Are you intentionally trying to learn?

“You must never feel badly about making mistakes,” explained Reason quietly, “as long as you take the trouble to learn from them. For you often learn more by being wrong for the right reasons than you do by being right for the wrong reasons.”

Norton Juster

Is it really “taking trouble” to learn from your mistakes? It is incredible how few people do this with intention and focus. Setting aside the time to conduct a review and learn is the entryway to continuous learning and development. The classic after-action review questions can facilitate the creation of so much wisdom.

  1. What were my intended results?
  2. What were my actual results?
  3. What caused my results?
  4. What will I do the same next time?
  5. What will I do differently?

Seek defeat in order to learn…

“When defeat comes, accept it as a signal that your plans are not sound. Rebuild those plans and set sail once more toward your coveted goal.”

Napoleon Hill

Defeat will come. It is inevitable. If you aren’t risking failure, you aren’t trying hard enough and the best learning one can ever have will likely come from loss. Perhaps that should be the goal? Push so hard that you exceed your capacities, and therefore set the stage for growth.  

Learning is a lifetime endeavor…

“You are always a student, never a master. You have to keep moving forward.”

Conrad Hall 

A sage friend and colleague shared this with me yesterday, and I thought it was exceptionally profound as it captures the essence of a continual learning mindset. This captures the essence of “iron sharpening iron…”

“I want to work with people who I can learn from, and who are open to learning from me. People with whom I can exchange the student/teacher hats at a moment’s notice. People who sit in the uniquely blessed and fulfilling seat of Plato – a student of Socrates and then a teacher to Aristotle.”

Are you learning to lead…

“Leadership is the ability to guide others without force into a direction or decision that leaves them still feeling empowered and accomplished.” 

Lisa Cash Henson

There is a big difference between telling people what to do and guiding them to better decisions. The key differences are; a willingness to teach and an ability to learn. Both of these attributes are required of the leader before they can lead anyone. Only then can they appropriately guide others.

Learn to teach, teach to learn…

“We now accept the fact that learning is a lifelong process of keeping abreast of change. And the most pressing task is to teach people how to learn.”

Peter Drucker

My favorite end of day questions to ask of myself are:

  1. What did you learn?
  2. What did you teach?

Interestingly enough, only when I do both is the day is fully satisfying.

Look back to learn, live forward…

“Never look back unless you are planning to go that way.”

Henry David Thoreau

I think the critical question here is, “why are you looking back?” Is it to learn and grow or wallow and lament? There is nothing you can do about the time passed; one may only live going forward.  What are you going to do differently because you have looked back?

Look back to learn, live forward; life is too short to waste.

What are you supposed to be learning?

“Patience is a form of wisdom. It demonstrates that we understand and accept the fact that sometimes things must unfold in their own time.”

Jon Kabat-Ziin

Being patient doesn’t mean passive acceptance. It is the wisdom of seeing what you are supposed to learn during the time of unfolding…

What are you going to learn today?

The beautiful thing about learning is that no one can take it away from you.

B. B. King

A great friend and mentor once shared with me that “if you aren’t learning, you are by definition dying.” These simple words carry so much wisdom. Learning new things, regardless of how you apply them, and if you get to use them in the manner you expect, means that you are slightly better than before you started the training process. No one can take away or diminish this better self. If you attack every day intending to learn, you will forever be on a path of becoming a better version of yourself.  

No one other than you gets to define your approach to learning. Try asking yourself this question before bed every night. “What did I learn today.” You’ll be amazed at how this reframes your mind towards learning.  

Age is truly a state of a mind…

“I am old but I am forever young at heart. We are always the same age inside. Know that you are the perfect age. Each year is special and precious, you can only live it once. Do not regret growing older, it’s a privilege denied to many!”

Richard Gere

The key to living a life of perpetual youth is to embrace the opportunity to learn and grow each and every day. If you aren’t learning, growing, seeing the world as if through the eyes of a child, then you must by default be dying.  

Life is just too short and precious to waste.  Every single moment we have is a gift for ourselves, and more importantly, for others.   

 Choose to learn, choose to grow, choose to live. Why choose to die before you have to?

What are you going to learn? Who are you going to teach?

