Some of the most successful people I know are curious and continuous learners.
At my first, last and up to this point only corporate job the CEO was one of these people. He had a routine of walking around the building and stopping in every office about once a month or every couple months or so.
It was pretty cool. He would stop in and chat for a few minutes with each person. He’d ask how they were. He’d ask about family or personal things. Nothing too personal, but wanted to show that he cared.
He’d also ask what they were working on and he also asked if they were looking into anything new. With me, he asked questions about online marketing things like blogging, social media, etc.
This company was a catalog company so it was very old school and wasn’t going to change that anytime soon, but the CEO was always curious about learning new things whether it be in business or in life in general.
It never came off like he was not an expert. He was very smart, very wise and excellent at his job. One study found that we tend to think that we need to act smart and wise and not ask questions and learn, but in reality people don’t view those that are curious as less smart or less apt.
Another CEO that was very curious and always looking to learn was Sam Walton. He had a routine of going into retail stores all around the world and taking notes about anything and everything. He would actually plan family road trips around stopping at specific stores.
Walmart is one of the most successful companies of all time and their leader was one of the most curious and continuous learners around. It’s a good example to follow.
It seems like the trait to continuously learn comes naturally for some while others need to work to turn it into a habit.
That’s what we’re going to look at today…how you can make continuous learning part of your everyday life so you can continue to improve until the day you die.
Challenge Yourself With Contrary Concepts
Studies and science have found that older brains don’t stop learning. They just take in information differently than younger brains. That first link looked at how older people learn a second language differently than younger people. They can both benefit from learning a new language, but they’ll often use different parts of their brain to learn the language.
That makes sense on the surface. When we’re young we have very few experiences. Everything is new and we’re soaking in all kinds of information to improve. In the language example, a young person hears a new word, but they also hear the accent and everything about the language. Older people need to work a little harder to take in all relevant information.
One way to get your brain ready to learn something new is to focus on challenging your wisdom. What are the things you recognize as “truths” in your life? Maybe throughout your life you’ve found success in waking up early everyday. A good way to challenge that belief would be to research the benefits of sleeping in and starting the day later.
You might find that what you’ve been doing is still the best, but challenging yourself in this way primes your brain to be open to new information.
Spend Time With Younger People
One of the best things I’ve ever read or seen is golf coach Butch Harmon when he discussed his habit of spending time around young golfers. I can’t find the interview where he talked about that. Maybe I’m misremembering, but I think it was around the time when he started working with Rickie Fowler.
Butch has been around the game his entire life and he’s now in his seventies. When most people reach that age they slow things down. They stop learning, but Butch continues to surround himself with young people. He brings his wisdom to his craft, but he also listens to new ideas and challenges himself to connect with young people.
Young people don’t have as much information in their brains. They’re sponges. They’re learning new ideas and they’re often excited about things. By surrounding yourself with that passion you open yourself up to new opportunities and ideas. Not everything will be worthwhile, but some will.
Do Something You’ve Always Wanted To Do
Here’s a fun one.
There is only so much time and energy to give in life. As time goes by we make decisions about how to spend our time. It’s one of the big conundrums in life. Did we make the right decisions? Will we make the right choices in the future?
One way to program yourself to continually learn is to do something you’ve always wanted. Studies have found that adults that learn something new and challenging have improved brain function including the ability to learn more in other areas of life.
You can learn something new that maybe you’ve never even considered in the past, but you could also try something that’s always been on your bucket list. The trick is to go in with the mindset that you’re a beginner. This is not something that you’ve been doing for 20, 30 or however many years. You’re not going to be an expert.
Go in thinking that you’re testing the waters. You’re seeing if there is a passion there. And recognize that if there is a passion that it will take 1 year, 5 years, 10 years to really see your expertise grow. That’s how life works, but we often forget that as we get older.
My grandfather is one of the people I know that loves reading. He reads the newspaper every day. He is always reading a book. And it turns out that many successful people love reading. The latest I’ve heard about was Stan Kroenke, owner of the Los Angeles Rams among many other business ventures. He reads all the time and goes through an incredible amount of books.
Reading has many mental and physical benefits for life. And obviously if you’re reading more often you’re taking in more information. You’re challenging your beliefs. You’re learning about topics that maybe you haven’t considered or even realized existed before.
Some successful people have a natural passion for learning. Other successful people know they need to build routines and habits in their lives that allow them to continually learn. If you’re finding that you’re getting stuck in your ways or pushing away new information then it’s time to look to build learning routines into your life.
Try some of the tips above and you should notice that you’ll start taking in new information. Do that and you’ll set yourself up for a life where you’re continually learning new things while also improving.