Continuing Education Strategies

6 Techniques for Getting the Most Out of Continuing Education

Have you ever noticed that the greatest minds and highest achievers are committed to ongoing personal and professional development?  Absolutely!  They know that their computers need to be upgraded on a regular basis and so do they.  And they know they can’t rely on yesterday’s knowledge to achieve tomorrow’s victories.

If you’re in the habit of taking part in continuing education, if you are one of those high achievers who is constantly upgrading him/herself, congratulations!  Even the Bible says, “The meek (that’s YOU) shall inherit the earth.

And meekness has nothing to do with being a submissive sissy.  In the original Greek, “meek” meant “power brought under control.”  In other words, you use your God-given brain, that has HUGE amounts of power, but you use or control that power wisely.

And one of the best ways to use your power and release your potential is to keep on learning, learning, and learning.  Again, if you fit into that category, congratulations!

J.T. Meanor from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base knows the power of that.  He sent me a note saying, “Your Journey-to-the-Extraordinary was the most rewarding learning experience I’ve obtained in over 20 years working as a USAF professional engineer and leader.  Truly the best of the best!

On the other hand, the vast majority of people do not tap into the power of continuing education.  They get by with what they know … which may not be enough … and then they wonder why their jobs, careers, life, and relationships aren’t as happy and successful as they would like.

Well, it’s never too late to make continuing education a center piece in your life.  These six strategies will help you tap into the power of continuing education.

1. Increase Your Replacement Value Through Continuing Education

In the past, your longevity or seniority might have saved you.  But traditional definitions of longevity and loyalty no longer apply.

In today’s world it’s all about replacement value. The more difficult you are to replace, the more money you will tend to make. And the more job security you will tend to enjoy.

That being the case, you must have an answer to each of the following questions.

  • What are you doing to increase your value in the marketplace?
  • What are doing to demonstrably increase your value to your current employer, clients, and customers?
  • What are doing to increase your value to prospective future employers?
  • What are you doing to make yourself so valuable that you’re the least likely to be cut or the last to be cut?

Neil Schmitz from Hearth & Home Technologies believes in increasing his replacement value. He told me, “Your Journey-to-the-Extraordinary was truly an investment in myself and my future.  It brought about huge improvements in my attitude and performance at both work and home.  And your goal-setting process helped me move from a Focus Factory Manager to a Plant General Manager with five Focus Factory Managers reporting to me.   I would strongly recommend the Journey and have done so to countless people.

2. Stop the Excuses

If you’re going to be a champion leader, manager, supervisor, team leader, individual contributor, spouse, or parent, you’ve got to stop finding excuses for not upgrading yourself, not learning more, or not getting better. You’ve got to stop sounding like the pathetic souls who say, “That’s just the way I am . . .” or “I don’t have time . . .

Eileen Zierman is one of those champions who taps into the power of continuing education.  She said, “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 using all 12 secrets that you taught us and it’s working.  What a blessing from God.  It was money well spent.  I’m excited about the learning and it feels WONDERFUL.

If you want more out of life, I urge you to stop sounding like the crybabies who say, “Take evening classes and spend my own money? Hey, I already work hard all day. Besides, it’s my employer’s job to train me or it’s the government’s job to look after my future.”  Champions never say those kinds of things.

3. Aggressively Pursue Ongoing Personal and Professional Development

No one who becomes rich in any particular business or field starts with all the skills he or she needs.

If, for example, your purpose is to turn your kids into financially independent, self-sufficient adults, you may need to take some courses on a variety of financial topics yourself. How else could you possibly expect to model the right behavior or teach your kids the proper financial skills if you don’t have them yourself?

If you have the goal of winning over your competitor’s customers without using price as a weapon, you may need to get some training on customer attraction and retention.

So what can you do to aggressively pursue ongoing personal and professional development?

Attend every GREAT seminar you can.  There are a lot of good, and a lot of waste-your-time programs out there. You don’t have the time or money to attend them all.  You’ve got to choose carefully. So ask around and see which programs and what speakers are the very best. Ask successful people—that you trust—which seminars they would recommend.

