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An Attitude of Learning – A character quality of successful individuals


23Mar 2008

When I meet with business owners and managers, I often ask them what characteristics they look for in younger managers they are interviewing for positions. Frequently, one quality mentioned is the desire and willingness to learn.

Recently, I have had some amazing discussions with gentlemen (I use the word with its specific meaning in mind) who are older than I am (late 50’s, early 60’s to mid 70’s) who have been successful in many areas of their lives – in business or their profession, in managing their money wisely, having healthy family relationships, and a depth of spirituality.

My interactions with these individuals had a very distinct quality to them. Although highly successful themselves, they seemed keenly interested in learning from others. In the discussions I observed, they asked questions, listened, and delved deeper with follow-up questions. They appeared to have a true interest in the lives of those with whom they were conversing. And they were equally excited to share about what they were learning currently in their lives — not what they knew nor the successes they had previously experienced. Rather, they were discussing their current challenges, the mistakes they had recently made and what they were trying to learn from them.

Maybe it is obvious to others (I am often a slow learner), but the individuals from whom I want to learn , whom I want to be like, and desire to model my life after – are learners, life-long learners. They read a fair amount (not all learn via reading, though). They ask insightful questions. Their interactions with others are more focused on learning from those around them (whether they are interacting with “successful” people, young adults, teens, or children) rather than trying to impress others with their own knowledge.

But, unfortunately, in my daily life I meet and interact with a number of individuals who come across — to put it bluntly — proud and self-absorbed. They relate to others in a condescending manner and in a way that communicates they clearly view themselves as a primary source of wisdom for those around them.

I am personally challenged to reflect on my life, attitude, and interactions with others. Am I a learner? Do I approach interactions with the attitude – what can I learn from this person, regardless of their age or stage in life?

And I am reminded of a few sayings and proverbs I have heard, like:

“A person of understanding draws out the deep thoughts of others.”

“Even an idiot appears smart if he (or she) keeps quiet.”

“A person who learns from others who are wise will become wise himself, but if you hang out with idiots – watch out!! – trouble is on its way.”

From whom would you like to learn? Take the initiative and give them a call; set up a lunch or breakfast meeting (and think about some questions ahead of time you would like to ask them.)

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