If success is to continue, if sustained relevance is to be had, continued learning must be occurring. With each week, month, and year that goes by we can improve. There’s plenty to think about on the premise of continuous improvement and “what” it is. But as Simon Sinek discusses in “Start With Why?” it’s important to begin by understanding the reasoning for this mindset.
Dr. Battacherjee, or Dr. “B” as we called him, taught a class in the PhD program I was in on Research Methodology. He was intent in building our ability to research and learn from the ground up and thus the class started with an introduction in a field of philosophy known as Epistemology – the study of knowledge.
Many philosophers you’ve probably heard of opined in this field and came to important conclusions. Socrates in 400 BC said “learning is the kindling of a flame not the filling of a vessel” and later concluded that “an unexamined life isn’t worth living”. Kant, 1400 years later would conclude that “it is through good education that all the good in the world is created.”. Regardless of one’s epistemological perspective, there’s ample evidence of the need for continual learning to happen.
Imagine for instance, a chef turned restaurateur. He may have started as modest cook and became a great chef but he now must learn to run a business to continue to succeed. Imagine a gifted musician whose career is on the up. She must learn to navigate the record industry, build a personal brand, and work with event planners to bring her craft to the world. As our island of success grows, so to does our shore of ignorance. If we’re to tame that shore, learning must happen. In fact, another great axiom of Socrates was that the more he learned the more he realized he didn’t know.
Too often, we’re tempted to feel we’ve already arrived and to close our minds to new truths and understandings. Ryan Holiday wrote “[The amateur is defensive. But the professional finds learning to be enjoyable. They engage in education as an endless an ongoing process.]” Our egos sing a song of validation and tell us we’ve already graduated but the brightest and most successful know we must remain students forever, stay forever learning!