EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the final article in a series on
In the previous four columns, I discussed strategies for
continuous learning, each time from the perspective of people who
were not previously empowered. But how about the already-motivated
and -empowered professional whose work schedule is crammed from dawn
Given the rate of change engulfing everyone, she or he must find
a way to keep up.
I, for example, do a couple of regular television spots, this
column each week, a book every 18 to 24 months and present about 150
seminars a year in North America, Asia and Europe. My customers
expect me to be up to date on a wide range of issues - from the
intricacies of tax policy to the state of micro-computer development
and the current wisdom about proper span of control. My calendar
seems to be a conspiracy aimed at keeping me away from reflection.
Though each of our situations is unique, my conundrum is no
different from that of the average professional banker, engineer or
consultant. Here is the three-part strategy for continuous learning
that I've devised.
First, laying traps helps me to overcome my busy schedule and
lack of self-discipline. I use a half dozen tactics which force me
to expand my horizons.
- Writing these columns. I have to emit 800 or so fairly
polished and original words each week. By noon on Friday, a
``finished product'' must be electronically shipped to my syndicator
in Orlando,Fla., no ifs, ands or buts.
- Using new 35-millimeter slides in my presentations. I use
slides in my seminars for several reasons, including more orderly
communication with the audience. But the most important is that it
keeps me fresh.
I conscientiously incorporate new material onto new slides.
When the slide comes up on the screen during a presentation, I am
forced to discuss its content. When new material is simply in a
written speech outline, I can pass it over if it feels uncomfortable
at the moment of truth - and, I can assure you, new material always
- Scheduling oddball speeches and seminars. I book five to 10
events each year that I know will demand original research -
seminars for senior military officers, testimonies before
Congressional committees on national policy issues or speeches to
school administrators. When they are booked a year or more in
advance, they sound like jolly good ideas. But about 60 to 90 days
before each event, I panic - which is precisely the point. It's too
late to bow out, so I have to get to work.
- Signing up to write articles for technical or professional
journals that are beyond my normal areas of interest. Once again,
the impending deadline forces the research to happen whether there
is time or not.
- Signing multi-book contracts. Having accepted money in
advance for the book after next, conscience and honor require that
it be written. …