Of all the excuses we hear on a daily basis about doing things that will help us become more of who we were created to be, perhaps the most common is “I don’t have time.” A moment of self-reflection tells us this is a lie. Time is allocated so equally, that even Bernie Sanders has to be happy with the distribution. We all get 24 hours each day. We all get seven days each week.
But we feel time-constrained. We promise ourselves we’ll get to that later. When things slow down. Maybe when we retire or take that phantom sabbatical. When we have time to take a class.
I have good news: class is in session right now.
I have even better news: you’re in class right now.
You may not think you are but you could be. You wouldn’t have to change your location one bit. In fact, you’ve probably been in class since you were born. You’ve certainly had the opportunity to be in class every day since you left your formal schooling. No budget or HR decision can prevent it.
That’s because human beings are learning machines. Class happens wherever you are. Sure, it’s nice when someone raises the learning opportunity to your consciousness by sticking you in a room with a gifted teacher up front. But some of the best learning happens in your everyday work life. Or at least it could if we made a few adjustments to how we think and act.
In fact, world-class learning is hiding in plain sight for anyone willing to transition from being an Accidental Learner to becoming an Intentional Learner. It requires a different level of attention but very little additional time.
Here are a few of the courses I’ve seen people enroll in over the years without ever going to a classroom or engaging a formal learning module.
- Influence without authority, aka Being an effective consultant or business partner
- Bringing others along, aka Change leadership
- Humility aka Listening more, talking less
- Developmental leadership, aka Giving feedback that not only doesn’t destroy the other person, it helps them soar
- Grounded leadership, aka Seeking help vs. being defensive
- Courageous leadership, aka Engaging difficult situations vs. withdrawing
- Responsible followership, aka Speaking truth to power
- Catalytic leadership, aka Starting/Optimizing/Reinventing/Ending an important initiative
- Focus, aka Saying no to good things so that you can say yes to great things
The people who have enrolled in these classes have mostly done so without ever attending a formal learning event. That’s not to say that they’ve been sloppy about how they’ve gone about their development. No, they’ve been extremely focused and diligent on mastering something they care about deeply.
They do this by thinking differently. They see their everyday lives as the most vibrant learning environment possible, as learning labs and master classes in disguise. They view people around them as classmates and teachers and co-conspirators. They view themselves as capable of learning and growth. They see the world as not owing them anything, so they take ownership for their development.
They also act differently. They choose to focus on one or two development areas at a time. They study others voraciously and humbly, looking for help from anyone and anywhere possible. They experiment with different practices, being both serious and playful at the same time about success and failure. They actively seek feedback from people they respect.
The result is simple: they gradually become more and more who they were created to be. Not because someone told them they should. Not because they had to check the box to get the next big job. Simply because they know that doing this leads to more joy at work and in life. And that’s enough.
What class are you in? Identify your class.