Craig reflects on Learning at Work Week (16-22 May) and what lifelong learning means to him.
Whilst I was young, especially at school, learning could sometimes feel like a chore. It’s something I had to do five days a week. I found learning much more fun when I was trying to improve my hobbies or the subconscious learning that came from mixing with friends. But, for me, learning was associated with school, and that could feel hard going and forced! I found that as I grew older, I began to enjoy learning more. Even to this day it keeps my brain active and young, and helps me to develop. I believe that learning aids me in my continuing journey, to be the best human being I can be.
Learning gives me the possibility to discover something new and gain different experiences; to constantly grow my ‘experience database’ (so to speak). It’s a continuous cycle. The more I learn, the more experiences I’ll try, the more I’ll discover, which could lead to more opportunities to try new stuff. I found that it all depends on the mindset I choose. It’s always important to have a growth mindset, where we’re curious about possibilities and the what-ifs… I do this by asking myself a few thought-provoking questions:
• what do I want to know more about, that’ll excite me? – to grow as a person
• what more can I learn? – from a situation that’s gone well/not so well
• how can I approach this differently? – from any situation, so I remain open to opportunities and not stuck with just ‘one way’
• what can I learn from what I’m watching/listening to/doing right now?
One mindset or approach isn’t necessarily right or wrong. But for me, because I like new experiences, I like to stretch myself. I find that it’s natural sometimes to want to stay in our comfort zone, as it’s where we feel safe; but what we should be looking to do is grow our comfort zone. I want to lean into the change and what feels uncomfortable.
I see the brain as a muscle in my body. If I want to grow my muscles and tone up, I visit the gym. My brain also needs ‘working out’, so I find new ways of ‘lifting weights’ for my brain. That could be attempting something new, doing something that scares me, taking on a new project at work, or even something outside of work (underwater drumming may be something I’ll experiment with in the future!). I always think that saying, ‘I’ve never done that before’ isn’t a good enough justification. I may be brilliant at it; I just don’t know yet! To stretch my brain, I seek out different TED talks, but I aim to see past the presenter and listen to the message, as that’s the really important part. I know what my strengths are, but when there’s areas that aren’t so strong for me, I search for a way to put myself in that situation. This isn’t to panic me, but to stretch my capabilities.
Learning isn’t just personal; I learn loads from my colleagues and those around me. I may be observing another Rambutan consultant and be inspired by them. I reflect on it and think, how could I do that? How could I bring that into my work? There’s also our two amazing Apprentices, who I learn from all the time. They bring a whole different scope and knowledge to the way they approach situations, that I wouldn’t have considered before. I also learn from my clients. I look at the reasons they think and act like they do. What does that mean within their business? How can we use that to help ourselves and others? I see learning opportunities everywhere.
I believe that Learning at Work Week should just be Learning Week. We need to emphasise how great it is to keep learning in all aspects of our lives. Imagine what our lives could be if every day we challenged ourselves a little more and learnt new stuff. The other day I sewed a shirt to repair it, nothing fancy, but when I finished, the feeling of joy I experienced was unmatched (for me it was a big thing!). I wanted to show how fantastic my needlework was. To a professional, it may have looked sloppy, but to me I was proud. Learning opportunities are all around us, we just have to seize them!
I believe we could all be a little more daring and try something new. It may be something you’re not too great at, but you won’t know if you don’t try. And as they say, practice makes perfect.