“Associate with people who are likely to improve you. Welcome those who you are capable of improving. The process is a mutual one: men learn as they teach.”

Seneca

Do you have a goal to learn something from at least one person every day? How about teaching one person something every day?  

Reflect on your interactions with all the people you touched today. What did you learn, and what did you teach? Could you take two minutes to write it down?  

Imagine how much more prosperous the world will be for you and others one year from today if you approached every interaction with a teach/learn mindset. It’s never too late to start…

What is failure?

“You build on failure. You use it as a stepping stone. Close the door on the past. You don’t try to forget the mistakes, but you don’t dwell on it. You don’t let it have any of your energy, or any of your time, or any of your space.”

Johnny Cash

I love this quote because, for me, it defines the difference between failure and growth. If you do the things listed here, then it isn’t a failure.   It is merely an experience that didn’t turn out the way you wanted.  Then you can learn from it and go forward better and smarter.  

Failure is refusing to learn.  

Failure is blaming someone or something else.  

Failure is quitting.  

Failure is letting the past control you instead of owning the opportunity to do something better based on the first-hand experience of what doesn’t work.

Pause. Detach. Observe. Reflect. Learn.

“Experience is a brutal teacher, but you learn. My god, do you learn.”

C. S. Lewis

One of the most profound things I have learned over the past few years is that you don’t have to wait until something one is experiencing becomes “history” before you can learn from it.

We are all capable of detaching ourselves from the moment and observing in a non-emotional and rational manner. The experience might indeed be a brutal teacher, but if we can teach ourselves to learn “in the moment” instead of waiting for hindsight, we will be much better off.

Learning to pause, detach, observe, reflect, and learn might the most important skills you ever develop.

Creating tolerance is an antidote to ignorance…

“Genuine tolerance does not mean ignoring differences as if differences made no difference. Genuine tolerance means engaging differences within a bond of civility and respect.”

Richard John Neuhaus

The danger of tolerance is that you are intentionally creating an opening in your mind for both understanding and a potential perspective shift. It is far easier to be intolerant and dogmatic about what you believe than to be open and understanding.

But when you genuinely open your mind to the perspectives and positions of others, not only do you create fertile ground for growth in yourself, you also unlock the power of “we.” The collective skills, talents, and capabilities of a group will always exceed those of one person. Learning tolerance and understanding unlocks tremendous potential, both in yourself and in others.

Besides, by overcoming intolerance, you, by default, begin to remove ignorance from your life.

Learning comes as a result of a listening…

“Learning never takes place while you’re talking.”

Andy Stanley

The first place my mind went to upon reading this quote was the need to be quiet and listen when in others’ presence—the need to focus on asking quality questions and then listening, truly listening, to the responses.  

Upon further reflection, I think there is much more to this, a much deeper level of meaning.  What if I were to apply the same process and focus on myself? What if I were to ask myself the right questions and then focus on the answers that my mind creates?  

Often in life, we spend all our time focused on the external but skip over or neglect the critical internal narrative and opportunity to learn by probing into our thoughts. Perhaps our most significant moment for learning will come from creating the ability to pause, the courage to ask and answer the tough questions, and the opportunity to reflect on and learn from the answers made within our minds.  

As humans, we were explicitly created with this intention. “Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being, And in the hidden part [of my heart] You will make me know wisdom.” Psalms‬ ‭51:6‬ ‭AMP

‘Learning never takes place while you are talking;’ learning takes place when you are listening.  What questions are you asking yourself, and are you devoting the time and attention to listen to the answers you create?  

crop man with wired headphones in studio
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Committed to your vision – Spartan Pro Day 2020

Last Tuesday, I had the incredible opportunity and blessing to share the day with two great friends and colleagues, David Childs and David Lillard of Spartan Planning and Branding. They are in Greensboro, NC, and were putting the final touches on their 2nd Annual Leadership Symposium aptly named “Spartan Pro Day.” Last year’s inaugural event was a resounding success, selling out and maximizing their venue’s capacity.  

At the beginning of the year, David Childs asked me to be one of the speakers at this year’s event on the topic of leadership, and I was both thrilled and honored to play a small role in their vision of building leaders.

Year 2 was all set to build on last year’s success with space reserved at a venue twice the size, and present company excluded, an incredible roster of speakers. But, as the year progressed, the implications of a world forever changed by the pandemic began to influence their plans and thinking.  

