The learner in you

I am reminded of a story that was narrated to me long ago – 

Imagine you make a soup and it tastes too bitter. The soup is made; you can’t remove the bitter taste. But you can add some sugar to it that balances out the bitterness and makes the soup far more palatable. In other others, sometimes its not about changing or taking out an ingredient; it is about adding one that’s missing.

To me, this story underlines the need to continuously innovate, learn and unlearn what has not worked in the past.

Ask yourself – when was the last you learnt something new? And realised it was new; allowed it to seep into your conscious and deep unconscious, have it wash all over you until you were bathed with a level of awareness wherein your knowledge, skill and understanding of the subject was enhanced…Sounds like it was too far back, right?

Success makes for a bad teacher

Cocooned in our daily grind we often lose sight of acquiring new learnings. It is drilled into our heads that 70% of our learning comes from our job and 30% from experiences. But what if your experiences keep repeating the same learning and you have exhausted all the quota there is for new learnings? Where do you go? How do you pick up a new skill? How do you ensure you remain a learner all year round?

I think we all begin learning from seeking it in the wrong direction – from successes. Truth is, our failures teach us much more than our successes.  But it is success that is crowned the proverbial queen because success has a tendency to hog the limelight, capture the media attention and in a twisted way confirms our own biases towards it. To me, success makes for a very bad teacher.

When we change direction and focus on failures to start once again, it is then our real learning begins.

Step up

Organisations are ambiguous – they consist of set protocols and processes and yet the occasional new thing does seep in with a new set of challenges. When you are sucked into the grid of routine and work becomes mechanical, it is time to leap-frog to a new set up. Or take that job rotation where in you get the opportunity to pick up a new skill set.

Harness your passions

Remember how in our school days we used to ask our new friends what their hobbies were…and most of us had a couple of our very own to boast and talk about. When was the last you asked someone his/her hobby? Chances are the word hobby has now been replaced by the sexier word ‘passion.’ What is your passion? Are you following it? I know of a colleague who is passionate about digital media and she harnesses her passion by teaching others to be digitally savvy. She is also leading the organisations’ digital transformation work stream with the simple objective of developing a digital mindset within the organisation. This is a very fine example of converting one’s passion for the goal of self and organisational growth. Challenge yourself on a day-to-day basis to ensure you on the right track in the learner’s journey.

Explore avenues

Many of us have picked up skills by observing our leaders or have had mentors. Mentorship however has its limits; especially if it is focused on your current job and skills. When your passion drives your learning, you need to look outside for new learning. The advent of free online courses is a boon for acquiring new skills. For example, as you climb up the leader in your job, it would be good to equip yourself with knowledge about what makes for an effective leader, conflict management, analytical thinking and using big data to connect the dots…. there are umpteen courses in the online education portals for you to pick and chose and learn at your own pace. Change the way you learn. Staying in the same profession is now passé. 

Be courageous and rebellious enough to pick your own new learnings. Focus and seize the opportunity that comes your way. You have to just widen your eyes and look around.

Sarita Bahl
Country Group Head CSR at Bayer - South Asia
Sarita Bahl leads the Corporate Social Responsibility function for Bayer South Asia and is also the Director – Bayer Prayas Association. Prior to this, she successfully oversaw the communications and public affairs function for Bayer South Asia. Over her three decades of professional experience, Sarita has held multiple roles across diverse industries, public sector, trade associations, MNCs and the Not-for-profit sector. An alumnus of Tata Institute of Social Science and the Swedish Institute of Management Program, Sarita specializes in stakeholder engagement, sustainability and communications. She is passionate about animals (is mother to a female cat), books and movies.

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