Continuing Education Strategies

Continuing Education: Is it really worth it?

When I met with my physician for my annual physical recently, I asked him why he has chosen not to retire.  After all, he is 77 years old.

He replied, “I find excitement in the challenge of keeping up with all the advancements in the medical field. I read trade journals, listen to audio CDs, watch DVDs, attend seminars, and spend a lot of time talking shop with my friends in the medical community. If you relax in this business, you’ll become a dinosaur in no time.”

The doctor is right. His challenge is also your challenge.  If you’re not learning new things, you will become a dinosaur in any business. And you know what happens to dinosaurs. They disappear.

I’ve discovered that every wildly successful person I’ve ever known is in to continual learning.

The last time I called my accountant, he told me about an exciting seminar he just attended in another city. It would revolutionize his practice.

And when I met with my financial planner in Detroit, he talked about the dozens of hours he spends going to seminars each year so he can keep up with all the ins and outs of the economy, the changing tax code, and the future of health care.

I even found that my lawn service provider had gone to a seminar to learn how he could help his customers grow stronger, thicker, more resilient lawns. And so it goes.

The same continuing-education principle applies to companies. According to the publication, The 100 Best Companies to Work for in America, the 100 best are lavishing 43 hours of training on each employee every year.

As Dan Timm, a principal in the Edward Jones brokerage firm, puts it, “We consider training an investment rather than an expense.”

So let’s get personal. How can you apply the lessons of the most successful people and the most successful companies to you and your life and your career?


=> 1. Recognize the critical importance of continual learning.

Intuitively, you’ve got to know that your best chance for a promotion at your present company … or any other company … is additional education and training. You can’t expect to go higher … and be paid more … if you don’t know more.

That’s what I told my Northwestern Mutual Life insurance agents in a recent meeting.  I urged them to commit themselves to lifelong learning … because the most valuable asset they’ll ever manage is their own minds and what they put into them.

Listen to Libby Sartain, a human resources executive. She says, “Today’s success currently isn’t about what you’ve achieved in the past; it’s about your capacity to learn and grow in the immediate future.”


=> 2. Give yourself a check-up from the neck up.

In other words, ask yourself a lot of tough questions. And find out if you are really and truly learning more and getting better … or are you just getting by?  Ask yourself these questions and you’ll find out.

  • Am I better off now than I was at this time last year?


  • What goals did I reach? Which achievements gave me the greatest sense of satisfaction?


  • What do I wish I’d done? What regrets do I have in the last 12 months?


  • How have my relationships improved (or deteriorated) with my spouse, my children, and my friends in the last year?


  • How well have I used my time?


  • What progress have I made in my career?


  • How have my relationships improved (or deteriorated) in the last year with my boss? Employees?  Coworkers?  Customers?


  • How does my financial portfolio look compared to last year?

If your answers tell you there’s room for improvement, don’t get discouraged. It simply means you need to LEARN more. It means you’ve got to…


=> 3. Invest in your continual learning.

If your company brings training on site, thank them … profusely. If your company sends you to seminars, thank them … again and again.

That’s what Doris Dean did. She writes,

 “I am so thankful that the FBI brought you back for another one of your Journey-To-The-Extraordinary experiences. I wanted my supervisory friends to experience your sessions as well. You are my motivation guru, and I have shared your messages with co-workers and friends in business, education, and medicine … as well as youngsters throughout my county. And I’m pleased to report that even the teens (a tough audience) are using your positive techniques!”

(F.Y.I.  My next Journey program will be in Kansas City on April 19-20, 2018.  If you register before February 28, you’ll receive the $500 Early-Bird Registration Discount.  For more information, go to

If your company doesn’t send you to seminars, ask them to send you. The very worst thing they can say is “no.” And at the very least they will see you as a highly motivated employee who wants to move ahead.

BUT … and this is important … if your company doesn’t offer enough on-site training or doesn’t support your off-site education, get your own butt into the classes you need to take.

Invest some of your own time and money into continuing education.  That’s what Eileen Zierman did.

She says,

“I thought if I could spend lots of dollars on fishing trips, I could sprout my wings and invest in your Journey-to-the-Extraordinary experience.  I could learn more about myself, my relationships, and my work.  Well, I went and I’m doing the work, and it’s working.  What a blessing from God.  It was money well spent.  I’m excited about the learning, and it feels WONDERFUL.”

Then, with your new found knowledge, you’ve got to…


=> 4. Take immediate action on what you learn.

After all, nothing is more pathetic than an educated person sitting on his or her behind.

As E. L. Simpson points out, “Getting an idea should be like sitting down on a pin; it should make you jump up and do something.”

You’ve got to apply what you learn … immediately.  Don’t confuse the taking of a class with taking action on what you learned in the class.

Author Alfred A. Montapert said it well: “Do not confuse motion and progress. A rocking horse keeps moving but does not make any progress.”

As soon as you learn something new, do something with that learning.

Just remember.  You upgrade your computer on a regular basis. You’d better make darn sure you are upgrading yourself on a regular basis as well.

About the Author:

Dr. Alan Zimmerman has taught the 12 keys to Personal Peak Performance and Positive Productive Relationships to more than one million people.   For a FREE guided tour of the 12 keys in this life-changing Journey-to-the-Extraordinary program, go to


Dr. Zimmerman’s Tuesday Tip, Issue 923 – Continuing Education:  Is it really worth it?