Learning is not only something that happens in a classroom. Learning is the processing and storage of everything you encounter. Learning never stops and never takes a holiday. Learning makes us the person we are.
Learning sometimes involves consequences. If I do this, that will happen. This is the purest form of learning that begins in early childhood. If I cry like this, they will bring me a bottle of milk. Pretty basic but complex at the same time. Determining links in cause and effect is a complex form of learning, yet we do it at the earliest age. Cause and effect learning makes the strongest impact on us. It adds the element of a consequence, either bad or good to the lesson. That consequences strengthens or memory of the event. Think of the toddler that places a hand on the hot pan. They get burned. The consequence is a strong motivator to quickly learn the cause and effect involved in touching things that are hot. If I feel heat I do not want to touch it so I do not get burned. This lesson is strongly imprinted on us and remember throughout life. Negative consequences often hold an emotional response that strengthens the lesson.
As we mature we continue to observe and learn. Lessons build upon one another and we gain maturity. With maturity often comes greater responsibility. A new parent has no handbook on raising their new baby. They learn from observation. If the baby cries, they want something. Learning what their individual cries mean come for experience. If he does this, I do that and this occurs. When they cry in this manner, I change them and they quit crying. We are constantly building on the knowledge we have.
In business. leaders must continually learn. Classes and books help but observation is the key. In my previous job I was responsible for training several manager trainees. They rotated through several stores, gaining experience from different managers. Most, straight out of college had so much to learn, I am not talking about policies and procedures, I’m talking about leadership. Learning to be a leader is a complicated task. I asked every trainee to take only two things away from their experience with me. Only two things out of the numerous things they experienced in our time together. Only two things that they would carry with them the rest of their lives. I ask them to take one thing I did as a leader and commit to ALWAYS doing that in their career. The second thing I asked is that they take one thing I did and NEVER do that in their career. I was a pretty good manager but I realized I had faults and shortcomings. If these trainees were able to do this, with every manager they trained with, they would come out superstars. Taking the best and leaving out the worst they experienced from several successful manager.
As we learn traits and behaviors we want to emulate, we often struggle to meet those standards. We try to repeat those behaviors but find that life’s interruptions often distract us from doing the things we said we would always do. As we throw ourselves into work we struggle to maintain those behaviors day in and day out. On the other hand, we DO seem to be able to avoid the behaviors we said we would never do. We find a strong sense of responsibility to never repeat those behaviors. It is easier to avoid negative behaviors because they have strong emotional attachments. When we observe someone mistreating an associate, we have a strong emotional reaction, and vow that we will never do that. The desire to have higher standards and avoid those behaviors is imprinted with that emotional response. It becomes something we could NEVER do. The positive behaviors we want to emulate become things we would like to do. That would be good. They usually do not have strong emotional reactions attached to them and therefore become less imprinted on us.
The point of all of this is that we all must understand that learning is ongoing and constant. We should open ourselves up to observing and learning not only what to do but what not to do from others. When we open ourselves up to this we will find that the lessons learned are strongly imprinted upon us and quickly become part of the person we want to be. Positive role models are always important but the negative role models and the negative mistakes made by positive role models have as much to teach us as the positive.
So open your eyes and your ears and discover those things you never want to do and then commit to making that part of who you are. You will end up being a better person.
Now if you will excuse me, I need to go screw up something so I can be a good role model.