Live and learnI always think of this time of year as Conference season. There’s the CISI conference next week, and the PFS conference in November (both of which I’m attending, so come and say ‘hello’ if you see me). The common thread with all of these conferences is learning. How can you get better at your chosen career or profession?
A good friend of my wife Debbie is a leading singing teacher. He works with a genuinely ‘A’ list clientele and is held in high regard globally; a leader in his profession.
What I love about this guy is his commitment to learning and growth. He’s already at the top of his game. However, he is always off learning new stuff. That could be at traditional industry conferences, and networking with his peers (just like we do).
However, he also works with language therapists, laryngologists, singers and other singing teachers in his quest for new information. And because he is at the top of his game, he’s able to synthesise information from these other places, to enhance his own knowledge and to improve the way he works with his clients. It’s inspiring stuff and not only keeps him at the forefront, but it continues to feed his interest in his career.
The secret to success
What is it that allows an already established expert to be so open to new learning?
I remember a story in Mastery: The Keys To Success and Long-Term Fulfillment, by George Leonard. Two martial arts experts were invited to train with a master in another martial art, not their own area of expertise. They joined in with a group of beginners. One of the experts was able to adapt to the new training. The other found it impossible. What was the difference between the two?
The first one who was able to learn, came with a beginner’s mind. He simply did as he was instructed. The second instructor, who found it impossible to learn, was constantly trying to fit his new knowledge into what he had spent his whole life learning beforehand.
Approaching new information with a beginner’s mind is the way to keep yourself open to new ideas and new learning.
It’s all in your mind
I think both of these examples are directly relevant to conference season and your professional development.
I know very experienced advisers who can attend an industry conference and always manage to get something positive from it. And I also know other advisers who find fault with the event from start to finish and don’t seem to get much out of it at all. I would argue that the difference is mindset.
As one gets more experienced, it is harder to go and be floored by the quality of the content at a conference. However, with some effort, there are always conversations, or ideas in workshop sessions, or keynotes that have the ability to change the way you think about your business. Seek and ye shall find.
My advice: If you are attending a conference in the next few months then try to turn up with a beginner’s mind.
The real leaders in the profession are looking for ideas outside the industry. When you’re looking for inspiration, often other professions and non-industry people can be a fantastic source.
What industries do you have some sort of affinity with? It might be technology, or social media, the arts, or professional sport. Why not see if you can attend a conference from another profession or sphere? Why not try to connect with a leader in an affiliated area?
Deliberately seek new lines of enquiry that will take you out of your comfort zone and provide you with fresh ideas and inspiration.
In a recent blog, Curiouser and Curiouser: Why Lifelong Learning Means Success, I talked about my own experience taking part in a ski instructor course in Switzerland, and how I was able to reignite my own passion for learning, by getting outside of my comfort zone. And it wasn’t even industry or business related.
The Know-It-All Phase
One of the unfortunate phases that many of us have been through, or are still going through, is one where we are quite difficult to be around because we are constantly telling people how much we know.
All advisers, myself included, have been through this phase. Someone mentions that they do things a certain way and then we berate them or lecture them on how ‘our way’ is far superior. This can happen when advisers first discover the Financial Planning model. For a little while they can be just a little too enthusiastic about its merits, and too derogatory about the way others do business.
Even when we are right this is a huge mistake in my opinion. By taking the supposed position of superiority, we close down the possibility of new learning, even if that is from someone who we believe is less experienced or less knowledgeable than ourselves. None of us are the font of all wisdom, and every conversation has the potential to expand our perspective.
Meeting of minds
So let me set you a little challenge at the next networking function, professional development session, or industry conference that you attend. Go with a beginner’s mind and ask more questions of those that you meet.
If someone says something that you’re not sure about, or that you outright disagree with, try saying, “Sounds interesting; tell me more about that.” and see what conversational possibilities might open up as a result.
Remaining open to new learning is the cornerstone of anyone aspiring to greatness in this profession. It’s also the best way to to retain the love and enthusiasm for your business or career too.
Let me know how you go.