We should want to keep learning and growing

You must keep reflecting on what has got you to where you are today, and keep growing in experience and ability

This year I turned 50. Five-Zero! For such a big milestone I stood back to reflect on my career to date: achievements, hits, and misses (there have been many of all of these).

So how did I spend my 50th birthday celebrations? Thirty-five feet up in the air, atop a tree, attempting to walk across a tightrope of chains – with not a lot else between me and the floor below.

I thought it would be fun. But when reality hit home, if there had been an easy way to have gotten down I seriously think I would have taken it. I remember saying to my guide Kieran that I couldn’t do it. He simply kept asking me: “why can’t you?” I couldn’t give him an answer. Yet with encouragement from my family, and a gentle push from Kieran’s muddy boot, I took the first step.

As I tight-roped and zip-wired from tree to tree my confidence grew. And with the final zip-wire across a lake I felt exhilarated. I have dealt with some testing events in my life and this was definitely up there with them!

At the beginning of my treetop adventure I didn’t think I had the courage, skill or ability to tackle the course. But I learnt a valuable lesson that day: no matter what age you are, you must keep reflecting on what has got you to where you are today, and keep growing in experience and ability.

Lifelong learning, as it’s known, is just that: lifelong. Einstein said “once you stop learning you start dying”. There speaks a genius.

I read an article about a woman in the US who recently gained an associate degree in social sciences. She was 99 and did it to simply ‘better herself’. That’s remarkable determination and commitment.

We don’t all have the spare time or inclination to undertake a major activity such as a degree. But remember that learning can take many forms, such as reading, observation, networking and so on. We keep learning new things all the time – how to master a new phone, working a new appliance, how to deal with a new situation…

Research shows that there are a range of health, wellbeing and wealth benefits to lifelong learning too. It stimulates brain activity, memory retention and can reduce stress. Curiosity keeps the mind sharp, alert, and helps humanity to flourish by providing a sense of motivation and achievement. All in aid of self-actualisation.

We often gaze in wonder at the advancement of technology. But do we really understand the impact it is having, and will have, on the workplace? It is essential for workers to refresh their skills throughout their career to keep up with the changing landscape of business.

The technological advancement of AI, automation and robotics could have a fundamental impact on work. A 2014 CBRE report predicted that 50% of occupations today will not exist in 2025 – that’s just seven years away. It’s said that the positive impact will be more fulfilling jobs that demand more creative, social and emotional intelligence. That’s fine as long as your skills remain up to date.

Today we have plentiful opportunities to learn and develop ourselves. Technology has helped that too in the form of internet and mobile learning. There really is no excuse for a person’s skills, ability and experience to become legacy or out of date. Renewable learning (ongoing, self-driven, just in time…) is a necessity for people of all ages.

While I may not be zip-wiring again any time soon, sometimes we all need a gentle push from a muddy boot. The experience certainly relit the fire within me to keep learning, keep moving forward and to remain relevant in today’s advancing society.

Cath Rush is global head manager and leader development at Tek Experts