Monthly Archives: September 2015

Back to School:  Reflections on Lifelong Learning from an Old Dog With Lots of New Tricks.

I am studying Organic Chemistry to improve my tracking skills.

I am studying Organic Chemistry to improve my tracking skills.

Lately I have heard the expression “Back to School” in many different settings.  I sense these words evoke excitement and a bit of anxiety in human pups. I also detect a whiff of envy in adult humans.

What is so special about the return to school?  One word that is used a lot is “new”:  new teachers, new friends, new classes, and new books.  The list goes on and on.  It’s a fresh start, isn’t it?  And it brings hope for growth and change.  In fact, humans often mark their pups’ height on growth charts or take photos on the first day of school to measure their progress from one year to the next.

Could that be why adult humans seem a bit envious of their pups at this time of year?  “Back to School” may bring memories of their youth and a time when they were still growing and always learning new things.

Wait a minute!!  Does learning stop when humans become adults??

You may have heard the expression that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but this is pure rubbish![1]  Yours truly started my formal obedience school education when I was six human years old.[2]  That’s 42 dog years for me.  And I am still learning new things!

Have you ever met someone who you estimated to be long past the age you associate with being a student, only to find out your new friend is a lifelong learner?   Maybe she is studying a new foreign language, mastering a musical instrument, tackling a challenging new athletic skill or getting a degree in a new area of study.  What is your reaction when you meet someone like that?  Does she suddenly seem younger and more energetic?  Dig deep and I’ll bet you feel admiration and maybe a bit of envy.

Learning invigorates us and keeps our minds young.  It shows that we believe in ourselves, that we can do more and be better, no matter how successful we are and how much we have already accomplished.

If you are a leader, creating a culture of lifelong learning sends a powerful message.  You are investing in the development of your people and your organization, and you support their growth and continuous improvement.

How do you turn these lofty words into action?  Set concrete goals for your organization and make them part of your regular performance reviews.  This will be the “growth chart” to mark your progress.  As the big dog, you must lead by example.  What do you need to learn to be better at what matters most to you?

Meet with each member of your team to develop a personalized learning plan.  Ask what is important to them.  If a member of your team asks to take a class or attend a work-related seminar, how do you respond?  If you are afraid that you will be training your competitor’s future employee, then you likely already have a high risk of losing your best people.  There may be nothing more frustrating to employees than to believe  they are being held back from growth opportunities.    If budget is the problem, consider sharing the cost.  Also, look  inside your organization for talented people with much needed expertise who can conduct training.  This can be a great learning opportunity for all.  Consider the words of Seneca the Younger:  “By teaching, we learn.[3]

If you think you are too old to learn, you probably are.  If you think you already know everything you need, you are probably afraid to confront what you don’t know.   But if you want to rekindle the youthful excitement of going back to school, get out there and learn!

Please share your lifelong learning experiences with me.

Your Best Friend,

Harley

[1] But for the fact that I have many dedicated feline readers, I might speculate as to which species may have been the source of this slander.

[2] Candidly, I did not graduate summa cum doggie, but nevertheless I do have my Level One Obedience Certificate.  This proves that even a “C” student can one day have his own dog blog!

[3] In Latin, this is “Docendo discimus.”  I prefer the canine spelling “Dog-endo disci-mutts.”

Happy Labor Day!

Made in the USA!

Made in the USA!

On Labor Day, please join me in thanking all the men and women who have enriched our lives through their daily hard work.  I would also ask you to remember the dogs who have dedicated their lives to helping human society: military dogs,  police dogs, search and rescue dogs, leader dogs, service and assistance dogs, and therapy dogs, to name a few[N].    You may not be able to thank them while they are on the job, but there are many organizations that support these professional dogs in a variety of ways, including training and providing protective equipment for dogs in danger.  Please consider supporting these excellent organizations.

I love being an American working dog!

Your best friend,

Harley

 

[N] Please send me a comment if I have left out an  imporant canine profession.