Consider this...

By Mike Johnson

LEARN HOW TO LEARN

In this universe, class is always in session.

Even the morning walk - especially the morning walk - holds valuable lessons for those with the eyes to see.

My morning walk follows a paved trail that leads through acres of manicured lawn, winding its way through trees and skirting the edge of ponds. The area is bird heaven and has more than its share of red-breasted robins. For some reason, when standing on the ground, these robins are reluctant to leave the paved path. In fact, as I approach them, rather then flying off, they have the curious habit of hopping a little farther down the path, maintaining a short, ten-foot buffer between us. Once the buffer gets down to about five feet, they'll take to the air reluctantly, but then land maybe 50 feet ahead on the same path - which will only lead to them having to move all over again.

I always wonder why they don't plot the direction I'm heading, and determine in advance where I'm heading and fly off in another direction.

Robins, it turns out, are not so different than people - especially in the area of careers.

For the past 15 years, it's become pretty obvious that the old method of learning a trade or profession, spending 30-40 years at the same firm and then retiring happily ever after, is no longer a likely possibility. In fact, students today are told they will likely change careers at least seven times in their lifetimes.

Back in the 50's and 60's, companies had far less competition and consumers were far less discerning. Specialized skills and training were harder to duplicate because there were only so many places where a worker could get them - and only so many companies willing to pay for them. So once you were hired, the company had no interest in replacing you, and you had no interest in changing companies.

Today, in the midst of the information age, skills and training are available via the Internet right in the living room of anyone who owns a computer. Thanks to the abilities of computers, you no longer need expensive equipment and an engineering, marketing, accounting and personnel department to start a company today. For the price of a new computer, some software, and some hours spent learning it, anyone with normal intelligence can open a business and compete directly with the industry leaders.

As a result, companies find it possible to slash their numbers of less-skilled employees and the ones with specialized, adaptable knowledge become more valuable than ever before. Employees with these skills, realize they are in demand and like professional athletes, jump from firm to firm based on the latest highest bid. Employee loyalty and company loyalty, no longer exist as we knew them.

Yet, many workers, like those robins, refuse to leave the path they have followed for years. They see layoffs and downsizing approaching. They detect the trend. But rather than getting off the path, they work at momentarily avoiding it by hopping just ahead of the approaching changes - never really improving their position but working like mad to maintain it.

Life isn't stagnant. We are living life in a fluid, ever-changing tapestry. There is no career security beyond our own ability to create value for others. There are no external companies willing to support us for life - nor should there be. Our security arrives from our own internal ability to determine and fill the needs of others. In short, those who have learned how to learn, will have the ability to constantly re-tool themselves so they are always in demand. In effect, those who realize that no matter who signs their paycheck, they are actually working for "Themselves, Incorporated," are the ones who gain the most "security."

Curiously, like the robins, by expending the same energy now wasted on worry and hopping forever just out of reach of approaching danger, we can fly off into a new, more secure, direction of constant new learning. Making this selection once again allows us to call the shots.

Failing to make this decision, is only Robin from ourselves.

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Mike Johnson is an energetic writer & entrepreneur. Learn more about Mike's offerings at www.MikeJohnson.biz