It would have been so easy for them to write off 2020, to say, “due to the state of the world and the restrictions on gathering, we are going to postpone Spartan Pro Day until we can produce the event safely.”  

However, they both realized that there has never been a more critical time to highlight the impact of positive leadership and share content that would be highly powerful and meaningful to their constituents. So they did what great leaders do in a time of crisis and uncertainty. They pivoted to a new direction and held true to their vision of putting on a conference enabling leaders to “Grow Personally. Grow Professionally. Make A Difference.”  

Spartan Pro Day is now a virtual event being held over the next three weeks, AND it is FREE OF CHARGE for anyone that would like to participate and grow.   

Leadership is having a vision, and then doing whatever it takes to make that vision become a reality. As John Maxwell writes, “leadership is influence,” and Spartan Pro Day was an incredible influence on me, and I am grateful to have played a small role in bringing their vision to life.

If you are interested in enrolling, check out the link below. As a sports fan and a Carolina Panthers fan, I particularly loved the stories shared by Mick Mixon in his “Tales from the Press Box” session.

Spartan Pro Day – Register Here

Oh to be a child again…

“You’ve got to get to the stage in life where going for it is more important than winning or losing.”

Arthur Ashe

It is funny how we start life with an attitude of learning and development, but somewhere along the way, we are taught that the result matters more than the attempt.

This belief creates a limit on what people can achieve because there are two key focal points. One, winning is everything, and I won’t try if I can’t win. Two, losing is bad, and I won’t try if the risk of losing is too high.

As young children, we attempt things with no fear of failure because we don’t think of our endeavor as a win or loss. We try, we learn, we develop. Then we grow up, and our measuring stick of success changes. Somehow we must rediscover our childlike attitude of going for it without the requirement of winning or letting the fear of failure limit our attempts…

What’s the point?

“Every person that you meet knows something you don’t; learn from them.”

H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

It is amazing how much more you can gain from life if you live to learn. Equally amazing is how much more you can give as well…

What is the point of living if you already know everything?

Without regret…

“You can never regret anything you do in life. You kind of have to learn the lesson from whatever the experience is and take it with you on your journey forward.”

Aubrey O’Day

I don’t know about you but I have made plenty of dumb decisions and mistakes in my life. Some were minor and inconsequential, completely forgettable. Others however were absolutely life-altering. If given the chance to do it over there are plenty of things that I would do differently.

But truly don’t we all have that chance each and every day? If we take the time to learn and reflect on our life experiences, and build that knowledge into wisdom that guides us on our future decisions, then we can ensure that we make better choices when presented with crucial opportunities.

A life filled with regret is a life spent ignoring the lessons learned from our past to ensure that we have a brighter future. Living in this way is truly regretful…

The “decade” of March…

“Knowledge comes from learning. Wisdom comes from living.”

Anthony Douglas Williams

A friend of mine sent me something the other day that I just found to be hilarious. In it he said “I just realized that I have been alive in seven decades. The 70’s, the 80’s, the 90’s, the 2000’s, the 2010’s, the 2020’s, and March…”

For many people I am sure that March certainly feels like it has been the longest month in the history of time doesn’t it? So much has happened that many people never expected was even possible. No matter how much knowledge you had going into this nothing compares to the wisdom that will come from having lived through it.

I have written before about my daily journal habit and the format that I use to capture my thoughts and learnings. I recently added a new question to my routine.

What is the wisdom I am meant to learn from this situation and how will I be able to apply that in my life as we grow out of this?

The time will pass, how can we ensure that our opportunity to gain wisdom doesn’t slip by?

Learn to innovate…

“Learning and innovation go hand in hand. The arrogance of success is to think that what you did yesterday will be sufficient for tomorrow.”

William Pollard

The beauty of learning is that once done you can’t undo it. Once you have new knowledge and information it changes the way that you think. If you change the way you think, then you can think differently. That is what creates the freedom to innovate.

So what are you focused on learning today?

Learning to grow…

“Making a wrong decision is understandable. Refusing to search continually for learning is not.”

Phil Crosby

Are you more interested in being right, or doing what is right? One of these carries with it the ability to learn and grow, the other is all about self.

