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Westside Toastmasters is located in Los Angeles and Santa Monica, California

Learning—Becoming a Life-Long Learner

Empty pockets never held a man back. Only empty heads and empty hearts can do that.
NORMAN VINCENT PEALE

Learning is a process, not an event. Becoming a life-long learner requires that we do things daily to acquire knowledge and learn new skills. Learning for the sake of learning is less valuable than learning to improve our moral character and become a more effective employee, life partner, and parent. Here are some ideas to help you achieve this.

  1. Create the mindset that learning is important. Open your mind and your heart to new experiences. Recognize that

    • you can learn all your life;

    • learning is a natural life process;

    • learning can sometimes be difficult, especially as it may challenge your beliefs.

  2. Look at the big picture. Learning, life, and all that you do are connected.

  3. Learning is spiritual. Be open to the impact of spirituality.

  4. Men and women learn differently. Give yourself the freedom to learn in a way most comfortable to you.

  5. Don't prejudge how a particular type of learning will fit into your life. Be open to new horizons.

  6. Find out your learning style preference. "Test" for your preference. Are you prone to want to contemplate before trying a new situation? Or do you prefer to have a go and learn as you are doing things? The first group — thinkers — learn best by

    • getting lots of information up front;

    • having ample preparation time;

    • listening and watching;

    • working with more structure;

    • seeing models of each concept;

    • having a plan to follow.

    The doers, on the other hand, learn best by

    • having lots of variety;

    • keeping active;

    • getting hands-on practice;

    • having to perform spontaneously;

    • having information that is relevant to their situations.

  7. Be curious. Learn to ask lots of questions, just as a child does, but avoid doing it to the point of being annoying.

  8. Learn from mistakes. We all make them. Figure out what you did wrong and avoid doing it again.

  9. If you're not sure what you did wrong, ask others. Listen. Don't be defensive. Make notes to show you care about their ideas. Thank them for the advice and time, whether you agree with them or not.

  10. If you've made a mistake on something you do infrequently, note the solution in a file that is easily accessible. When you need to do that task again, you can avoid making the same mistake.

  11. Take the initiative to find out how you are doing. Don't wait for your annual performance review. If you're doing things differently, ask your boss for feedback. That's how you'll know if your new ideas are appreciated.

  12. Use spare time to learn. Any time you're in a line-up or on public transit, consider reading an article of interest. Also, access books on tape that you can listen to in your car or on a Walkman.

  13. Subscribe to newsletters that provide you with interesting information succinctly. The Internet has many free services that are downloaded daily. Scan these pages quickly and zero in on things that are helpful. Try to use them as soon as possible in order to gain immediate benefit.

  14. Seek out opportunities to learn.

    • Find people who have travelled, come from other countries, worked in interesting jobs, or been to some unusual workshops. Find out as much as you can about their experiences.

    • Volunteer for any pilot training programs that take place in your organization. Offer to attend outside workshops with the understanding that you will report back on what you learned so the value can be multiplied.

    • Take a look at the workbooks of others who have been to seminars and workshops. Buy them lunch or coffee so you can pepper them with questions after you have skimmed through their notes.

  15. Subscribe to magazines that will give you the technical knowledge to enhance your career. Or subscribe each year to a magazine in a totally unrelated field, but one you might benefit from spiritually.

  16. Seek out smart (not arrogant) people. Spend time with them. Ask them lots of questions. Find out their sources for good ideas.

  17. Watch fewer soaps and sitcoms on TV. Become selective. Look for programs that add some intellectual capital for you.

  18. Find a mentor. Seek out someone who has a wealth of lifetime experiences to share. Set up a monthly meeting at which you can bounce ideas off the mentor or draw on his life experience.

  19. Realize that every day presents a new learning opportunity. Some less obvious opportunities include:

    • benchmarking the activities of the best in the business;

    • covering for others who are on holiday;

    • crises;

    • delegated tasks;

    • demonstrations;

    • meetings;

    • helping someone else to learn;

    • job rotation;

    • networking;

    • performance appraisals;

    • special projects;

    • videos;

    • working with consultants.


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