Back-to-School


Those who have been required to memorize the world as it is will never create the world as it might be.

This quote by Judith Groch resonates strongly with me because the classrooms of my youth required memorization and lots of it: students at desks high school 50s history, geography, trig functions, English prepositions, Latin root words, etc. The Dominican sisters who taught at St. Mary’s made sure of that!

We did memorize the world as it was then: and the boundaries were pretty sound. The literal “word view” was stable, defined by wars, separated by oceans and social or economic milestones. Even with the mind-numbing memorization, I liked learning.

Back-to-school time brings up wonderful memories, mostly because of new school supplies, a new book bag, and new teachers. Even in college, there was something enticing about new notebooks and pens and beginning again: the start of a new opportunity. Learning things that adds to or makes sense of stuff already in my brain.

I may be fortunate in that “Learning” is one of my talents (or ‘themes’ according to Gallup author Tom Rath), and I’ve developed it into a strength. I use that strength in my current work and leverage it so that I am able to look at new situations as challenges and view “change”–so scary for many–as just another puzzle to tackle.

How do you look at learning?

It’s not just for kids!

While our kids are heading back to school, I’m wondering if you are heading back as well. You may have a high school diploma, an associate’s or bachelor’s degree, an MBA or a PhD. Whatever education you have, much of it is out-of-date. Whether you graduated last year or 30 years ago, the world is changing quickly enough that whatever content you have is, literally, so last year.

The phrase “lifelong learning” is one we hear bandied about, and often when we hear it we think, “Oh, I have a degree;” “No more back-to-school for me…don’t have the time!” Or, “I can’t afford it.” But ernestinelearning is no longer contained: in a classroom, or during certain ages, or even within a degree program. The truth is that whatever your age, you must continue to learn to avoid becoming a throw-back that employers see as outdated and provincial, unwilling to keep up with business reality.


What will you choose to learn before year’s end?

The beauty of being adults is that we can choose how we’ll learn: it may be in a classroom or it may not! When you consider options, make sure you include these:

*continuing education: computer programs, communication programs, or specific skills through local colleges or community learning programs;
*degree programs: through universities across the world; e-learning programs are available through hundreds of colleges and may be 2 or 4 year programs, even MBA work;
*mentoring and workplace options: what can you learn by asking someone more experienced to teach you? Or by shadowing them for a few days or weeks; Or by volunteering for a project as an observer or extra pair of hands?
*design-your-own professional development program by working with a coach: career coaches can guide you in figuring out what new directions and/or learning will best help you stay relevant or move in your desired direction.

Now, take action.

Whatever direction you decide to investigate, start small. Define one person you can talk to, or one program you can investigate and write it on your to-do list for this week. Don’t put it off, or wait until you get around to it. Better yet, find an Accountability Partner who will support your investigation and ask that person to check-in with you in a week to see how you accomplished the first step. In fact, if you’ll drop me a note with your first task, I’ll hold you accountable for completing it within a week. This is how you’ll most easily move forward: take small steps and be accountable to someone for doing so.

While you’re at it, why not buy a few school supplies to have on hand while you figure out your learning direction? It may be more motivating than you think!

About Learning


What a great week! I’ve spent half of the last 4 days in professional development events–a real treat. And my clients, my friends and I are all better for it…I truly love to hear other perspectives that challenge and expand my own. How else will I get myself unstuck from the past?

On Sunday I was in the Ohio National Speaker’s Association audience to hear a legend in the business, Jeanne Robertson.  Jeanne is a humorist and has been speaking for almost 40 years… and she’s a hoot! (For an enjoyable break in your day, check her out on youtube.)  What I really learned from Jeanne is that she continues to improve her work every single day. She is wildly successful and she chooses to learn…because staying current is so critical to that success.

Following Jeanne’s session, Fred Gleeck, an information product expert, gave us more about using the internet in a couple of hours that I would have thought possible. Did you know that at http://JustDropped.com you can find good domain names? And that http://SpyFu.com does competitive analysis? Fred provided great information and also left me with a couple of significant learnings: “Done is better than perfect.” and “A confused mind always says no.” Both important reminders for those of us whose business depends upon our marketing savvy.

Yesterday I spent the morning with Jim Canterucci and a host of great panelists at the Personal Brilliance seminar hosted at the OSU Leadership Center.  How easy it is to forget that we are all OK just like we are–we don’t need to be fixed; and that cultivating creativity to produce innovation is a process…it’s the focus and repetition that retrain our brain connections so the process becomes more natural. Great reminders about how learning isn’t about “fixing” us, it’s about growing and becoming more comfortable with our talents—so we recognize and use them!

One thing Jim said really started my thinking about this post: he noted that some in attendance were taking great notes to share with their co- workers…almost like the small investment ($89) in the seminar made by their employer would only provide a return if the information could be shared with 5 or 10 others. I know that sharing learning is wonderful, yet minimizing the importance of learning’s value to an individual is still an incredibly short-sighted view! I’ve spent enough of my life inside organizations to know that this is not an unusual perspective, and that learning dollars are spent sparingly and grudgingly: “Man, I hate to spend it here because we have 17 more important budget lines.”

I simply don’t get it: in an economy that demands brains and innovation and connection with customers, how do organizations continue to see learning as extraneous to their success?

I’m also befuddled as to why every employee doesn’t develop a clear path for their own learning, their own growth, especially knowing that organizations seldom do.

Help me out, please! Here’s my question to you: do you have a learning path for yourself? If so, how did you decide to create one and how are you pursuing it? And if not, what’s holding you back? I’d love to have your thoughts on your learning…and of course it feeds my own!

Janine