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Lifelong learning for personal development.

I RECENTLY finished watching the second season of The Great Canadian Baking Show, a franchise of the immensely popular The Great British Bake Off, where amateur bakers engage in spirited competition to whip up the best bakes for nothing more-and nothing less-than the prize of being declared champion of the baking show.

In the second season, it was a man at the tail end of middle age, Vancouver resident Andrei Godoroja, who emerged as champion. What is surprising about him is on top of winning the baking show at age 58, he is also a sailor, a software engineer, a skier and an opera singer. This made me realize that the possibilities of what we can do with our lives are endless if only we are willing and commit ourselves to it. And what made him successful in all his endeavors was his passion for learning and making himself better.

One thing we can learn from him is it is never too late to learn something new. Be it in our work or in our hobbies, there will always be something you can learn and improve. When I jumped careers from being an academic to being a corporate trainer, I had to sacrifice a lot of things. It surprised me that being a teacher actually pays better than being a trainer but I thought then that what I will learn will become far more valuable than the pay. And it did. I learned so many things in two years about corporate training that I went on to become a supervisor and then a manager. I am glad I made that career jump because it forced me to get out of my comfort zone and learn as much as I could.

What also helped me in developing myself was the learning environment provided by my team and my leaders. We would hold regular team meetings where each one got to present what they did well in their work and showcase their innovation. It forced me and the team to look at the latest trends and see how we could incorporate those in our work. We realized our tools were only limited by our imagination and we had yet to exhaust all the functionalities of our tools. It also kept us on our toes on what was current and we got to share best practices to make our work easier. This not only helped us become better at what we do, but it also helped us bond together as a team.

And when things get especially difficult, we turned to our industry leaders. My previous director let us scope projects and negotiate on our own. She said it would help us grow better and give us a pulse of the organization's direction and needs. Because of her tutelage, my team and I were able to build learning materials and modalities which helped our clients beyond what we would normally do. This proved to the organization my team had more to offer than the usual training materials but also alternate learning experiences beyond the classroom and desktops. There were a few hiccups along the way but she was also there to support and defend us especially when clients were being difficult. We learned a lot from her. If you want to grow and continuously learn, you also need to find yourself a good leader who will bring out the best in you and mentor you.

And even if you think you have not accomplished anything yet, teach others. Your experience is an invaluable asset to others. There are people in your team who will benefit from what you know and help you master your craft. When I was still a workgroup lead, I had to teach somebody how to manage his own projects. I had a template I would use to monitor my projects and when I was teaching someone else how to use it, I realized there were some things I could have done better. To the one I was teaching, it was already good as it was. But when I looked at it closely, I recognized that it needed some fine-tuning. Teaching others helps you look at things in a new light, and it helps you understand the intricacies of your processes and make them better.

And speaking of making things better, start your own continuous improvement project. Look for better ways of doing things in your office or in your home. One of the things I introduced to the team was using learning videos in a new way which I discovered in one of the forums in an online community for e-learning developers. Users will watch a video, which will then stop and ask you a question. Choose the correct answer and the video will continue; choose the wrong answer and you have to do it all over again. I used this method in a video on how to set up a projector. This also became one of the highlights of a training program for trainers. This and other improvements go a long way in helping make learning engaging and at the same time, such help your career move forward.

Your personal development does not have to stop and end in the classroom and at your work stations. There are new ways of learning which you can take advantage of-your mobile phone for one. While stuck in traffic, you can use an app which can help you learn a new language, or read new trends in your field, or even listen to podcasts or watch a talk. The Internet is replete with resources you can take advantage of in your idle time. The key here is to find something that will interest you so it will not feel like work. You learn something new and have fun at the same time.

Your personal and career development depends largely on your willingness to learn new things. Once you stop learning, you also stop growing. And your growth depends on how much time you are willing to invest in learning. So tell me, what new thing have you learned lately?
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Publication:Business Mirror (Makati City, Philippines)
Date:May 8, 2019
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