The following piece is adapted from a longer series of posts written by the author for his personal blog. You can find links to the longer version at the end of this entry.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the importance of learning. Maybe it’s because I walked for my MBA commencement two weekends ago. Maybe it’s because I’ve been thinking about what else I need to learn about the music business to get my career going.
In any case, learning is critical for success in anything we do. I’m not just talking about getting a formal education; I’m talking about continuously learning every day of our lives.
-Why should we be learning?
We have needs and wants.
- We need to be successful.
- We need to successfully compete against others.
- We want to gain the respect of our peers and others.
- We want to be self-confident.
Learning goes a long way to helping us fulfill these needs and wants.
-Who should be learning?
We ALL should be learning. No matter what we do, we should find ways to better ourselves. And to do so, we must learn.
In addition, we need to help each other to learn. As we all become more interconnected in a world where the flow of goods, services, and most critically, information has virtually no barriers, we are significantly impacted (both positively and negatively) by how well others perform. On the bright side, this greater interconnectedness also means we have greater access to each other’s strengths. The key to optimizing the utilization of a group’s assets is to ensure that each person in the group has the knowledge and skills, specific to his or her role, that are necessary to taking advantage of this greater access. Therefore, we have an incentive to help each other learn and develop.
-When should we be learning?
Every waking minute. Realize that there are opportunities for learning all around you, wherever you are and at any time. The important thing is that you should be able to go to bed at night and come up with a short list of things you learned that day that have made you a better person.
-What should we be learning?
- About yourself:
- Identify personal strengths and weaknesses.
- Identify personal interests and passions.
- About your craft:
- Whatever you are working toward has specific criteria for success. If you are a songwriter, maybe it’s understanding accepted standards for a well-crafted lyric.
- Identify potential obstacles to success that are specific to your pursuit. Consider how your personal strengths/weaknesses interact with these roadblocks and what else you need to know in order to best overcome them.
- About your business: how your craft fits into a larger context. For example, the craft of guitar players can be explored as an artist, as a teacher, etc., and there are many sub-categories within these applications.
- About something completely different from your craft and/or business: be a more well-rounded person.
- About people like you: build strong relationships.
- About people entirely different from you: build tolerance and trust.
- About your stakeholders and your stakeholders’ stakeholders: customers, suppliers, family members who depend on you.
- About communicating: effective writing and speaking.
-How should we be learning?
- Practice: learning by doing will always give you the best understanding of how the knowledge and skills that you obtain can be applied to “real world” situations…because you are learning them in the real world.
- This includes experimenting with new ideas and ways of doing tasks. That instrumental break you play in the middle of your set night after night that seems to leave the audience bored and staring at their cell phones? Consider trying something different in the next show and see what happens.
- Just as important is that you learn from everything you do right and everything you do wrong. Look back on last night’s show or that project you just finished and ask yourself, “what did i do that really worked?” as well as, “what did i do wrong that i need to fix next time?”
- The important takeaway here is that you have to be willing to take risks and ultimately, to fail, if you want to identify new and better ways of doing things or to learn an entirely new thing. I can think of no better application of this than the sorting out of the music business today.
- Sometimes, watching something being performed a few times makes more sense than jumping in and trying it. Watching someone execute a task (ex. the first time you learn how to change from a G to a D chord on the guitar) is the next best thing to trying.
- Ask questions:
- Find someone who knows about something that you want to learn more about and talk with them for an hour.
- Don’t be afraid to ask appropriate questions throughout the day, in meetings, during class, etc. when you don’t completely understand the topic of discussion.
- It’s an easy and cheap way to gain access to large amounts of information in one place.
- This doesn’t need to be a big time investment–I get the dictionary.com word of the day emailed to me every morning and take 2 minutes to learn a new word that i may encounter down the road.
- Take a class
It is becoming both easier and more crucial for us to update our knowledge and skills today. Abigail Adams said it well: “learning is not attained by chance, it must be sought for with ardor and attended to with diligence.” Please, keep learning and help others learn. We’ll all be better for it.
Read more about learning in the three-part series that begins here.