It is said that on his deathbed, Michelangelo said, “ANCORA IMPARO”. At 88 years old and dying, he says, “Yet, I am still learning (Ancora Imparo)!” It seems he was very fond of saying this, as was his rival, and fellow learner, Leonardo DaVinci. Over 500 years later their words ring truer than ever before.
Two of the most brilliant minds in the history of man, both in Italy at approximately the same time and both truly changing the future of the world with their ideas alone, lived by the code of continuous learning. They realized that learning is a never-ending adventure and as research has proven, everyone is capable of continuous learning no matter their age, gender, education, income or personal situation. The only time we will ever stop learning is when we simply decide to stop learning.
Why do you think that so many people who retire and, in many cases stop even trying to learn, will physically begin to fail in mind and body? To stop learning is a decision. And the decision to stop learning can happen at any age. Many times, I have worked with businesses and sales staffs who are struggling. They are in “survival mode” and cannot figure out what to do. Many times, the cause of this struggle is simply that their teams are overrun with people who have stopped learning and stuck in time with an aging ego. When I go to do a skills improvement workshop, I always keep an eye out for those who just don’t want to be there. When I quiz them, they inevitably will say something like, “I’ve been selling for thirty years, I’m a pro, I don’t need this.” Wow does this irk me. My skin crawls and my hair stands on end. I usually stay calm and I’ve created ways that I deal with that attitude, but what I would love to say, and have on occasion is, “So, smart guy, tell me, have you really been in sales thirty years or have you been in sales one year thirty times?” I’m simply asking if they went to a seminar thirty years ago and then let ego and pure laziness take over, or, did they continue to learn and grow in their chosen field? The Champions and winners over the years, continue to be those who never stop learning. The ones who understand that there are always ways to hone their skills. That there is always new research available that will give them new insight into customers, consumers and competition. They understand that they can learn from their peers and co-workers. Personally, I always tried to find people that were in my field who were recognized as being the best, then I would study how they became the best, then I would emulate their skills.
Some people stop learning, lose all confidence and completely fold, simply when they make a mistake, their life and career are crushed. Then they spend the rest of their career and life afraid to step out, learn and grow, because they don’t want to make another mistake. If this is you, you should probably stop what you’re doing right now and go live in a van down by the river. Your chance to survive in business is slim to none. The continuous learner knows that the past does not determine the future. Mistakes are an integral part of life’s learning curve. No matter if it’s the first, second, third or fourth mistake, each provides an opportunity for improvement. In fact, I teach that the only true mistake is one that you didn’t learn something from. Understand clearly what the lesson is and then move on, or, don’t learn anything from the mistake and let it ruin your life for days, weeks, months and years to come.
If the only Italian that you ever learn is ANCORA IMPARO, know that you may not be fluent in Italian, but you are fluent in the premier secret of long term success.
Live the lesson of the ages.
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