enough simply to want to learn. As people progress, they must also understand how they learn and then set up processes to facilitate this continual education.
Otherwise, we are selling ourselves — and our careers — dreadfully short. Want to read more about professional growth? Check out the Meratas blog!