Even if you're an "expert" in your field, there is always more to learn; good leaders never stop seeking opportunities for growth.
“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.” - Alvin Toffler
When I graduated from college, I worked as a cottage parent in a child care facility. My boss, Roy Maas, was dedicated to leadership training and professional growth, and he exposed me to a great deal of training experiences.
One of those experiences was attending professional growth conferences in child care. He and I traveled to a major conference, so that we would be up to the best practices in the field. Halfway through the day in the conference hotel, Roy stopped in the middle of the lobby and said to me, “Look around! What problem do you see?”
I had no idea what he was talking about. I saw 10-20 CEO’s of child care organizations walking to different breakout sessions. These guys were at the top of their game, and the leaders in the field. So I told him that was what I saw.
Roy said, “Right. And how many of them have notebooks?” Then I got it. Only a couple did. The rest of them had just spoken at their own sessions, and were walking to another one, but with nothing to write on. Roy’s implication was that these individuals were at the conference to teach, but that they seemed to have little value in learning for themselves. Roy continued his training with me: “Professional growth is always being a learner.”
I never forgot that lesson. Roy’s challenge became part of my DNA all through my career. I became a lifelong learner.
None of us ever truly “arrive.” There is always someone, somewhere, who knows something valuable we can benefit from. Even the best in class should be seeking more growth. Your brain agrees with this. In the neuroscience level this is especially true. Your mind will stretch or decline, depending on your own growth. For example, one of the activities that keeps us from losing mental acuity is doing new habits like learning another language.
As a consultant and coach, I have continued “taking notes” whenever I am at a setting when there are experts, especially in my field. When I am keynoting, I try to make it to a couple of breakout sessions.
Never stop growing, professionally or personally. You will reap the benefits at all sorts of levels.