Life-long Learning is a Team Sport

When you look at the greatest teams across sports, businesses, and other organizations, you often find unity at the heart of these teams, binding them into a cohesive unit. For a team to be successful as a unit, they must continue to challenge each other to get better. As a team-player, one of the best things you can do is push yourself to continue learning and growing. If you begin by challenging yourself to improve in that manner, you might just find that your team will follow suit.

Recognizing you are never done learning is the first step to personal growth and improving your team’s performance. It takes a humble and curious approach to learning to be a great student. John Maxwell, an author and speaker on leadership wisely explained that “The greatest enemy of learning is knowing.” As leaders, team members, and servants of others, we must first step back and realize we do not have all the answers. Only then can we progress toward solutions and help our team grow.

The pursuit of knowledge is a great way to describe life-long learning. By pursuing knowledge, we are engaging in a continual learning process throughout life. Knowledge is not a destination, it’s a journey. Pursuing knowledge will broaden your mind and allow you to take full advantage of the experiences along your life’s journey.

Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman of Google’s Parent company, Alphabet, captured this idea of pursuing knowledge: “We run this company on questions, not answers.” This statement is profound because it reveals to us a simple truth about human capacity. It shows us that the thing responsible for the success of an enormous $600+ billion company is the same thing that caused us to pick up our first book as a child – intellectual curiosity.

Every day we should be asking good questions that cause us to stretch outside of our comfort zone. By allowing curiosity to lead us, we can challenge the status quo and embrace innovation where it is needed. Results and solutions are always preceded with good questions.

In addition to asking good questions, always be willing to be a generous listener.  The ability to effectively listen and acknowledge another’s point of view, and the willingness to be challenged in your own, is how real growth begins and is sustained.

Let’s remember that learning and self-growth are intentional, life-long pursuits, originating from the committed desire for excellence. The brain develops just like a muscle, you must exercise it regularly to ensure proper functioning. In the sport of business, we could easily understand why readers are leaders. Be patient with yourself. Acquiring knowledge is not simply learning the facts; it is building depth, wisdom, and experience over time.

There is good reason to believe learning happens best in teams. However, in today’s culture, “There’s a common misconception that individual development needs to happen…individually. Nothing could be further from the truth. Despite our common cultural notion of “self” improvement, the most successful efforts to self-improve have other people at their core.”[1] Knowledge and new skills are rarely acquired alone; team work actually makes personal development much easier. At the very core of who we are as humans, we are social creatures who need each other for many things. Because this is so central to our identity, we learn better when we learn from each other than if we pursue learning on our own. It takes courage to admit when we don’t know and ask for help.

At Virginia Commercial Finance, we believe in six core values that guide us in our business – Passion, Unity, Servanthood, Humility, Integrity, and Thankfulness – our PUSHIT values. We believe it is a humble act of service to raise your hand and ask a question. We believe that we are most unified when we share knowledge and insight with each other, and we are thankful for the contribution that everyone brings to the table.

We encourage you and your team, no matter how big or small, to lean on one another and pursue lifelong learning.

[1] “Rely on Others to Improve Yourself”, published by The Harvard Business Review on 6.14.17, originally adapted from “Why Self-Improvement Should Be a Group Activity,” by Ron Carruchi