First a quote; “Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s own ignorance.” — Confucius
Fairly early in my career I had the motivation to climb the corporate ladder. I wanted to do more. I desired to test my capabilities and to expand my horizons. Hungry for growth, I went to our HR department to investigate my options and explore next steps. Saying they appreciated my initiative and desire for growth, they also made it clear my lack of an advanced degree would be a strong barrier to advancement, at least within that company. So, with the goal of becoming an officer someday and choosing to stay, off to school I went. After several years of Saturdays and weeknights, I graduated as a non-traditional student with an MBA. Still a source of pride and accomplishment for me as school and formal education had never been “my thing”.
Now to the point! The education I received has certainly been helpful to me and has served me well. I wouldn’t be where I am today, doing what I’m doing, without that additional education and experience. However, upon reflection, the most important thing I learned wasn’t in the books, projects, assignments or lectures. It didn’t come out of a case study, was never graded or even a formal part of the curriculum.
The most valuable lesson I learned was; the more I learn in life, the more I’m aware of how much I don’t know. I have a greater awareness of my own ignorance in so many ways and in so many places. There is a huge difference between not knowing what we don’t know and, knowing how much we don’t know.
Joyce Cary said, “It is the tragedy of the world that no one knows what he doesn’t know – and the less a man knows, the more sure he is that he knows everything.” I choose not to be one of those people.
For me personally, the awareness of how much I don’t know has kept me both hungry and humble… hungry enough to never stop learning… and, humble enough to look to others more knowledgeable and more experienced than me for advice, answers and direction.
All the successful leaders I know personally, and know of, are lifelong learners by choice. And, while taking a class here or there, reading books or listening to an occasional Ted Talk are all great approaches to continuous learning, life and work offer you so many additional daily opportunities to grow and learn. If you lead, or work with people, it is quite likely they all can teach you something for free if you’re only willing to listen and learn.
Every day, and in every situation, with every person you interact with going forward, you will be presented with an opportunity to make a conscious choice between three roles; teacher, student or know-it-all. Which role will you choose? Leaders are both teacher and students, and never know-it-alls.
Leaders learn. Leaders read. Leaders seek the teachers that surround them all day, every day. Go buy a spiral notepad and start taking notes… your teachers are waiting.
Be your best self this week!
Have a great week!!