Updated October 15, 2019
No matter where you are in your career you know things.
You actually know a lot more than you think.
Sometimes we get down on ourselves for not knowing about X or Y or Z.
The fact is that we know so many things that if we wrote them all down we’d be writing for days.
But, what can you do when you are expected to know something new?
- First, how do you know what you need to know?
- Second, how do you learn when you need to know something new?
Good news … It’s easier than you think. And, you don’t need to spend 10,000 hours either.
For the first one the answer is often one of two things. Plus my personal favorite.
- The first is … your manager, a company you want to work for, a team you want to join, etc. tell you or it’s clear you’ll need a skillset to be considered.
- The second is … it’s your passion. Your passion can carry you a long way. As I wrote about in Stoke Your Passion and Elevate Your Career. Quite often we learn a lot of ancillary things as we pursue our passions. (What have you learned by chasing your passions? Share your thoughts in the comments.)
- A third, and my personal favorite, is your curiosity got the best of you. Something piqued your interest and you decided to chase it down. On a very small note I used to always read with a dictionary next to me. Too often I’d end up reading the dictionary and forgetting about the book.
Unlike the 10,000 Hour Rule introduced by Malcolm Gladwell there are shortcuts and faster ways to learn things. Sometimes you don’t need to be a master of whatever the task at hand might be. Sometimes you just need proficiency.
As mentioned in the Stoke Your Passion and Elevate Your Career post you can have Temporary Passions (even if they are imposed by others) and can commit to spending 20 hours instead of 10,000 hours. Oftentimes, these mini-passions can be accomplished in 20 hours or less.
Pro Tip: Many recruiters often look for Passion Projects. They show what you are truly interested in doing.
Commit Yourself to Life Long Learning
You’ve heard it before. It’s not a new concept. Some of the greatest minds in history have been Life Long Learners.
When you commit yourself to Life Long Learning you will stand out in your career. Some might groan that they “still” need to learn stuff. And, there are times I can completely agree with this. However, in my case, I’ll usually find something that sparks an idea or receive an invitation to do something that I’ve wanted to try or perhaps never even considered.
Learning Experiences: Rock Climbing, Attending a TED Talk, Traveling to a Foreign Land
I’ve done all three of these (and survived) and was better for it. Of course, your experiences will be unique to you.
What If You Don’t Know Something?
Simple. Block out 40 minutes a day for one month. When you do this after one month you will have spent the requisite 20 hours as noted above to learn a Temporary Passion or a specific skill. Will you become an expert in 40 minutes a day? Not likely. However, you will have a keen understanding of whatever it is after one month. Then you can decide if you want to continue learning about it or move onto another topic.
Things to Learn: Play the Guitar, Create Power BI Visualizations, Learn a new Language
What’s on your list of Things to Learn? Share them here and give them power to help you achieve them.
When you don’t know something … put on your thinking cap … and commit yourself to being a life long learner. Everyone has a chance to learn something every day. If you are even marginally interested (or mandated) to learn about it take the initial few minutes and make a plan to learn more. If it’s important you may need to re-prioritize your other commitments. Being a Life Long Learner doesn’t mean you change your every day routine. However, you might find yourself waking up a little earlier or squeezing in time during breaks to soak up more information, do one more experiment, or build one more prototype.
If it’s important … you’ll prioritize the time. As noted in No One Makes Time … ultimately it’s up to you to decide how you will prioritize your time.
Are you taking advantage of these learning opportunities?
No matter what they are, who they come from, or what form they come in … make sure you take advantage of every opportunity to learn.
As you educate yourself you will find more opportunities opening up and showing themselves to you.
Education helps to you stand out in your career.
Education is your way forward.