Advice From A Caterpillar
When I was an egg, I too, clung onto leaf
in shaded safety, hidden underside.
And fastened by a pinprick of belief
I dared to dream I was a butterfly.
A hunger hatched. I ate the home I knew
then inched along the disappearing green.
In shedding every skin that I outgrew,
became a hundred times the size I’d been.
And now I’m spinning silk to fix my spot.
Outside remains. Inside I’m changing things.
This caterpillar’s planning on the lot;
proboscis and antennae, four wings.
So keep on clinging on, my ovoid one.
For who you are has only just begun – Rachel Rooney
In his book, Never Stop Learning: Stay Relevant, Reinvent Yourself, and Thrive, Dr. Bradley R. Staats, a professor at the University of North Carolina, writes about the importance of dynamic learning. Dynamic learning is the ability to constantly learn and grow, and it’s one of the most important skills we need in the twenty-first century.
Dr. Staats writes, “Careers today usually involve multiple employers and often multiple industries. Data that tracks individuals over time is sparse, but a Bureau of Labor Statistics report that followed workers aged eighteen to forty-eight over the years 1978 to 2012 found that on average, workers held twelve different jobs. At the end of that period, only 3.3 percent were holding the same job they’d held from age twenty-five to twenty-nine, and only 5.4 percent were holding the same job they’d held from age thirty to thirty-four. For most people, the only constant is change.
To succeed in this new environment requires continual learning – how to do existing tasks better and how to do entirely new things. If we fail to learn, we risk becoming irrelevant. We end up solving yesterday’s problems too late instead of tackling tomorrow’s problems before someone else does.”
Surprisingly (at least to me!), Dr. Staats argues that people are really bad at learning. In fact, instead of doing things that help us learn, we often do the exact opposite. And so, Dr. Staats wrote a book about how to be a dynamic learner – about how to constantly be learning and changing in order to continually reinvent yourself and stay relevant.
In his book, he identifies eight key elements needed to become a dynamic learner:
Value failure. Most people are afraid to take risks for fear of failure. When you don’t ever take risks, you end up missing many opportunities for growth and learning. However, if you understand that you can learn from failure, taking calculated risks is actually a good thing.
Focus on process rather than outcome. So many of us are focused on the outcome of what we will learn – what will I be able to do? We rarely focus on how we go about learning to do that thing. If we don’t know how we got there, we won’t be able to repeat the process again. As Dr. Staats explains, “focusing on process frees us to learn.”
Ask questions rather than rush to answer. Sometimes being a learner means that you don’t know the answers – actually that’s usually what it means. But, understanding that and then learning to ask the right questions in order to get to an answer is a great place to start.
Reflect and relax. Sometimes you don’t know the answer and you don’t know what your next move should be. Don’t act simply to act. Instead, recognize that sometimes you need to pause in order to recharge and think. Dynamic learning requires time not just movement.
Be yourself. Learning sometimes requires you to stand out and not conform. If you are constantly working to fit other people’s expectations of you, you won’t be working on growing yourself. Don’t be afraid to be your unique self.
Play to your strengths. It’s important for you to understand who you are and what your strengths and weaknesses are, and then play to your strengths.
Specialize AND broaden. Dr. Staats says that your portfolio of skills should be “T shaped,” showing a lot of depth in one or two areas, and broad in others.
Learn from others. Dynamic learners recognize that learning is not a solo exercise and that they must look outside of themselves in order to continue to learn.
If you’re reading this article, chances are you are a dynamic learner – or that you are on your way to becoming one! And in this new world, it is essential to embrace change and learn to reinvent ourselves continuously so that we can remain relevant, fresh and energized!