Keeping a Lot of Balls in the Air!

The speaker walked to the podium, pulled out a set of juggling balls, and, without saying a word, threw them in the air and kept them in the air without missing a beat for what seemed like a very long time.

Since the speaker was Cliff Ehrlich the Senior Vice President of Human Resources for Marriott International who was meeting with HR leaders from all over the world, I remember thinking his point was that HR professionals have to "keep a lot of balls in the air" in order to meet the many demands placed on us -- but I was wrong.

He said, "I recently had one of those birthdays that end in a zero, and I realized it had been a very long time since I'd taught myself anything new. I've taken lessons and improved my tennis game, but it had been a while since I set out to learn something on my own -- so I taught myself how to juggle."

Cliff's message (and excellent juggling skills!) had a real impact on me and a lot of others in the room. Being a "lifelong learner" is critical to success in business -- we can't rely on what we learned in school or fall back on the deadly "we've always done it this way" syndrome and be successful. 

In our ever-changing world, it's critical to stay current and competitive. We must always be learning new things! Now, I can just hear many of you as you read this blog saying -- "This is crazy -- I can barely get through my busy day with all the demands at home and at work, and she's telling me I have to take what valuable time I have to learn. Doesn't she realize how many balls I am keeping in the air at work and at home?" 

Yes, I get that you're busy, but I'm suggesting that you need to take advantage of all the amazing information out there to learn and do more! Being a lifelong learner can give you a competitive edge and spur you on to success at work and life.

There are many effective, simple, and realistic ways to learn. Rather than listening to music as you commute, try listening to a podcast or even a book on tape. If you want to teach yourself a new skill, like Cliff Ehrlich, consider picking up a paintbrush or teaching yourself to knit. Most of us learn best by doing, so take a cooking class where you do the work -- not the kind where you watch the chef cook and then you eat the food -- fun as those are!

Challenge yourself today to expand your mind and learn something new. This may be continuing your education in a classroom setting or just being more aware of the many opportunities to learn that surround each of us every day. I'm going to bet that once you get started thinking of yourself as a lifelong learner, you'll never want for learning experiences. Remember Cliff Ehrlich, who taught me that being a lifelong learner can enrich your life in ways that will surprise and delight you. Happy learning!

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