What is on your learning agenda?

Remaining in a state of constant learning is no longer optional for a business leader – the world is changing faster than ever, and a person must be intentional about keeping up. It is imperative that we remain open to learning at all times, particularly if we want to make an impact in the business world. Take automation as just one example; its use in U.S. manufacturing has changed and will continue to change the roles and responsibilities of the workforce, and we should all be aware of it.  Change is the only true constant. My career has benefitted from my dedication to a strong learning agenda – and believe me when I tell you that you need one, too.

If you worked for me, I would ask you the following question: “What is on your learning agenda?” A blank look in response to that question immediately puts you in my doghouse. To prepare for the future, it is essential we understand what is happening in the world today and what happened yesterday. A solid grasp of major world trends is a basic building block to understanding and anticipating the future.

My personal learning agenda includes reading books, magazines, and newspapers. I also value a person-to-person connection and as such, I attend as many trade and educational events as I can and – perhaps most importantly – network with a wide variety of professionals who know much more than I do.

Let me give your learning agenda a kickstart with a book recommendation: Johan Norberg’s “Progress – Ten Reasons to Look Forward to the Future.” I won’t spoil Norberg’s case for you here, but I can promise that his book will inspire you to reflect on the myriad ways the world has already changed in your lifetime. Did you know U.S. cancer deaths have fallen 22% within the last two decades? Or that globally, literacy rates have increased from 40% in 1950 to 86% today? Consider these startling pieces of information, and then ask yourself: how might these trends affect me, my family, my job, my company, and my country?

Those who find success in the business world do not simply aim to stay informed; we work to stay ahead. We must find time for learning and, as I said at the outset, we all need a leaning agenda. Use these questions as a guide to creating your own:

  • What papers and magazines will you read?
  • What books are on your agenda?
  • What classes or courses will you take?
  • What industry events will you attend?
  • What is your business networking agenda?

I am probably older than most who are reading this column, and I still have an aggressive learning agenda. So, I challenge you all to keep up with me!

published Nashville Business Journal

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  1. I’ve recently gotten back to 10-20 pages (at least) per day and had forgotten how much it helped to keep me both grounded and reflective, of the past and for the future. Our world feels as-if it shifts by the hour at times. What are tools you’ve utilized in the past to balance consideration vs. change from learnings?

  2. Joe, your brief reflections and advice are always timely for me and pure gold. The older we get, the more we begin to believe we know all there is to learn and do. We are all subject to becoming lazy and to allow our mind, body and spirit to atrophy, only to learn the hard way, that we then become vulnerable to become less capable of navigating our way through change competently.
    Thanks again for sharing your wisdom in this article. I accept your challenge and plan to regularly reflect upon your list of questions to remind myself of the importance of learning along with two quotes written by great thinkers like yourself that I often refer to when challenged…

    “To live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often.”
    -John Henry Newman

    “A dead thing can go with the stream. Only a living thing can go against it.”
    -G. K. Chesterton

    1. Joe, Your advise on continually improving one’s knowledge, be it reading books, communicating with others who may be brighter or more successful than yourself, attending continuing education classes at your local university or community college, being involved in your community helping others, when older and retired, not only makes life more interesting, but simply put, is satisfying. Your book, “The Culture Warrior,” is a great gift for an aspiring young person entering the business world. Thanks so much!

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