What Will You Learn This Year?


With the torrential pace of change in our world, how will you decide what you need to learn this year?

Even if you’re not tackling a new job as I am, every field is changing rapidly. This makes lifelong learning an imperative for all of us.

Richard Bolles had an early inkling of this. While he’s better known as the bestselling author of the annually updated What Color is Your Parachute?, he also wrote The Three Boxes of Life.

In it he argued that we should not think about our lives in a linear fashion of education followed by work followed by retirement.

Instead, he advocated that all 3 boxes of life should be woven through every stage of our lives. This has never been more true than today, nearly four decades after the book was published.

Our education has to continue in parallel with our careers. For those who loved formal schooling, as I did, this is welcome news.

And for those who didn’t, there are many new ways of learning – by online courses, by doing and by observing, to name a few – that can make it more fun and intuitive.

And weaving in elements of retirement with its passion projects, travel and leisure refreshes and inspires us. This is why what we do on weekends is so important.

Thinking about all the things I need to learn in my new role, a Harvard Business Review post by Erika Andersen caught my eye this week.

How to Decide What Skill to Work On Next gives a great framework to focus your learning efforts. Andersen links the framework of Jim Collinshedgehog concept from Good to Great with learning.

Collins found that great organizations have 3 areas of focus:

  1. What drives their economic engine
  2. What they can be the best in the world at, and
  3. What they’re most passionate about.

Linking that with learning, Andersen advocates asking yourself these questions:

  1. How can you learn and grow in a way that will help your company succeed? What will drive the bottom line?
  2. Of those areas, which ones could you become excellent at? If you’re good at similar things, those are ideal starting points.
  3. How passionate are you about those areas? And she shows that passion can be learned by looking at the benefits to learning and how it will create a better future for you.

This is not only a manageable and efficient way of making a personal learning plan, but it’s also inspiring and exciting.

It’s helping me narrow my focus and pick the highest-impact areas in my learning project. And it’s reassuring to know that I don’t have to learn everything, right away.

Like so many things in life, it’s about identifying the highest priority areas, taking initial actions, assessing progress and course correcting. It’s taking steps forward, day after day.

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Caroline Leach

Hi, I'm Caroline Leach. I help people and organizations tell their stories. I'm a Marketing VP at AT&T, a former Communications VP at DIRECTV and an alum of the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. This blog, How to Build Your Career through Social Media, shows you how to build your personal brand, advance your career and embrace your future. It helps you promote your employer and your network too. Opinions expressed in this blog are my own. Your comments are welcomed and encouraged. I'd love to hear from you!

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