That’s what Chris Matkins and James Lester from U.S. Steel did before they came to my Journey-to-the-Extraordinary program.  Afterwards, Chris wrote, “Thoroughly enjoyed the Journey program.  Anything that holds my attention for two days is highly recommended.”  And his colleague James Lester wrote, “Great investment of time and money.  Learning experience that I am glad to say I participated in.  Would heartily recommend to others.

4. Use Proven Learning and Retention Devices

One of those devices is note-taking.  Don’t fool yourself into thinking you will remember what was said. You won’t. Dr. Manny Steil, the world’s foremost authority on listening, says you’ll get 20 percent more from a meeting if you take notes. And you’ll get 35 percent more if you put your notes into a report—saying what you learned and how you’ll use what you learned.

And the best learning and retention device is called spaced repetition.  In other words, if you hear the same message again, at a later date, chances are you’ll remember what you learned and use what you learned.

That’s why I send out a reinforcement email every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for 10 weeks to my Journey graduates.  I don’t want to leave them hanging and wondering how they’re going to apply all the great stuff they learned at the program.

Karen Zappa from the nation’s largest auto insurer wrote, “I was amazed that you started the Journey with self-esteem and that someone I had never met could describe me so well. I left that class energized.  But I remember you telling us that the changes might not happen immediately.  Not exactly true.  In only three weeks, using all the reinforcements you sent out after the Journey program, I’ve noticed a huge difference in every part of my life.

5. Learn from Champions

Another great source of continuing education is other people. You can learn a great deal from observing champions and following their lead. Interview them and soak up their wisdom.

That’s what happened when Benita Warns attended my Journey-to-the-Extraordinary program.  At the Journey she settled on the goal of winning the gold medal in the Senior 2-Woman 3000-Meter Relay.   It was quite an ambitious goal, but her champion husband encouraged her by saying, “Tomorrow night, I will be sleeping with a national champion.

Benita said, “This was my first-ever national championship and it was such a sweet victory.  My coach and I ran away from the competition.  Not only that, but this category was made up of women all a lot younger than my coach and I.  It was the most incredible thing.  I started speed skating 24 years ago and never thought I would ever win a gold medal at nationals.  Well, here I am … a national champion.

You see … at the Journey Benita learned how to connect with and learn from other champions.  And as a result, she’s selling more products (she’s in the bicycle business) and making more commissions.  As she said, “We just had our biggest month ever.

She continued, “My behavior is changing.  I no longer make anywhere close to the number of negative comments I used to.  I find myself more rested and sleeping better.  My stress level has been reduced.  The intense anger that I would experience when drivers tailgate me has diminished.

So I strongly urge you to surround yourself with champions and learn from them, individually or in a group setting. I’ve been doing that for more than twenty years, meeting with six world-class speakers, someplace in the world, and four times each year, for two days at a stretch.  What I’ve learned from those gatherings has been so huge that I would place this sort of continuing educations in the top five learning experiences of my entire life.

6. Learn from Losers

You can also learn from losers. Just find out what they do . . . and then don’t do that!

As business philosopher Jim Rohn says, “It’s too bad losers or failures don’t give seminars. Wouldn’t that be valuable? We could sit back and say, ‘Pete . . . Henry . . . Mary . . . Jessica, you’ve screwed up your life for forty years. If I bring a notepad, and promise to take good notes, would you spend a day with me? Would you teach me all the things not to do?’

That’s why I’m extremely open and disclosing in my Journey program.  I’ve had incredible successes, personally and professionally, and I’ve been enormously blessed.  But I’ve also experienced some devastating failures … and learned a ton from every one of those failures.  I pull back the curtain and share those lessons in the Journey because I believe they can cut 5, 10, or even 30 years off your learning curve.

So yes, you can and should learn from the champions.  But you can also learn from the losers.  Get in the habit of continuing your education by learning something from every person you meet.

When you use these six strategies, you will tap into the power of continuing education.  And then, as the Bible says, you (the meek) will then inherit the earth.

Final Question:  Do I care enough about myself and my work to invest in my continuing education?