Are you working on you?
By Harvey Mackay
Another year is upon us, and it’s the most popular time of year to think about starting a diet. But I’d like to propose a different type of diet – a steady diet of learning.
I’m a big believer in lifelong learning. You don’t go to school once for a lifetime; you are in school all of your life.
There is a famous story about Oliver Wendell Holmes, one of America’s most distinguished Supreme Court Justices. Holmes was in the hospital, when he was over age 90, and President Theodore Roosevelt came to visit him. As the President was ushered into the hospital room, there was Justice Holmes reading a book of Greek grammar.
President Roosevelt asked, “Why are you reading about Greek grammar, Mr. Holmes?”
And Holmes replied, “To improve my mind, Mr. President.” Ninety… and still trying to learn something new!
Why not make continuing education a new priority?
Increasingly the wet-behind-the-ears freshmen are sharing their campuses with the not so young folk who want – and need – to further their educations too.
Peter Drucker, the late, great management guru, wrote in the Harvard Business Review: “It is a safe prediction that in the next 50 years, schools and universities will change more and more drastically than they have since they assumed their present form more than 300 years ago when they reorganized themselves around the printed book.
“What will force these changes is, in part, new technology; …in part, the demands of a knowledge-based society in which organized learning must become a lifelong process…”
Individuals need to take stock and realize that they’re in school for their entire lives. Companies need to create a corporate culture that strives for continuous improvement. Human beings are not like a package of Jell-O. You can’t add water and achieve a reformed human being.
When you talk about lifelong learning, someone who comes to mind is Charles Lindbergh, the famous aviation pioneer who was the first person to successfully fly solo over the Atlantic Ocean to Europe from the United States.
Early in his life, he taught himself to be a superb mechanic working with motorcycles. Then he became a gifted stunt and test pilot. He pretty much designed and masterminded construction of “The Spirit of St. Louis,” the plane he flew over the Atlantic.
After his history-making flight, he devoted himself to helping move aviation from an adventurous sport to common practicality. In a “welcome home” tour, he landed at precisely 2 p.m. at 81 airports scattered across the 48 states that made up the continental United States.
This was to demonstrate to skeptics that aviation could provide a safe and reliable means of transportation. Then he and his wife scouted out new airline routes around the world.
Later, in conjunction with a Nobel prize-winning French scientist, he designed and built the first perfusion pump, which opened the way to heart by-pass surgery. He was an avid conservationist and environmentalist and he wrote a total of seven books.
We live in a sad time when you consider the following statistics, which I found recently:
Only 14% of adults with a grade school education read literature in 2002.
- 51% of the American population never reads a book over 400 pages after they complete their formal education.
- 73% of all books in libraries are never checked out.
- The average American watches 32 hours of TV every week.
- The average American reads only eight hours (books, newspapers, magazines, Yellow Pages, etc.) every week.
- The average American annually spends ten times more on what he puts on his head than what puts into his head. Consider the following:
- If you read just one book per month for 12 straight months, you will be in the top 25 percentile of all intellectuals in the world!
- If you read five books on one subject, you are one of the world’s foremost leading authorities on that subject!
- If you read just 15 minutes a day – every day, for one year – you can complete 20 books!
As Benjamin Franklin said, “The doors of wisdom are never shut.”
Mackay’s Moral: Life is like riding a bicycle. You don’t fall off unless you stop pedaling.
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