John Maxwell on Leadership

Learn for a lifetime - starting today!


Last week I introduced you to the idea of financial seasons in your life. Thank you to everyone who commented on the post. I can’t wait to address the seasons you emphasized and give you my thoughts on maximizing them. This week, let’s focus on the first financial season – the Season of Increased Learning.

In my book Today Matters, I place this season during the earliest stage of a person’s life, from birth to 25 years old. Think about it: everything you do during these years is focused on learning. For the first 10-15 years, each day brings with it new potential for growth! And while growth is never automatic (you always have to put in some effort), these are the years when people are most willing to challenge and help you grow. In fact, growth is expected.

Think about the early life of a child. We expect them to learn:

  • How to walk
  • How to talk
  • Trust
  • Friendship
  • Colors
  • Numbers
  • Letters
  • Shapes
  • Physical movements

The list goes on and on—so it’s no wonder small kids need a nap every day! They’re exhausted!

Starting in the teenage years, your learning becomes increasingly self-directed. People rightly expect you to pick up the reins of your own education, and that’s often where many young people run into trouble. After years of being told what to learn (and how to learn it), we’re suddenly thrust into the driver’s seat, and it’s easy to struggle.

In fact, according to a 2014 article from the New York Times, most college students take longer than four years to complete a standard four-year degree. While there are several things that create that trend, according to the article, “Too much choice in college catalogs contributes to the problem, the report said, often overwhelming 18-year-olds ‘with an enormous cafeteria of possibilities in the college curriculum’ and too few counselors to help them chart their course.”

Did you catch that? Kids are being overwhelmed with learning how to learn!

That’s why I want to help. While I don’t have a cure for our nation’s education system, I do have some practical principles for making the most of your life’s greatest learning season. And please don’t think these tips only apply in your 20s—these are good for any season in life when you find that learning is at a premium, whether it’s changing careers or moving on to a new role within your company.

DURING YOUR SEASON OF INCREASED LEARNING, HERE ARE THREE KEY AREAS ON WHICH TO FOCUS YOUR ATTENTION:

LEARNING YOUR STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES … AND WHAT YOU SHOULD INCREASINGLY FOCUS ON

As I wrote in Today Matters, when you’re young, your focus should be on learning about your own strengths and weaknesses. Formal education helps to a degree, but there are strengths and weaknesses that can’t be measured by a grade book. Don’t just look to your report card for an accurate assessment of your abilities—look to experiences, look to passions, look to your own instincts about your interests and abilities.

As you try new things, you’ll have some successes and you’ll have a lot of failures. Don’t get discouraged! Every failure teaches you something if you’ll let it, and the process of putting weaknesses behind you as you lean into your strengths sharpens you for your next goal.

LEARNING YOUR CRAFT/PROFESSION

Investing in yourself early is the best way to begin the education that matters—developing your strengths into a lifetime of growth. As you discover areas where you’re naturally gifted, look for parallel skills that go with them. Channel that combination into a craft or profession that requires and needs someone like you, and dedicate yourself to learning as much as you can about that area. What schools are the best for someone like you? Which firms are looking for your talent? Where can you innovate? Where can you create something brand new?

As you dig into your area(s) of strength and skill, you’ll establish a habit of continuing growth—which can be found in the next key.

LEARNING POSITIVE HABITS FOR PRODUCTIVITY

The final key to the season of increased learning is developing positive habits that produce results. I mentioned above the habit of continual growth, but there are other habits that help you become a productive person, no matter where life takes you.

Develop the habit of listening, because there is wisdom all around you. Develop the habit of asking great questions, because people often don’t know what they know until they’re asked. Develop the habit of hard work, because it makes you stand out from the crowd. Develop the habit of self-discipline, because if you won’t correct yourself, others will. I could continue, but there are more good habits than I can list! You have to discover and develop those habits that serve you well.

I’ve often said, watch your thoughts because they determine your attitude; watch your attitude because it determines your actions; watch your actions because they determine your habits; watch your habits because they determine your character; watch your character because it determines your future. The season of increased learning is all about establishing a foundation that allows you to capitalize on what you’ve learned—and we’ll talk about that next week!

If you’re a young adult, this post is especially for you. (If you’re not, please forward it to the young adults that you care about.) I believe, however, that every one of us needs to take these tips into account, regardless of age. By learning to learn, we’re able to improve and grow throughout our lives. I encourage you to start today.


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