It’s Back to School for Everyone

The kids have new backpacks filled with pens and pencils. The schools have been cleaned and have rung the opening bell. The teachers are rested from their vacations (sort of). It’s school time – and not just for the K through 12 crowd. We all need to continue to hone our skills and knowledge base. Let September be a time when we each renew our commitment to ourselves for continuous improvement through unremitting learning.

Wait a minute. What’s that you say? You have already spent your time in school jail and now that you are an adult, you have learned everything you possibly could from education. I would propose a counter view that we need to continually learn in order to grow, both personally and in business. Ben Franklin, inventor, philosopher, statesman, etc., made the point “Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning. “ John Wooden once said “It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.”

Learning doesn’t necessarily translate only to formal school time, however. Learning can encompass any activity where we are exposed to a new idea, practice a new skill or pick up a new trick to make our work easier. The first key in continuing to learn is to start. To quote Ben Franklin again, “An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.” In the current economic times, it makes sense to invest in yourself and your growth. The first investment is time.

Okay, so you don’t have time to tackle a new degree or a full time formal coursework commitment. But, if you can carve out as little as 15 minutes a day, 4 days a week, you will have 1 hour devoted to self-improvement every week. Start with something small, say reading a blog on a topic that is of interest to you. Find a blogger whose message resonates with you in style and topic. Take 15 minutes a day to read a newsletter article on something that you wanted to learn more about. Set up RSS feeds from news sources so that the content is delivered to you online to make it easier to absorb when you have that spare 15 minutes while you are waiting in line at Starbucks’.

A quick source of continuing education for me has been attending a workshop or a seminar hosted by my local chamber or networking group. The topics are generally of interest to a business person, are short in format and typically have at least one or two kernels of information that you can take away and use. Go to these sessions with the intent of learning something new; you may surprise yourself on what you can glean by just being open to the possibility of something new.

Another source for continuing education and self-improvement that I just learned about from a fellow networker is Open Yale Courses. Open Yale Courses provides free and open access to a selection of introductory courses taught by distinguished teachers and scholars at Yale University. The aim of the project is to expand access to educational materials for all who wish to learn. Their approach goes beyond the acquisition of facts and concepts to cultivate skills and habits of rigorous, independent thought: the ability to analyze, to ask the next question, and to begin the search for an answer. All lectures are recorded in the Yale College classroom and are available in video, audio, and text transcript format. Registration is not required and no course credit is available. And you can brag that you got an education from Yale! Other schools may offer similar programs.

There are endless sources of short snippet for tips and tricks. I happen to use frequently to figure out how to do things that I may need to support a client – tips on everything from sharing Google Calendar and organizing folders in Hotmail to reformatting Press Releases for online viewing. Of course, every program has ‘Help’ screens that can assist you as well. These are all very handy ways to save time and make your work more efficient without a huge investment in time. I have found it to be a good idea to research things on my own; each of us learns in our own way, so it is a good opportunity to figure out what works best in our own situation. We here at Cybertary like to include a short tip or tool every month in this newsletter; we often receive positive feedback of the value of these tips or tools from our readers.

So, head back to school, dedicate at least an hour a week to learning something new that would enrich your life or benefit your business. To close with another pithy quote from our friend Ben Franklin, “Being ignorant is not such a shame as being unwilling to learn.”