Four Steps To Becoming A Lifelong Learner

Don’t settle for what you used to be or have been.

An elderly carpenter was ready to retire. He told his employer that he planned to leave the house building business and live a more leisurely life. He would miss the paycheck to be sure, but he wanted to take it easy.

His boss, the contractor, was sorry to see his good worker go after nearly 30 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 his work, 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 shock! What a shame! If he had only known he was building his own house, he would have done it so differently. Now he had to live in the house he had built.

The same is true for all of us. We often build our lives in a haphazard way, putting in less than what might be required. And then with a shock … we look at the situation we have created and the life we are living. We’re living in the poor house we have built.

You need to think of yourself as a carpenter and consider the house/life you are building. Are you building a mansion? Or are you building a shack? Each day you hammer a nail, place a board, or erect a wall.

That’s why I spoke so strongly about the need for continual education in last week’s “Tuesday Tip.” You’ve got to keep on learning and growing because you’re building the house you will be living in.

So how do you do that?

=> 1. Realize The Ripple Effect.

Every choice you make today has a ripple effect on tomorrow. There is no such thing as making a decision or taking an action that does not affect your future.

Think about it, if you eat two bowls of ice cream every night, what will be the inevitable result? If you smoke two packs of cigarettes every day, what can you expect to happen? Dr. Mike Murdock says, “Everything you are presently doing will benefit your present or your future. The choice is yours.”

You will make a lot of decisions today. Some of them will give you pleasure today, but they will make you miserable tomorrow. And some of your decisions will make you a little uncomfortable today, but tomorrow you will be thrilled.

For example, if you’re on a diet but decide to eat several pieces of chocolate cake anyway, it will taste good for now. But tomorrow morning you will be disgusted with yourself for not refusing it.

If on the other hand, you put the cake aside, you’ll feel a bit depressed tonight. But tomorrow you’ll have a stronger sense of self-respect for being able to say “no.”

If you are building the house you’re going to live in, then I must ask you, “What decisions you are making today? What actions are you taking today? Are they building you a better or poorer house?” Don’t forget the ripple effect.

=> 2. Apply the Ripple Effect To Your Reading.

It’s one of the best ways to build a better house. If you read more and more of the right stuff, you can’t help but improve your entire life.

And so many people refuse to read … or they read junk. They fail to pick up the books that will improve their relationships, their careers, and their bank accounts. That’s why Jim Rohn says you can judge a person’s bank account by the size of his library. The more books he has — and the more he studies them — if they are the right kinds of educational materials, the more money he’ll tend to have.

By contrast, marketing guru Dan Kennedy says he’s observed that people with tiny bank accounts tend to have no libraries, but they usually have big TV’s. Hmm!

You’ve got to keep on reading if you want to keep on growing. And please don’t tell me you can’t afford to buy all the books you should be reading. As Mr. Rohn says, “It isn’t what the book costs, it’s what it will cost if you don’t read it.”

The most successful people READ … and LISTEN! Everybody else settles for less or learns the hard way. American humorist Will Rogers put it this way — even though he said it a bit crudely: “There are three kinds of men: 1) the ones that learn by reading, 2) the few who learn by observation, 3) the rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves.”

=> 3. Attend Every “Good” Seminar You Can.

Even though I’ve been speaking at various conferences and leading seminars in countless organizations over the last 21 years, I never stop going to seminars myself. I need to keep on learning so I can be at my best and give the best to my clients.

Of course, there’s a lot of bad, waste-your-time seminars out there. I’m not suggesting you spend your time or money on those. Life is too short for that. 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.

And when you go to those programs, don’t sit back and merely listen. Take notes, lots of notes, and write down WHAT you’re going to do with your new learnings — and WHEN you’re going to do it.

The most successful people always do that. I know. I have the honor of being in the Speaker Hall of Fame, an honor that has only been given to a few dozen people over the last 30 years. They include such notables as President Ronald Reagan, Colin Powell, Art Linkletter, and Zig Ziglar. And when these people get together at the annual meeting of the National Speakers Association, you will see the most famous and most successful people right up there in the front row, taking notes and planning on how they can improve.

By contrast, some of the less successful speakers may skip a few sessions. Or if they attend a seminar, they doodle on their paper instead of taking notes

I wonder. Could there be some correlation between attending seminars, really listening during the seminars, taking notes, and moving ahead? Why of course there is!

=> 4. Learn From Losers.

Besides monitoring your choices, managing the ripple effect, increasing your reading and seminar attendance, you need to realize you can learn something from everybody you meet. Of course you can learn a great deal from observing successful people and following their lead. But you can also learn from losers. Just find out what they do and what they read — and don’t do it.

On the flip side, if you’ve got one of those ner’ do well relatives or friends who is always asking for some money, a handout, or whatever, put a Recommended Reading list into his/her hand. It will do them more good than any money you could ever give them.

But if you feel you must slip some extra money to your son or daughter, grandson or granddaughter, or whomever is not doing very well, try this approach. Pay them for book reports on books you assign. And have them report back to you. If they’re not willing to do it, then they’re not willing to grow up, take responsibility, get some tools, and truly move ahead … once and for all.

Action:  Get a copy of my Recommended Reading List on my web site and start reading.