Four Ways to Avoid the Grand Mistake

How to Check Your Commitment to Continuing Education


Because he was getting older, the elderly carpenter told his employer that he planned to leave the house building business and live a more leisurely life. His boss was sorry to see his good worker go after nearly thirty years and asked if he could build just one more house as a personal favor. The carpenter reluctantly agreed, but it was easy to see that his heart wasn’t in his work. He resorted to shoddy workmanship and began using inferior materials. It was an unfortunate way to end his career.

Finally, the carpenter finished the job and his boss came to inspect the house. As the contractor and carpenter approached the completed house, the contractor handed the front door key to the carpenter.

“This is your house,” he said. “It’s my gift to you for your years of service.”

What a shame! If he had only known he was building his own house, he would have done it differently. Now he had to live in the house he had built.

You need to think of yourself as a carpenter and consider the life and career you are building. Are you building a mansion? Or are you making the grand mistake and unwittingly building a shack?

To build a mansion of a life and career, you must be committed to ongoing education.  That’s why I unabashedly promote my new book, The Payoff Principle: Discover the 3 Secrets for Getting What You Want Out of Life and Work, because it will put you on the path to continuing education and amazing payoffs.  If you’re really serious about education, I urge you to get a copy of the book and the workbook.

If you are committed to ongoing education, you will see four pieces of evidence in your behavior.

1. You’re Humble Enough to Admit You Don’t Know It All

You know that you don’t know everything. You know there is always more to learn. And like all producers, you know there are certain skills and strategies you have to keep on learning to achieve the maximum payoffs at home or on the job. You’re in the continual learning mode, because you know it’s easier to keep up than catch up.

2. You Are Open to Change

The whole world is changing and if you’re not out there learning new things, you’re in trouble. Big trouble. Take your job, for example. Whatever skills got you into your current job may no longer be enough to keep you in that job. Indeed, if you haven’t been to several training seminars or read several books on professional development lately, you may be in danger of extinction.

And how do you know if you’re open to change? Ask yourself one question. Have you ever thought, “If I can just hang on a few more weeks and get through this change, I can get back to normal?” If so, you’re in trouble. You’ve got to accept the reality that change won’t go away. That change will never be over.

And to deal with the change, you must be engaged in a process of continuing education.

3. You Take Ownership of the Educational Improvements You Need to Make

Despite the fact these are challenging times, some people are still not committed to their ongoing development.  That became very clear to me on a recent TV news program where people were being interviewed about company downsizing and possible company layoffs. One employee said, “I want to know what my union is going to do to save my job.” Another individual asked, “How is the government going to make sure I don’t lose my job?” And so went the interview. No one asked the employees the key question, “What are you going to do?” Everyone shifted the responsibility for job preservation or career enhancement to somebody else.

And that, my friends, is a dangerous position to take. As Bettye Jean Triplett, the mother of entrepreneur Chris Gardner, notes, “You can only depend on yourself. The cavalry ain’t coming.”  You’ve got to stop blaming external people and forces in your life and start choosing the more appropriate response of continuing your education.

So I ask you, are you taking ownership for the educational changes you need to make? Or are you simply sitting on the sidelines, waiting for a light to appear at the end of the tunnel, and hoping things work out?

4. You Refuse to Settle for “Good Enough”

Producers are never satisfied with getting by or squeaking through. As Debbi Fields, the founder of Mrs. Fields Cookies, would say, great leaders know that “good enough never is.”

In his Telephone Prospecting and Selling Report newsletter, Art Sobczak says, “‘Good enough’ does not win championships or make people excellent, wealthy, or healthy.” Producers know that good enough is seldom, if ever, actually good enough.

However, when I’m about to offer training in a company, some sourpuss will always say, “I don’t need to go to those classes.” “I’ve taken plenty of training in the past.” “I’ve already heard all that stuff.” and “I’ve been here a long time and I’m doing good enough as it is.

On the surface, the sourpuss might think he has a good point, but put his comment in another context. You wouldn’t want to hear your cardiac surgeon say, “I had a class on heart surgery once back in medical school. That’s good enough.” Likewise, you would have your doubts about the professional baseball player who says, “I don’t need to go to spring training. I’ve been playing the game for years. I’m good enough.

Of course, this commitment to ongoing development applies to organizations as well as people. Take Tastefully Simple, for example, a direct sales company that offers easy-to-prepare gourmet-quality foods. They refuse to settle for good enough and declare “personal growth” as one of their core values. As a result, they offer a host of classes and conferences based on their TRIM model. They’re constantly looking for ways to Train, Recognize, Inform, and Mentor their employees on-site and their thousands of consultants around the world.

So how did you do on these four signs of commitment to ongoing education?  If you can say that all four signs describe you, that’s great.  If you’re lacking in one or more of the signs, I urge you to adopt a process of continuing education, starting right now.