86. Practice continual progress.

We have been talking about The Habit of Continuous Learning and as I was mulling over how best to focus this final blog on this topic, my wife Gimalle suggested that continual learning also includes continual progress.

By this she meant the necessity of continually moving ourselves towards being better and better in all areas of our lives. The Habit of Continuous Learning also means opening up our own awareness to the constant feedback offered us by the universe and accepting this feedback for what it most often is – information – and then utilizing that information to constantly become more skilled at whatever it is we do with our lives.

Not too long ago an acquaintance was bemoaning the fact that she had received three speeding tickets over a five-month period and when she received a renewal notice of her auto insurance was astounded at just how much those transgressions had caused her premiums to increase.

As I listened to her complaining about the unfairness of her plight, it dawned on me that this was indeed a powerful learning moment for me as she was teaching me how easily we can become victims of our own unwillingness to embrace the lessons life hands us and apply them to our own improvement.

It seems to me that the lesson of one speeding ticket is to slow down. The lesson of the second is to continue this practice. The lesson of the third is to accept responsibility for having failed to learn the first two lessons.

Many years ago a wise friend of mine said, “One way or another we always pay for our own education.” Over the years I have personally experienced and seen the powerful truths behind this statement. I was reminded of it again while listening to this otherwise rational lady lamenting her fate while describing both the inequity of the traffic tickets and the unreasonableness of the insurance company.

I’ve come to believe that not a day passes when we are not handed powerful lessons that, if learned and applied, would enhance the quality of our lives. Unfortunately for many of us, we most often do not heed the lessons or we fail to notice them.

A famous quote reminds us that, “Those who fail to learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them” and I think that the extension of that quote suggests that those who fail to learn the lessons of the day are doomed to having to continue to pay for their education until the learning sticks.

The Habit of Continuous Learning is a gift of opportunity bestowed upon us all and like all other gifts, it comes as choice – we choose whether to learn and therefore improve our lives or to continually pay for our education by not learning.

I learned two powerful lessons today, the first was a reminder of the importance of The Habit of Continuous Learning and the second is that whenever I am in need of a good idea or sound advice, rather than taxing my own limited resources to go straight to the genius in the family, Gimalle.

Lesson learned!

Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.

85. Seventeen thousand days of getting smarter.

A delightful lady named Jane called last week to talk about how The Habit of Continuous Learning had been instilled in her and her siblings from a very young age and had contributed to an inquisitiveness to “learn everything about everything” that still resides in her to this day.

The youngest of three, Jane explained that almost to the day she was able to read and write her parents assembled her and her siblings around their kitchen table and explained to them that they were going to begin a new game in which they were all expected to participate and which would continue for a long, long time.

The rules of the game were simple. Each evening, while sitting around the table having dinner, each member of the family would share one thing they had learned that day and record this learning in a journal thereby opening the door for each family member to learn five new things each day.

Jane wasn’t certain but thought this family game of The Habit of Continuous Learning begun when she was around seven and, she laughingly explained to me, “I am now 54 so I have had 47 years of unbroken, consecutive learning.” She went on to explain that so ingrained has The Habit of Continuous Learning become with in her that not one single day has ended for her without adding one new learning to her journal.

Her goal, she explained, is to edit her journals and select the best “few thousand things I have learned” and publish them in a book which she is planning on naming, “I know more today than I knew yesterday.”

She went on to explain her journals have become how-to manuals that she refers to whenever circumstances require specialized knowledge like “how to get that seemingly irreversible stain out of the carpet or what is the most efficient way of administering CPR?”

Jane has passed this habit onto her own two children who, in turn, have introduced it to theirs.

This unrelenting thirst for knowledge has driven Jane to acquire two advanced degrees and she’s presently enrolled in both salsa dancing and German classes.

When Jane first had a flat tire and required the help of a passerby she immediately took it upon herself to learn how to change a tire.

The day after her television quit working she enrolled in an electronics course and learned how to repair her own TV.

Jane will proudly tell you The Habit of Continuous Learning has never felt like a chore but rather like a mission that can never be fully accomplished but the pursuit of which provides endless pleasure.

The Habit of Continuous Learning makes us better and an unquenchable thirst for knowledge definitely makes us more interesting. How many of you out there will accept this challenge of adopting Jane’s habit of continuous learning – something new every day – for the next 60 days?

I’m going to do this, who will join me?

Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.

84. What did you learn today?

A conversation with a good friend, while having lunch a few weeks ago, got me thinking about an essential habit we all would benefit enormously by adopting.

My friend is an extremely successful real estate investor. Over a 25 year span he has assembled an immensely impressive portfolio of real estate from Vancouver to Toronto.

He is an off-the radar zillionaire who has virtually no public presence and only those closest to him have any inkling of his immense wealth. He lives a simple life and invests a great deal of his time and resources into helping others.

Like so many ambitious people his empire began with the purchase of an old, rundown house that he lived in and spent all of his after-work hours renovating. It took him more than two years to complete the renovations as he did every piece of work himself and sometimes had to wait for several paychecks to pass before he had the funds to buy the materials necessary for the next phase.

