Learning Isn’t Just For The Inexperienced. It’s For All.
7 minute read
What gets you out of bed each morning? It’s an important question. And one that a lot of people don’t deeply consider. I’m not just talking about the allure of a cup of coffee or the adrenaline burst of a morning jog. I mean, what motivates you to get up and attack your day with gusto?
For me, it’s the feeling that every day is a puzzle – the fun kind that challenges me and ultimately gives me the satisfaction of having solved something, accomplished something – and at the end of the day, gives me the feeling that I’ve learned something. That daily puzzle pushes me to ask questions, dig deep into a problem, and come away from it with knowledge I didn’t have when I got up out of bed that morning.
Here’s something people don’t talk about enough. But it’s real. The biggest job satisfaction-killer is stagnation – the feeling that you’re running in place, doing the same thing over and over, living by rote. That’s a recipe for personal ruin. Now that may sound a little alarmist, but it’s true. Over time, if you aren’t getting replenishment from learning and gathering new skills and expertise, you’ll suffer all sorts of consequences beyond just your state of mind at work.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but when I left my last corporate job before starting my company, Hint, learning was a big factor in my dissatisfaction. But I didn’t see it back then. I had led E-commerce and Shopping partnerships and helped build a thriving online shopping business. I was incredibly proud of the revenue and scale that my team had steadily amassed, but the last few years were kind of “more of the same.” And that happens so often when people rise in the ranks and fall into a kind of rut of repetition. Don’t get me wrong. Managing and teaching are great, but recognizing that you too need to still be learning is key. And you may see that this boredom can co-exist with happiness – even when things are ostensibly going well, something is missing. Ironic isn’t it?
This “a-ha” realization only struck me a few years after I had launched Hint. I had no experience being a founder. Or working in the beverage industry. My idea for a product came out of a realization that by making a change in my own life – drinking water that tasted better – I could get healthier. Shortly after launching Hint, our product was getting noticed by lots of consumers, and I realized something big. What we had created was not only a new product and a new company, but also a new category. An incredibly big undertaking. So much to learn. And so much to teach – especially when the consumer is still figuring out why or if they need this new product in the first place. Exhilarating!
So much to learn. This realization was coming from someone who wasn’t use to being on this side of the table. Someone who had risen to a very senior level in the tech world in a short amount of time and who had spent the past few years teaching people what I knew. Now, I was a founder in an industry I knew little about, wanting to successfully service customers, but not knowing how was I going to achieve key things like proper shelf life and distribution. Yes I did have my doubts (and doubters). And no one was coming to me at this point asking the kind of questions I get asked today (like how to launch a product or beverage company). But that didn’t matter — each day was that puzzle that I so needed for my soul.
So what did I do to figure out how to solve this growing puzzle I so fondly loved at first sight? First step. I went out and asked a lot of questions. (Well, after I read as much as I could, of course.) I asked anyone who I thought might have a shred of knowledge to share. I emailed or cold called beverage executives, retailers – you name it. I even searched out people in stores who looked like they were working for other beverage or food companies, tapping them on the shoulder. And then there was the making of the product! Same process. Learning all aspects of this elaborate and byzantine industry filled with its own set of jargon. I describe a lot more of the fun details in my book Undaunted: Overcoming Doubts and Doubters.
It’s become a cornerstone of my employee development philosophy too: urging employees to think beyond what they are capable of. And often, it’s not what they assume they were capable of. Learning something completely new. Introducing new tools or roles is often the difference between an engaged employee and a bored one. Several years ago, I approached one of our most competent members at Hint, encouraging him to hire his replacement. While he was maybe a bit shocked at first, he did just that – and managed his replacement until he could fully step into his new role in operations and supply chain. By taking on new responsibilities at Hint, he allowed himself to learn plenty of new things and grow.
I host my podcast The Kara Goldin Show every Wednesday and Friday. I get inspired by the conversations I have with a wide variety of entrepreneurs and change-makers who have won through grit, determination – and learning. @Jeff Jones, CEO of H& R Block, is one great example. He came to the company from The Gap, Target and Uber – not the background you’d expect from someone taking on leadership of 80,000+ tax professionals worldwide. I asked Jeff point blank why he made the leap. His response? He was excited to master a new industry. Yes, he saw a clear opportunity how he could revolutionize the company’s digital strategy and grow the company, but an equal draw for him was a strong desire to be challenged through learning an entirely new business. And probably feeling a bit overwhelmed, at least in the beginning.
Now it’s your turn. What puzzle are you looking forward to solving? Find it. What are you passion about that you have an idea for? It’s there I know it. At every level – whether you are entry level or the CEO of your company – always make sure that you are asking yourself, “What can I learn today?” Satisfy your curiosity. Learn. Learn. Learn. Every day. If you haven’t put learning into your every day cycle, try it. I’m eager to hear from you – and to learn from you.
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