Lifelong learning is one of the three prongs of Blooms to Blossoms purpose. My tagline is “integrating wellness, lifelong learning and personal development.” The fabric of our being is a result of how these threads of our life intertwine. I find it interesting to…
**read how other educators and bloggers weave these life elements together, and
**see how my day to day living link these concepts.
“Weaving involves crossing two threads, the warp and the weft, one
vertical and the other horizontal, one stretched taut and the other
undulating and intertwined with the first. To produce the textile it
is necessary for these two threads to be bound, otherwise each will
remain a fragile and fluttering potentiality…if the meeting of
opposites does not take place, nothing is created, for each element
is defined by its opposite and takes its meaning from it.”
–Dario Valcarenghi, Kilim History and Symbols, as quoted in ZATI The Art of Weaving a Life
Recently my work and my life crossed paths. I came across Tanmay Vora’s blog QAspire. The intent of Vora’s blog is to provide “insights, resources, and visual notes on leadership, learning and change.” Vora published a blog, Mental Habits That Support Lifelong Learning. I share his blog below:
No significant learning happens only through consumption of insights. It happens when we act on what we learn, go through the experience, take risks and then develop insights through the lens of that experience.
Just like organizations need to build right mental models for creating a learning organization, individuals need to build mental habits that enable lifelong learning. After all, as Whitney Johnson puts it, the fundamental unit of change is an individual.
What are these habits? I summarized 20 lessons on lifelong learning in my 2011 post where I emphasized on risk taking, developing commitment, being a part of a learning community, stepping out of your comfort zone, learn from failures, reading, listening and seeking feedback from others on what we do.
Recently, I was re-reading John Kotter’s book “Leading Change” from HBR Press and came across a chapter dedicated to leadership and lifelong learning with a short summary of mental habits that support lifelong learning.
My husband is a business executive with 40 years of progressive experience in all aspects of Aerospace / Defense industry leadership. He is approaching a transition to his “encore career” in the next year or so and has shared his thoughts on leading and learning with me. As with Vora’s blog I find that my husband’s insights also cross boundaries of working, living, and learning.
Who is a Leader?
Tony Robbins defines a leader as a person of influence who uses their knowledge and experience to achieve a vision larger than themselves“. In this context, all of us qualify. How a practitioner exerts this influence determines if it is successful or not.
What are some examples of how a practitioner (you) apply the idea of Robbins definition?
Set a Personal Example. Demonstrate the behaviors you want to encourage in subordinates. Display competence, patience, humility, perseverance, emotional intelligence, compassion, and personal discipline before you call for this conduct from the people you lead.
Praise in Public, Reprimand in Private. No teachable moment remains in the memory of someone who has been humiliated. However, tempting it may be, confine your discipline and criticism of personnel to a room with a closed door. Treat every person with respect, dignity and professionalism and those courtesies will be returned to you.
Embrace Bad News: If you aspire to a leadership position and you dislike receiving bad news, consider a different vocation. No concealed problem was ever solved or prevented from reoccurrence. The people who really know what is going on in the organization must feel safe reporting setbacks. The proverb that problems unlike wine and cheese do not improve with age is true. Confront all problems and brainstorm solutions with your team without recriminations. Look for root causes and eliminate them. Permit failure and risk taking to a degree to encourage innovative thinking. Just do the risk analysis beforehand.
Manage Criticism. Abraham Lincoln was subjected to vicious criticism during his administration. He said: “If I were to read, much less answer all of the attacks made on me, this shop might as well be closed for business. I do the very best I know how, the very best I can, and I mean to keep doing so until the end. If the end brings me out all right, what is said against me won’t amount to anything. If the end brings me out wrong, ten angels swearing I was right would make no difference”. Listen to your critics. Evaluate their words carefully and determine if they have value. Heed any comments that improve your situation. Disregard all that don’t and persevere. Develop personal courage that acknowledges criticism but doesn’t yield to it without good reason.
It’s Not About You, It’s About Them. The higher you rise in an organization, the easier it is to view everyone under you as sources of information, sustenance, and unquestioned loyalty. Just the opposite is true. Whatever your opinion of your personal attributes and capabilities, your team will determine your success or failure. Find the chinks in their wall and fill them. Share knowledge. Serve first, in order to be served.
Vora’s description of lifelong learning and my husband’s description leadership clearly cross boundaries of working, living, and learning. Over the years his employees have shared their thoughts with me. The few comments I share below show a leader who is a risk taker, humble, open to ideas, an information gatherer, and an astute listener.
“Eric is the model friend. In business, when your boss is also your friend, the definition of friend must change. In this case, a friend is someone that brings out the best in you. Eric brings out the best in me. He put me in a job that gets me out front as “point man” where the adventure is.”
“He is a model of integrity. To me the definition of integrity is doing the right thing when no one is watching… doing the right thing when you do not have to and doing the right thing even when it hurts.”
“Eric is the model of kindness and grace. Your friendship, your service and your leadership have made the company and all of us better.”
My point is the skills beneficial to success at work and in life are similar. Creativity, problem solving, critical thinking, communication, leadership, information gathering, curiosity, reflection, etc. are habits of a lifelong learning. Kindness, grace, integrity, and friendship are characteristics of a life well lived.
Wrapping Up & Looking Forward
Lifelong learning provides opportunities to sustain and improve the quality of your life and your life with others. Continual learning not only promotes personal growth, mental and emotional wellbeing, it allows connections with a broader range of people.
“Ancora imparo” (“still I am learning”) often attributed to Michelangelo originates much earlier. “The quote is actually from Seneca’s 76th Letter to Lucilius published in 65AD during the last year of the author’s life when he was almost 70 years old. When one considers the age of the author in this letter advising a younger man it is a startlingly humble and at the same time, a heartening revelation. Learning is both difficult and wonderful. And the discomfort that comes from learning is less welcome as we age. Yet life’s experiences teach us that to stop learning is to stop creating.”