What “Always Learning” Really Means

I mentioned in an earlier post that my “one word” was “learning”, or rather, my more comfortable version: “always learning”.

It’s more than just seeking out opportunities for more knowledge.

In trying to identify the word(s) that sum up my basic, personal, philosophy, I reflected on my life-so-far. What I discovered is that learning in various forms was a common thread.

More than a thread, it was motivation for progress, and it was present in times of personal growth and accomplishment.

Before I’d even come to that conclusion it was already a factor in my decision-making process back at Microsoft. One of my explicit criteria when looking for new opportunities within the company was “what will I learn?”. And I do mean explicit – I had that written down in a few places, and quite literally used that as a measure of what a potential opportunity might mean to me. Be it new technologies, new leadership opportunities, new personal situations, understanding that I didn’t just want to keep doing the same old thing was an important factor in my decisions.

Taking it to a level higher it dawned on me that this is why I so love the career I have. There’s always something new to learn, something different to do. What my world will look like in five years is a complete unknown, I just know that I’ll enjoy the journey that has me learning five years of “stuff” in that time.

What dawned on me recently, though, is that “always learning” applies at every level, not just looking forward.

Every discussion, every conflict, every news story, every mistake, every success, every thing is, at its core, an opportunity in which to learn.

The problem is that it’s so easy to overlook that. It’s so easy to take all of those things and more and simply move on without learning anything, without changing anything. It’s too easy to remain comfortable with the personal status quo rather than consider that, perhaps, there might be an opportunity for growth.

“Always learning” is my personal mantra to help remind me of that in every situation, as well as a criteria by which to judge explicit forward-looking opportunities.