I admire those of you who are naturally inquisitive. Many people whom I know would love to be professional students if time, finances and circumstances allowed.
In general, that has not been true of me.
I graduated from Mason City (Iowa) Community College with exactly enough hours to earn an Associates of Arts Degree. After transferring to the University of Northern Iowa, I graduated two years after that exactly with enough hours to earn my Bachelors Degree.
Getting that sheepskin was my only goal and college classes were strictly a means to an end. While my buddies switched majors and slept in, I purposely scheduled a 7:30 a.m. class every semester to force myself to get up. My mindset was to get through four years of what I considered to be an endurance test.
In my old(er) age, however, there has been an imperceptible shift in my attitude and actions. I now frequently read about subjects that formerly held no interest for me. I watch public television programs that would have bored me silly in past years. And today I find myself enjoying non-credit classes and seminars; taking notes and putting into practice principles taught by the instructors.
For example, this past week I made a presentation to five separate insurance company teams ranging from 15-20 attendees per session. The content was my twenty years of selling life insurance and delivering checks to beneficiaries of my insureds. The consultants in this particular company are tasked to encourage people leaving their jobs to keep 401k funds with them when they leave their place of employment. In addition, they are expected to refer their clients to team members who are licensed to sell life insurance and disability income products.
Their respective managers felt that it would be helpful for them to hear true stories about real people who benefited from the products their company sold. Hence, the invitation for me to speak.
Even though I have been giving presentations of one sort another since my teenage years and am currently sixty-four, I used newly-learned techniques from a speech class that I recently took. By concentrating and pausing, I was able to avoid non-words (e.g. uh, um, you know). I intentionally held eye contact with one person per thought and I ‘cleared’ the flip chart of bullet points before going into detail on each subject.
The same is true of emails which I studied at another seminar. Although I have always believed that ‘shorter is better’ when writing and reading them, I especially liked the way they taught us to get the important message (particularly if it’s bad news) up front. They encouraged lots of white space, using bullet points rather than lengthy sentences and to always remember who your audience is when preparing the message.
One danger of being an entrepreneur is that you can easily isolate yourself and avoid experiencing meaningful ongoing education. Big mistake!
This life-long learning stuff makes sense. It is fun to hear new ideas and concepts.
It’s even more fun to then put what you learn into practice.
Bill Sheridan—SHERIDAN WRITES
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