Why is important to constantly learn? Most people will tell you that you must learn in order to stay relevant. Technology and the business environments are so dynamic that one must keep updating their skills to stay current. This is indeed true to some extent. Learning helps you stay relevant. But this defeats the purpose of why we need to learn. Lets try to understand this better.
For most of us, our education was a means to an end. It was a way of getting a good job. We want to graduate from good schools and colleges primarily to get good jobs. And we want good jobs so that we get good social standing and hopefully a good take home salary. And most of our universities are modelled on the lines of a mass-market product called “education”. It completely dehumanizes its participants. Unfortunately, society has built such a powerful narrative around such education, that we often do not question it. Such formalized systems have killed the basis of learning, which is curiosity. Curiosity is something that we are all naturally born with and we un-naturally lose as we get older. Curiosity is the urge to explore and learn for the joy of knowing. As we trudge along life, we think we have to develop learning by forcing something on ourselves. Often, it appears so artificial and painful that most of us eschew it altogether. This type of learning is certainly not enjoyable.
True learning isn’t based on any goals. We want to learn because the process of learning is truly joyful. Period. How do we go about rediscovering this curiosity that we’ve lost? Identify what you love doing. Your hobbies are a good start. Let the hobby take you over. Be it walking in nature, or painting or sports – whatever it is – let the hobby totally immerse you. You will quickly realize the joy of exploring something without working towards any result. This makes all the difference. When we begin to see that joy arises in totally immersing oneself in any activity without the expectation of results, we can learn to bring this attribute to your mundane work as well. Then we learn from everyone and anything. Our curiosity taken hold of us and the urge to know explodes in us. And because we learn, we constantly improve.
What does this have to do with leadership? Simple. Good leaders have connected to this part of themselves that wants to know, wants to grow and wants to be curious. Such leaders, are naturally open to new ideas, have the ability to spot trends, will take calculated risks in exploring new business ideas. The opposite archetypes are caught up in mundane and repetitive tasks and generally see innovation as something that is scary or too tiring. Such leaders (if we can call them that), typically do nothing innovative and often run companies into the ground.
Great leaders who learn, naturally want to share. When we are excited about something, we instinctively want to pick up the phone and tell as many people as possible. And when they share, they inspire their team to also learn and explore. Such an attitude is crucial in any organization that prices innovation and wants to keep relevant in these challenging times.
Therefore, as leaders we learn out of the pure joy of knowing and not to stay relevant. Staying with the times is a consequence and not a motivation. This distinction must be known. And to great leaders, this comes naturally.
So let us begin by looking at our own lives. Are we curious?