I am always studying…

I have been collecting sayings that have caught my attention and now I am writing my thoughts about them. Here’s a recent quote I came across:

“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn” Alvin Toffler

As I read this quote I am struck by how prophetic it has turned out to be, as Alvin Toffler wrote it in the 1980s. I’m struck by the idea that the future of work, is not in one field and that each of us will have separate and multiple careers. With life spans getting longer, (except in the United States) we are facing new career challenges. Can we maintain a focus on one career without losing interest? Will our career be surpassed by new technology? What if recent research makes the career invalid?

Politicians of both stripes have taken advantage of this new illiterate, especially Pres. Trump who continues to manipulate, flatter and cajole them. That discontent has deep roots. Many were seduced by hard work and easy income; working on production lines, in steel mills, breaking their bodies to make a living. Corporations and government encourage them to believe that this would continue. The focus of many corporations is to exploit the lowest paid worker, not to educate or develop but to use them and then dispose of them.

Currently the reverse is true in the high technology and software fields, where constant education and new ideas are the new norm. This is encouraged and rewarded. Even so today, I see a resistance to make changes in management and communication styles. Recently during a seminar, I heard older leaders complain and resist the upcoming generations. Are many leaders becoming the new illiterate?

Becoming the perennial student is now a fact of life!

Myself I have gone back to school twice to get to the point where I am now, and in talking to people recently I find that is more common than I expected. More and more people are changing careers, going back to school and relearning what they already know. While some find it is easy to resist the notion of going back and becoming a student again, after all I know what I know! With rapid change, what I know is that “I don’t know” everything about my subject matter or what is new about it.

Adopting the idea that I don’t know is a powerful mental position, allowing for humility and a reason to ask questions, lots of questions. It is easy to walk around believing that somehow, I am an expert. It is my experience that makes a difference, for that is not taught in school or college but by the hard knocks of life. Wisdom does not come cheap nor easily – it takes time and humility.

Conclusion: Alvin Toffler’s quote is a great reminder to stay curious and not to assume that I know everything.