Are You a Life Learner?

Are You a Life Learner?

Everyone has a lesson to teach us, whether they intend to or not. It’s up to us to pull out the best lessons from these interactions.

Others are Always Teaching Us — If We’re Open to Receiving Those Lessons

While we spend most of our childhood and often young adulthood in school, those who are “truly successful” — both in their career and in life — understand that we never graduate. They know there will never be a point where they’ve reached their ultimate potential and no longer have anything to learn. They are students for life and will never graduate until their final day.

When we look at our day-to-day communications through this lens, we’ll find that people are attempting to teach us with every interaction we have with them. 

So, what lessons are we learning? My Theory of 5 mentors and I have realized that everyone has a lesson to teach us, whether they intend to or not. It’s up to us to pull out the best lessons from these interactions.

The Best of the Best

When we’re around individuals who embody all we hope to be as we build our skills, it’s easy to understand that we should be paying attention to their every action. These are the people who we want to be mentors to us, and who we can learn from as we progress through our careers, relationships, hobbies or any other activity in which we want to excel.

Often, these mentors will be older than us, with more life experience. They’ve learned how to overcome the challenges we still must face. This isn’t always the case, though — in some areas, our mentors might be younger than us, with more experience or natural talent in a certain area. As a “life learner,” we should be prepared to learn lessons from anyone in our circle. 

Think of that salesperson who seems to become every potential client’s new best friend, who knows their inventory back and forth and makes the job seem effortless. Think about that person at the gym with the form, flexibility, physique and strength we want to attain. Think about that athlete or musician who has taken their talents to the next level, when we were still learning the basics.

Sure, they made it look easy, but that’s only because they put in the time and effort to hone their skills until those actions became second nature to them. They internalized the actions and behaviors that allow them to win most every time. By observing and emulating them, they show us how to win.

They might not even be aware that they are teaching us how to win — sometimes, we never even meet our role models. Their lessons are still invaluable for instructing us on what we need to do to get to where we want to go. If we’re fortunate, however, and have the opportunity to meet them, these people might become mentors to us, personally instructing and guiding us.

The Worst of the Worst

There are other people who we want to run from as fast as we can. They have awful habits, don’t seem to care about their performance in anything, and they’re simply unpleasant to be around. 

Their terrible example can’t teach us anything about getting to where we want to be, right?

Wrong!

Sometimes, seeing what not to do can teach us as much — perhaps even more — than someone’s good example. Not only do we see the actions and behaviors that won’t advance our cause, but we also see the results of the anti-mentors around us who have chosen this route, which is its own kind of motivation. 

That salesperson who struggles to remember basic facts that customers often ask? We see how he or she struggles as the month moves along. That employee who seems to hate everything about their job and never has a kind word to say about anyone? We’ll notice that they never seem happy. That person who gets winded going up a flight of steps? We know that they don’t know the joy of simple physical activities and can’t enjoy sports or other hobbies that can bring happiness and contentment. 

These anti-mentors can make us angry, especially if we have to pick up the slack because of their sad, disappointing behaviors. They might even tell us that we won’t achieve our goals because they know they’ll never achieve theirs. It’s OK to be angry — that feeling can provide fuel for those times when we’re tired or discouraged. Simply picturing them in our mind or remembering their unkind words can give us that extra energy and motivation we need. As my father always said, “Living well is the best revenge.”

…And The Rest

Another point of view to keep in mind is that no one is a pure angel or devil. Our role models in one area might not set the best example for us in all facets of our lives. The best salesperson at our dealership might struggle in their personal relationships. The co-worker who is wildly out of shape might be able to build instant rapport with their clients. 

Examine those around you and determine the areas where you can learn from them. And, if someone is struggling in an area where we have a better skill set — and if they’re open to it — let’s share with them as we would want to be taught. 

We’re all in the school of life — let’s keep earning degrees!

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