In our time pressured society, many if not most people seem harried. When I ask if they have read a specific new book or pass on an article, the response I often get is “thanks, but I am too busy and do not have time for that.” Oddly, the most successful people that I have ever met always seem to find the time for learning new things in their field and will respond in detail to anything that I send them.
My theory about these clear winners is that they seem to schedule time for self development almost instinctively. For years, self help gurus have encouraged people to take a sabbatical a few times in their careers. Well, that is fabulous if you are an academic where sabbaticals are common and often provide full pay or close to it during your time off or work for that rare company that provides them (For years, Time, Inc. gave staffers sabbaticals. It was not simply for writers. Sales executives would get them and come back refreshed and with a fresh eye on things). Others claim that several months of unemployment are a great time to reassess things. Maybe. Most people understandably use that time to be laser focused on becoming employed again. Some say being out of work told them that they needed to switch careers but that is usually only for a minority.
Sabbaticals are not practical in most areas especially small business where most of the job growth comes from these days. And, there are times in the middle of a work siege where all of us find the task directly front and center to be an all consuming passion. Yet, now during these exciting but turbulent times in marketing, you have to stay current and be able to embrace new ideas. Conventions, seminars, even TED talks can be valuable. The value to me has always been that I never feel alone after such a session. Topics are brought up that were a non-starter at my place of employment or other issues were covered that no one else with whom I worked saw as important. Some valuable contacts could also be made.
Sometimes it is not easy. I have seen senior managers refuse to send people to conventions saying that they are a waste of money and Bob or Mary simply wants a few days off from work. True, in some cases. At the same time, I have witnessed a few highly motivated types pay the entry fee themselves and, in one case, even take vacation time to attend. None of these people stayed with their employer much longer but they were not going to pass up a chance to “go back to school.”
Also, I have met people who do it quietly. A sales rep that I have known for years would lunch with me three times a year. We did some business early on but then my accounts changed. He still met with me and asked a barrage of questions about various futuristic media and marketing topics and took copious notes. After a while, I had a book and a few articles ready for him. Today, I send him e-mails regularly and he never fails to respond despite his lofty title these days. Recently, I found out that he has been doing this with five other people for the last 20 years!
Entrepreneurs seem to know instinctively that they must reach out and ask for help and read a great deal about their field. They are often running scared which is a great way to stay on top of your game.
Finally, I have seen people from 58-65 year old do a complete makeover. Some retired, some were forced out, some worked for dying enterprises. When their unplanned sabbatical hit them they did not engage in self-pity. They used their first free time in decades to reinvent themselves. Their genius was not going to go untapped!
So whatever you age or situation, may I suggest you make the time for self-development. You will become more interesting and perhaps happier.
If you would like to contact Don Cole directly, you may reach at doncolemedia@gmail..com