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School's in: The case for lifelong learning

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June always reminds me of Alice Cooper’s hit song, “School’s Out.” As we head into the lazy days of summer, what better time to reflect on your own approach to learning. After you graduated from high school and/or college, did you blow your school to bits (figuratively, of course)? Or did you move from teacher-led, formal education to self-directed, informal learning? If you took the explosive path, it’s never too late to rebuild your personal road to wisdom.

Now, you may be saying, “What’s Steve-the-Ethics-Guy talking about? I do X number of CE credits a year. I learn plenty.” Yes, I agree with you. But CE learning and lifelong adult learning are different animals. Here’s why.

CE is narrow in scope. It helps build a body of professional knowledge. It also helps you to maintain a license certification, which is important from a career perspective. CE is a tactical activity, as well. It helps you learn about actions that achieve desired ends.

Lifelong adult learning is broad in scope. It’s about your life, not just your job. If you commit yourself to lifelong learning, you may not get rich literally, but you will get rich figuratively. Unlike CE, lifelong learning is strategic. It helps you figure out new goals to achieve, not just acquire the means to achieve existing goals.

While CE might arguably make you more effective at work, lifelong learning makes you more effective–and interesting–as a human being. Interesting people have a way of attracting other interesting people. Plus, they become more self-confident, which is an appealing trait in a financial advisor.

So if the thought of “going back to school” in the fall is appealing, consider these steps:

First, get serious about your CE courses. How? By giving yourself enough time to complete them and by implementing what you learn on the job. Since CE is required to keep your license, you might as well get something worthwhile from your effort.

Second, commit yourself to lifelong learning. The opportunities are infinite. Make a “life list” of important books you want to read. Or pick a hobby you want to pursue and master. Or start learning a foreign language at your local community college. Then go visit the mother country to bask in its culture and history. You catch my drift.

So that’s the deal. If you agree with my premise–that learning should be self-directed and endless–then take steps now to get back in school. I promise you will achieve incredible ROI. But don’t worry about the teacher’s dirty looks. You’re the teacher now!


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