We will all make wrong decisions, the key is how you learn on the other side of the decision. Is it learning based on humility and growth or is it learning with a bent towards self and self-righteousness? I would argue that if you aren’t willing to be wrong, you can’t grow and you most certainly can’t learn…

Pause, Reflect, Learn…

“As we learn we always change, and so our perception.  This changed perception then becomes a new teacher inside each of us.”

Hyemeyohsts Storm

The ending a calendar year is always a time of great reflection and perspective seeking for me. I really enjoy taking the time to think back over the events and happenings of the past year. I typically think through and reflect on the answers to these questions:

  • What has has happened this year? What are the joys and disappointments?
  • What are the things that I have learned, and where do I still need to do more learning?
  • What are the best books I have read and what books did I leave unread that I want to add to my list for the next year?
  • What relationships did I grow and improve and what relationships do I need to invest in?
  • Who are the people that entered and exited my life and what did I learn from these relationships?
  • How have I grown as a Christian, Father, Husband and Leader? Where do I need to further grow and develop?
  • What are the most important events from the past year and how have I grown and learned from these?
  • What habits have I grown and cultivated that I must continue? What habits are holding me back?
  • Based on my answers to the above questions what should I Start, Stop or Continue?

This is just a general approximation of the questions that I reflect on as the year draws to a close. There are others that will come to mind as I work through the answers. I have found that in order to plan the year ahead I must do the hard work of answering critical questions so that I can learn and grow. It is amazing what you can learn when you take the time to pause and reflect with honesty and candor with oneself.

This morning as I was reading and meditating on a devotional I was reflecting on this verse and found it to be a great one to use as a lens for my “year in review” exercise.

‘And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.’ Romans 8:28

Everything that happens to us happens for us, if we choose to allow ourselves to learn and grow from it. Making that choice is what gives each of us the opportunity to change our perceptions and better our lives.

Take the time to pause, reflect and learn from the past year before madly dashing into the new year that is ahead. There are valuable lessons to be learned if you give yourself the time to do so.

Learn or die…

“You’re always learning.  The problem is, sometimes you stop and think you understand the world.  This is not correct.  The world is always moving.  You never reach the point you can stop making an effort.”

Paulo Coelho

The minute that you think you have arrived in life, it is over. There are no end to the opportunities to grow and learn. Personally I want to be reading and learning until the day that I pass from this earth. It is the only way that I can continue to contribute to others. Learning is a gift both for yourself and to others when you use that knowledge to impact their lives.

Perhaps another way to think about this is that death occurs when you stop learning. Your body might be living, but without constant growth, your mind isn’t. That is death…

Invest in learning…

“Change is the end result of all true learning.”

Leo Buscaglia

What is a change that you need or want to make in your life? What are you intentionally reading, learning and studying to make that change possible? If you aren’t doing the work of studying and learning then change won’t happen. Lasting change isn’t based on wishing or hoping it is based on hard work and learning.

Stop waiting for things to happen, go learn something new EVERYDAY and you will be amazed at the doors that open up for you.

Something new…

“Learning is not attained by chance, it must be sought for with ardor and attended to with diligence.”

Abigail Adams

What are you planning to learn today? What are the opportunities ahead of you to gain new knowledge? Do you have a plan? If not, then just use two simple questions to bring focus to your learning.

First, begin your day with this question. “What do I want to learn today?”

Second, At the conclusion of the day ask yourself the follow up, “what did I learn today?”

I use a digital journal to keep up with these questions but use whatever method works for you. Just be sure you are learning!

Without intentional focus on learning, growth is accidental. That’s no way to live. That is just survival and existence. There is so much more to life than just existing. Learn something new!

To learn, find your joy…

“All wish to possess knowledge, but few, comparatively speaking, are willing to pay the price.”

Juvenal

What is it that you find exciting about learning? What topics motivate you to put forth the effort to study and grow? Do you find the time to embrace opportunities to gain new knowledge and wisdom? Do you intenionally create those opportunities?

