You Are Always a Student

Well, If You Want To Succeed…

(One of the 83 quick and practical life & work lessons from Sh*t Sandwich: Quick & Practical Success Lessons for Practically Anyone.)

the real shit sandwich - you are always a studentYou Are Always a Student

Well, if you want to succeed, you are.

Even as far back as the third grade, I can vividly recall how I could not wait to finish school. I don’t mean waiting for 3 o’clock, longing for Friday or even being excited for summer vacation. I mean that I could not wait until I never had to learn another thing in my life ever again. I was keenly aware that barring any major setback, I would graduate from high school just a couple months after my 18th birthday. I anticipated that graduation, because I knew it meant that I no longer had to sit in class and learn “unimportant” topics.

What I didn’t understand then, is that you are always a student. You are always learning. Leaders (in business and in life) learn constantly; and they seek out fellow learners.

The best business leaders I know treat their peers (and especially their subordinates) as the experts. They desire to learn from others and they never lord their knowledge over anyone. They believe that everyone has a contribution to make and they know that they cannot do it all themselves. It is their reliance on others – from the receptionist to their VPs – that makes them great leaders.

The best salespeople I’ve ever encountered know more about their competitors’ products than their competitors do. They are constantly learning; and they have a voracious appetite for success literature. They are the ones who will read sales literature during their breaks. They are the ones who will listen to sales training in their car between appointments. Moreover, they allow themselves to be taught. They’re the best in their fields; they’re Type A personalities; but they never believe they know it all. They are always students; and that’s what makes them great salespeople.

The best frontline managers I’ve ever known “work with” not “through” their employees. Unfortunately, the bulk of the frontline managers I know are closed-minded – they believe they’re smarter than the employees (since they possess the manager title). Of course, closing your mind to the input and talents of your employees is never sustainable; and while this type of manager might eke out a promotion here and there, the vast majority of these guys end up bitter and underemployed in the long run.

If you’re a new manager, save yourself the long-term grief (and ensure a better future for yourself) by working to be a learner and listener instead of someone already equipped with the answers. I call it “changing your information orientation.” If you want to truly succeed as a leader and grow as a person, you have to change your information orientation from that of a knower to that of a learner. Knowers use up their usefulness to all of us very quickly; while learners are forever improving their skill set and knowledge – making them able to continually add greatly to the company.

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