Having sold that property for a handsome profit he purchased another, did the same thing again, sold it purchased another and so on, continuing to do so and adding duplexes, four-plexes, small apartment buildings, tiny commercial properties, individual condominiums to his ever-growing inventory of rental properties.

To say he is obsessive about real estate would be an understatement and during our lunch a few weeks ago he mentioned that he was going to Los Angeles to attend a weeklong course on property management and would be following that with a four-day course in Toronto on real estate investing.

For as long as I have known him his time has always been spent studying and learning about real estate, mortgages, financing, and the many things that go into mastering his industry.

So when he mentioned his upcoming educational vacations I asked him why, with all his success, and with his obvious mastery and knowledge of all facets of the industry, he continues to attend as many courses as he does, his answer was simple.

He looked at me and with a smile said that many years ago a wise mentor had said something to him so profound that it still sticks with him to this day.

His mentor said, “What counts is what you learn after you already know everything.” My friend chuckled as he recited that quote and said that has been the constant driver behind his success. He has never allowed himself to rest on his laurels or to convince himself that he knows enough to achieve his goals.

He went on to say that what made his commitment to The Habit of Continuous Learning so integral to his success was that every single time he read a new book, listened to a new lecture or attended a new course he learned at least one new thing that he was able to take and put into practice in order to increase the size of his empire.

We have in the past talked about the statement that “Knowledge is power.” I have never believed this to be true. I have long believed that knowledge is a powerful contributor to power but without action it is a useless commodity. What we know does not make us powerful; what we do with what we know is where the power lies.

My friend, by his lifelong commitment to The Habit of Continuous Learning is testament to the fact that the more we learn, the more knowledge we gain, the more choices we have in terms of the actions we take and by taking knowledge-based action anything and everything becomes possible.

Every time I meet with my friend I come away wiser and our lunch that day was no exception. I walked back to my car invigorated by his enthusiasm for knowledge and his commitment to acquire as much of it as possible and then apply it in ways that are beneficial not just to himself but to those whose lives have been enriched by his success.

I’ve always been an avid reader but that does not mean that I have been an avid student. My friend told me that if I want to be the best at what I do I need to constantly remind myself that “What really counts is what we learn after we already know everything” and to incorporate The Habit of Continuous Learning into everything I do.

I have no doubt my friend would have succeeded mightily in life even without the wisdom of his mentor but he would be the first to agree that using The Habit of Continuous Learning as his guiding light has bestowed upon him colossal advantages in a competitive world and has enabled him to reach heights loftier than any he could have imagined.

Should we all adoptThe Habit of Continuous Learning?

What could possibly be the downside?

Let’s make a habit of meeting like this
.

83. A weight off your mind.

Andrea called last week to talk about how The Habit of Being True to Yourself played an enormous role in her shifting from a size 12 to a size 2 dress size.

For “as many years as I can remember,” Andrea has played the diet game, each time seeing her weight drop substantial amounts only to rapidly creep back up to where it had been, and beyond.

And with each new pound added, her sense of self-worth plummeted and her state of depression rose.

One day a friend suggested she take time – a lot of time – to review her own patterns of behavior and to discover what lies she was constantly telling herself in order to rationalize the very behaviors that repeatedly led to her regaining old weight and adding new.

That Sunday Andrea sequestered herself in her living room, shut down her laptop, turned off her phone and “thunk.”

Armed only with a notepad and pen she ran a mental checklist going back many years and reviewed the numerous times she had successfully sabotaged her own progress.

As she reviewed each occasion she wrote down the lies she told herself in order to justify eating “that tiny piece of cake, those teeny slices of pizza, those few fries,” and the mass of soul destroying food she had “constantly shoved down my throat because those lies convinced me it was okay to do so.”

By the end of the day Andrea had compiled a list of the lies she repeatedly had told herself and, with great sadness at her own gullibility, read the list to me over the phone.

I really shouldn’t but I’ll just have a little piece and will skip breakfast tomorrow.
It’s just a tiny, little piece.
One bite can’t hurt.
I’ll just have a little taste.
I deserve this, I have been really good for 3 days.
It would be rude to not have any.
I don’t want to insult them by saying no.
Starting tomorrow, I’m going to get really serious about this.
This is definitely the last time I’m going to do this.

As Andrea read this list to herself that fateful Sunday she realized that in reality, it had become a menu from which she selected the delusion most likely to rationalize the poor choice she was about to make.

That Sunday evening she made a pact to make The Habit of Being True to Yourself an inseparable part of her life. She knew that if she didn’t trade delusion for truth she would be condemning herself to a life of misery.

No matter how unwanted or painful the truth would be, she vowed to let that become her guide and to make choices based on truth, not illusion.

She quickly learned that even “tiny little pieces do count, one bite can hurt and that one little taste can easily turn into a binge.”

It didn’t take long for Andrea to notice that The Habit of Being True to Yourself was making her thinner and the more truthful she was, the slimmer she got.

Today Andrea asks herself a simple question before deciding whether or not to eat something that is tempting her. “Will eating this move me closer to or further away from where I want to be?”

If the answer is ‘closer to,’ she eats it; if the answer is ‘further away,’ she doesn’t.

And that’s how to get from a size 12 to a size 2.

The truth, it seems, not only takes a great weight off your shoulders, but off the rest of you too.

Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.

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