Be like Buffett: be dedicated to lifelong learning. Commit to it. Never stop learning. You’re learning whether you realize it or not. You’re out there making connections. You’re making things happen.
I’m surprised by how many people stymie and wither away on the professional vine. They stopped adapting. They stopped creating. They stopped seeking out new opportunities. Now, they’re stagnant, atrophying professionally and even personally. If you’re not learning at work, you’re not likely learning at home, either.
We should all be committed learning machines. Charlie Munger, Warren Buffett’s business partner of 50+ years, says that the greatest compliment he has for Warren is that he is a learning machine. He never stops seeking out new information, new ways of doing things, and learning from his past mistakes and from those of others. Warren is like a guided missile, always honing in on new learning targets. When you think about it, what better compliment is there? Entrepreneurship is all about learning. Investment is largely about learning. Life is all about learning. If you’re a master learner, like Buffett, you’re a master of life.
Learning and reading should be scheduled into your day, like any other activity. Dedicate blocks of time to reading, to researching, to skill development. This is exercise for the mind. It surprises me when people push back on the reading part. They say they read the Internet at work, so that should count. Well, it does, but books count for more. There’s more dedication. There’s longer form. There’s applied attention. You work out your focus. You get more benefit out of reading books than reading web pages and apps, more short-term and long-term benefit.
Don’t forget about your attention and focus. These two qualities are lacking in most people, and yet they are keys to learning. It is really hard to be successful in anything without attention and focus on the right things. Most people half-joke that they are ADD, that they cannot focus on one thing at a time for longer than 2 minutes. While this might be true, how hard are they trying to focus on one thing longer than 2 minutes? Yes, we’re all living in a sea of distraction, even Buffett, but Buffett shields himself away from the financial gossip, quells rumor, and focuses 100% on his enterprise and building his legacy each day. He says you’d be surprised at what he pays attention to — it is less than you think. It is less than you think because he has able managers he trusts to do the job well. He has able managers he trusts who are also dedicated to learning and improving. They, too, made the commitment not only to Warren, but to themselves. Warren sings their praises.
If you’re not learning each day and aren’t dedicated to it, you’re withering away like a dying flower. You’re losing it. You’re missing out. You’re blowing it like a missed opportunity. This is one case where FOMO is a good thing: learning. You should have a fear of missing out on learning. Every day, you should ask what you’ve learned today. What didn’t you know that you do now? What mistake have you learned from today?
If you’re interested in testing your capabilities and pushing your limits, you should be all about learning. If you’re interested in human potential, you are all about learning. If you want to know just how far you can go in what you can do, you are all about learning. You’re never going to know unless you test and push yourself beyond where you think. They have a belief in the Navy SEAL teams: as soon as you think you’ve pushed yourself as far as you possibly can, that you cannot give any more, that you’ve met your end, you’re really at the 40% mark of your potential. They believe — and often prove — this 40% is accurate. You’re really not even halfway there! And here, all this time, you thought you were finished. If SEALs have proven anything, it is that we’re capable of far more than we think. Yet you’d never know unless you were interested and excited about learning your true potential for how far you can push yourself. We have no idea just how far we can go. This idea should intrigue you and excite you. In this way, we don’t really know who we are. When it comes to our potential, who are we? What else are you capable of?
Those committed to learning are far more interesting people. They’re better storytellers. They’re far more curious about themselves and the world around them. They’re travelers. They’re testers. They’re readers. They’re willing to try new things just to try them. They are intriguing. They spark the curiosity of others. They’re willing to push things in a way just to see what they can get away with (it’s more than you think). They seek out new ways of doing things. They’re rarely stuck in the old ways of doing things. They improvise. They believe there is always a way.
Note the overlap between those committed to lifelong learning and innovation: curiosity; testing; reading; trying new things; connecting things; pushing things forward; improvisation; believing you can even when it hasn’t been done. As stated before, innovation is all about learning. They’re both core values. You cannot have one without the other. Only those committed to learning can be true innovators. Without this commitment and dedication, there is no innovation, no moving forward.