- learning is not a phase
but a way of life
The other day I asked a friend of mine an extremely simple question, "Which part of your life was the learning phase?" I was not surprised by the answer. "In school, of course", he replied, with nonchalance. My friend was like many others who experienced considerable growth during their days at school.
However, once their formal education came to an end, so did their curiosity to learn, the questioning, the intrigue that often leads to growth and development. "Many of us see learning as a phase, rather than a way of life", says Shikha Ganguly, HR head of a Mumbai company.
"It is almost impossible to get people to spend time on formal training sessions. People get forcibly nominated for training programmes by their bosses but fail to show up." How many of us have seen this happen? Shikha's point is only reflective of our unwillingness to learn as we grow old.
There is a world of difference between growing with age and simply growing. With age can come wisdom, but often, age comes alone. "Age to the stagnant is an icy winter, but to a leader, it is harvest time", explains Shikha, indicating that the leader spends time and effort in gaining knowledge while others just let time fly.
Have you ever passed through the same route over and over again, either on your way to work, or on your evening walks? Don't we become immune to the landscape around us, failing to notice small changes around us, despite us treading the same path everyday? This happens to us at work too. When we show up for work day in and day out, and put in the time, without learning from the experiences, we are just going through the motions.
"People assume that experience is what they gather as they go through the years. What they don't realise is that experience isn't what happens to us, but the learning from what happens to us constitutes experience", says Shabbir Shah, a learning and development consultant.
But how do we identify if we have fallen into the rut of overconfidence, routine, and dismissive arrogance, and ended up becoming a "know-it-all" boor who loses his edge with time?
Do we often fall back on "I have always done it that way"? We don't challenge assumptions. Are we losing our childlike curiosity? Does change irritate us? Is our sense of wonder and discovery replaced with cynicism and apathy? Do we rely on our own experience rather than borrow or learn from other people's experience? Do we avoid doing things that we haven't done before? Are we supremely confident? Are we complacently satisfied and contended?
Only a mediocre person is always at his or her best. To a leader, getting comfortable with what one is doing is an indication of learning having levelled out. Stability and certainty often numb learning skills. While personal growth, continuous improvement, experiential learning and skill development are mantras for today, many a time, intentions don't translate into action.
It is important for us to make note of the above points and recognise when we have slipped into waters of stagnation. Akin to putting on weight, stagnation happens gradually - we don't even realise it, till one fine day, we cross the tipping point and realise how out of shape we have become.
Pablo Picasso, one of the most prolific painters in history had once observed, "Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up". How true, more so in today's world.
Ravi Subramanian (Banker and author of 'Devil in Pinstripes')
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