There is an Eastern tradition that states, “A cup that is full, cannot be further filled. You must empty your cup.” The essential idea is that when the mind gets full of knowledge and experiences, one can often get locked into traditional thinking or rely too heavily on those past experiences. An expert mindset is prone to becoming rigid, inflexible and closed off to new ideas.
Information and learning today move at speeds never seen in human history and as a result also have a shorter shelf-life than ever before. What you learn today is relevant for about 18 months by some estimates and your entire knowledge set is only about 15% relevant after five years. Scary stuff for those who have that full cup and rely on experiences from fifteen years ago. For many professionals and organizations, this became a stark reality during the economic crisis beginning in 2008-09 as they faced what is no less than “Economic Extinction”.
As children, human beings are full of curiosity and without preconceived notions of the world. They ask questions, are open to new ideas and eager to engage with the world around them in creative ways. They take risks but remain close to home. As an adult, it is possible to wed this sense of curiosity with the common sense wisdom that experience teaches. It is often referred to as “Beginner’s Mind”.
The phrase “Life Long Learning” gets overused and can end up with a narrow connotation. Continuous learning is important but it can easily become too focused solely on a person’s circle of interests. If a person is a sports enthusiast for example and all they engage in is learning more about sports, then they never push outside the boundaries of their comfort zones. Beginner’s mind is like that first year of college where one is forced to engage in a variety of topics and stretch that mindset beyond that comfort zone. This leads to creativity, new ideas and new ways of thinking. It can also lead to new professional opportunity…so, are you embracing a beginner’s mind?
Learning a new skill can yield immediate benefits whether physical, mental or even both depending upon the skill. It can also open up new opportunities for personal and/or professional growth. Developing and mastering those new skills, however, takes time and resolve. Contrary to decades of advertising, very little can be gained in “10 easy lessons” or “20 minutes a day for 30 days”beyond mere introduction.
Some research suggests that it takes approximately 10,000 hours of study or practice to hone a new skill. That equates to three hours per day, 365 days per year for a little over nine years.
This idea, however, is not new. Miyamoto Musashi writes about this during the middle of the 17th Century in The Book of Five Rings. Even before this, the craft guilds of medieval Europe gave rise to a hierarchal learning system that became a basis for modern higher education.
Learners began as an “apprentice” and depending upon the system are required to complete a minimum of seven years of training before moving to the “journeyman” level. To achieve the next level of “master” one could be required to complete more years of training, create a ‘masterpiece’ or both.
Essentially, the only real boundaries for developing a new skill are time, proper practice and the mental obstacles that the learner places in front of themselves.
“I can teach you skills and techniques, but I cannot teach you your own attitude.”
Skills, knowledge and experience come from external influences. Attitude, will and personal discipline come from within. Growth only happens when the two work effectively together, that’s the 50/50.
Like all of us, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was a human being. He had flaws, made mistakes and history loves to pick sides for the “good guy-bad guy” debate. There is no dismissing certain facts though;
- He was stricken with Polio in the prime of his life
- Forced the lead a nation through the worst economic crisis in US history
- Forced to lead the US through the Second World War
Through it all, it has been repeatedly said that he was always smiling and always focused on solutions.
“Misery may love company, but company typically does not love misery. Keep smiling.”
-Bryan N Nann
Most people will remember Steve Jobs for his creativity and for giving the
world things like The iPod, The iPhone, The iPad and of course The Apple
Macintosh. For many, Jobs has already gone into the history books as one of
the great entrepreneurs and innovators of the 20th & 21st century.
Less known is the fact that among those who worked for him the opinion was
more more polarized. Many people did not like working for him, some have
even claimed that they hated working for him. At one point he was so
disliked by his own company that he was fired in in early 30’s as the
leader of the organization that he founded. Why?
In the war of excellence vs. mediocrity, there is no middle ground…..you
are either on one side or the other and ‘good’ truly is the enemy of
‘great’. It was very clear what side of the fence Steve Jobs was on and for
those on the side of mediocrity, it was probably not pretty. By definition,
mediocrity means someone wants to stay in the safe, quiet, middle area and
not be pushed to do more than they thought themselves capable of doing.
Mediocrity means that good is good enough…but good would have not changed
the world for ever with products that Apple is now known for producing.
Where do you stand?
Nelson Mandela spent 27 years incarcerated as a political prisoner. He
could have very easily come out of prison bitter, jaded or angry at the
world and his captors. Instead, he chose to live by a doctrine of focusing
on solutions of problems, of being part of the solution himself.
He rallied an entire nation around the idea that the past is over, there is
nothing to be gained by dwelling on it, that the future is unwritten and
what you do in the “here and now” is what will shape your future. This
philosophy allowed a nation full of frustration to let go and rally together.
It allowed a national rugby team, hated and in last place worldwide, to
overcome adversity and go on to win the 1995 World Cup.
One person focused on solutions can and does make a difference.
“In a few hundred years when the history of our time is written from a long term perspective, it is likely that the most important event those historians will see is not technology, not the internet, not e-commerce, it is an unprecedented change in the human condition. For the first time, literally substantial and rapid growing numbers of people have choices. For the first time they will have to manage themselves and society is totally unprepared for it.”
In 1645 legendary Japanese swordsman, Miyamoto Musashi, wrote that everything you need to manage yourself and excel in business as well as life lies within you. What’s critical is that you have an exacting strategy, a map that includes where you are, where you want to go and what to do once you get there. Then execute on that strategy every day.