I originally titled this post "The Push to Always Be Learning" but thought that was too specific. Plus, as it turns out, I already wrote a post titled that a few years ago.
While reading Disrupted a few weeks ago, I was constantly being reminded on the importance of not getting too comfortable. I don't accuse the author of that at all. After all, he was a veteran news desk guy working at a tech startup. However, the future (aka our career paths) aren't always a straight and predictable trajectory.
Things always happen that are out of our control. There's really no such thing as a "safe" career path anymore. We aren't guaranteed the next day. It's kind of scary if you spend too much time thinking about it. Change happens so quickly now in so many industries that you don't have to become all that complacent to quickly become irrelevant.
Rapid Change: Fight It or Prepare for It
I listen to Dave Ramsey's podcasts in spurts. He always talks about having an emergency fund and being prepared for things to go wrong. He's a big believer in Murphy's Law and preaches how Murphy somehow magically appears to bother the people less who are prepared for him.
I look at learning the same way.
Megan and I have emergency funds for things like major appliance repairs, medical needs, etc. If something significant happens that's out of our control - it will suck. But we'll be prepared for it because we know we aren't above bad things happening to us.
Dave would be proud.
Maintaining a student-like mindset is like building a career emergency fund (as is networking before you actually need a network...but that's a post for another day). We don't know what tomorrow may bring.
We could wake up and our jobs could be gone.
We could read the paper and learn how some new invention could be transforming the industry we work in.
New laws could go into affect that change our employment or compensation status.
All of these things are forces that happen out of our control. Learning as much as we can -staying up to date before we're forced to - helps us adapt quicker. In times of uncertainty, I think learning helps you not only survive but thrive.
If we're always learning, pushing ourselves out of our comfort zones, these times of uncertainty aren't nearly as scary. In a sick way, they're actually kind of exciting.
My Dad Showed Me How Improving is Courageous
To take the time to learn something new is not only an act of courage but an act of humility. We have to first admit to ourselves that we aren't experts in everything. Heck, we may have to admit that we aren't experts in the very thing we do every day for a living. It takes a step in humility to take the time to admit there's more to learn and improve on, even if you're considered an expert in your field.
I've found that I was much more of a sponge my first year out of school than I am now. I'm striving to maintain that same initial awe and constant curiosity that I had early in my career.
My dad has been a great inspiration in maintaining that spirit. He's been a physical therapist for over 30 years. However, he recently spent time going back to a graduate level course to re-learn more things about his craft. With his years of experience, he could coast on in and nobody would fault him for it. However, he put himself out there to learn something new and be the best he could be at his trade. It was also an act of courage, knowing he may not get this new thing exactly right the first time around.
It's courageous to learn. How many times have you learned something new and mastered it right out of that gate? It's rare. Learning means not only gaining new information but also applying it. Trying something you just learned means there is a high likelihood things won't go to plan. That's okay. It just leads to more learning opportunities.
What about you? How do you carve out time to mentally stay ahead? How do you motivate yourself to always get better at what you do, no matter how good you may be at it?