I have long believed that the minute one stops learning you begin to descend into a place of complacency and then irrelevancy. Perhaps this comes from my formative years as a autodidactic where everything I learned from 5th grade until college was self-taught and self-directed. (I was home-schooled through those years and 100% of my learning was self-directed) For years I believed that this was a impediment and something that held me back, but now I believe that it was exactly the opposite, it created an insatiable thirst for knowledge and learning for topics that I was intrigued by. It never felt like work to put forth the effort into the topics I was interested in.

That is the key to learning, you must have the motivation to do the hard work. The magic happens when the effort is joyful and it doesn’t feel like labor at all. Instead the energy and time spent acquiring knowledge feels like a gift and a blessing. Motivation to invest the energy and time required to develop mastery of any subject comes in two forms.

First, a passion for the topic itself and whatever it is that you are learning. For me that would be reading books on history and leadership throughout history. I love digging into a great book on historical figures and understanding how and what they did in their lives that impacted the course of the world. For example, I am reading the book “Hamilton” right now and it is absolutely fascinating. Other great examples are the Walter Isaacson books on Steve Jobs, Leonardo Da Vinci, and Einstein. For some, reading these books would be pure torture and boredom but for me they were all fascinating and the effort to read them wasn’t work at all.

Second, a passion for the end result that comes from gaining new wisdom and knowledge. This can take many forms but it is the desire to achieve some goal that makes the hard work to attain knowledge worth the effort. An example might be a topic in college that isn’t personally interesting but is required to achieve the end state, the degree, so one puts for the effort to learn and master the material.

The key to learning is this, discover your motivation that makes it worth paying the price of learning. These will either be internal or external but they must exist or one will never be able to motivate themselves to enact the discipline required to learn something new. Learning is hard work, but it doesn’t have to be joyless work. I would strongly argue that the best way to learn is to discover your joy for the work. Then, and only then, does learning becomes easy, and worth the price…

What would you teach yourself?

“As long as you live, keep learning how to live.”

Lucius Annaeus Seneca

If you could go back in time and give your younger self one piece of advice what would it be?

What is the single most important lesson you have learned, thus far, that you would want yourself to know 10 years ago? 20 years ago?

What would have the answer to that question have been one year ago? Five years ago?

The beauty of a life spent continually learning is that the more you learn the more you realize you need to know. What lessons are you learning right now that you will be able to apply through the remainder of your life?

What did you learn from yesterday?

“Each day is the scholar of yesterday.”

Publilius Syrus

What did you learn yesterday that will make today a little bit better? What are you going to do with that information?

Once you have answered these two questions then what is stopping you from taking action?

What can you learn today?

“Every person that you meet knows something you don’t; learn from them.” 

H. Jackson Brown Jr.

How different would our relationships be if we started every conversation, every interaction, every engagement with the simple question of; “what can I learn from this person?” Not as a one-time thing, but every time. Would this help one switch from being focused on self to one that is more focused on others? What would the impact be to the people that you are communicating and engaging with? How might you be perceived?

How many people will you interact with today? How many learning opportunities will you have? What will you learn today?

Better today than yesterday!

“Tomorrow is the most important thing in life. Comes into us at midnight very clean. It’s perfect when it arrives and it puts itself in our hands. It hopes we’ve learned something from yesterday.”

John Wayne

How often do we start the new day with the thought that it is a brand new and clean day? A day that is ready to be embraced fully because we are a little bit smarter and better because of the day before? Think of the impact on our lives if every day we were to focus on the lessons learned from yesterday and seek to improve today based on those learnings. Talk about continuous improvement!

I journal daily and I am going to add this question to my end of day routine for a while to see how it impacts tomorrow: “What did I learn today that will make tomorrow better?”

Translating mistakes into experiences…


“Experience is simply the name we give our mistakes.”

Oscar Wilde

Did you make mistakes yesterday? I know that I did. I make plenty each and every day, we all do. The thing that I find missing in this quote is “reflection.” Reflection is what allows one to review their mistakes and translate those into experiences that you then learn from. A daily habit of answering three simple questions is the key to ensuring that when you make mistakes, and we all know that we will, that you can learn and grow from them. The questions that I use are:

  • What didn’t go well today?
  • What did I learn from this?
  • How will I adapt my behavior in the future to learn and grow?

There are lots of other questions, find the ones that work for you, but do it regularly so you can translate mistakes into experiences that you can then grow from.

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dusty

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