10 Ways to be a Life-long Learner

Imagine you asked twenty people in your circle of influence (professional, personal, social, and religious domains) to describe your number one strength. Well, last year that’s exactly what I did, looking to discover my singular strength that was not merely subjected to mere self-opinion, but grounded in certainty and objectivity.

The response was overwhelming. 90% considered my number one strength as self-development (= continuous learning). Quite honestly, the results were affirming and liberating. My relentless drive for growth felt more like a gift from God – how He wired me to be this way.

The journey as a life-long learner began in the beginning of my high school days. Since then, I’ve endlessly pushed the envelope when it came to learning and growing. I have embraced the saying, “There are no uninteresting things, only uninterested people.” Living a day without a learning anything new would be my worst nightmare. That’s why I am following Eartha Kitt who said, “I am learning all the time. The tombstone will be my diploma.” The following are ten learning vehicles I have used to maximize my learning.

1) Formal Classroom

This is perhaps one of the more conventional methods to learn. In the past year, online learning is on the rise. The number of people enrolled in online learning has doubled in the last five years. There are numerous top-tier schools that provide online courses. Last year, I studied change management through e-Cornell’s certificate program.

Take advantage of your company if they provide educational reimbursement. But, if you feel tight on your budget, no worries. You can enroll free classes on Coursera–  an education company that provides free online courses from top universities. Several of the courses Coursera offers include, Design from University of Pennsylvania, Sports and Society from Duke University, Child Nutrion and Cooking from Stanford University, and Introduction to Finance from University of Michigan. The faculty and variety of course offerings are absolutely amazing. You can check out the complete offerings of their courses.

2) Listening and Asking

I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen.”- Ernest Hemingway

This is perhaps the most consistency and cheapest way to learn anything. But, most undermined and undervalued. Larry King, the longest talk show host in CNN for 25 years said, “I remind myself every morning: Nothing I say this day will teach me anything. So if I’m going to learn, I must do it by listening.”

Voltaire said, “Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers.” Here’s a list of 30 powerful questions that every leader should read to become better questioners. 

3) Alternative Media

Alternative media is considered to be any type of media that is not under the control of a business operation or government (e.g., newspapers, magazines, radio, movies etc). As an organizational chiropractor, I regularly read the Harvard Business Review, Wall Street Journal, Strategy+Business, McKinsey Quarterly. As a kingdom-minded leader, I read Christianity Today, RELEVANT Magazine. As an intentional leader, I read Michael Hyatt’s blog, Leadership Journal and Outcomes.  Also, I’ve enjoyed listening to Focus on the Family every day I commute to work.

RELATED: 10 YouTube Channels Every Leader Should Be Following

4) Books

“The failure to read good books both enfeebles our vision and strengthens our most fatal tendency – the belief that here and now is all there is.” – Alan Bloom

It is known that an average CEO reads 5 books per month. Many of these CEOs read voraciously and widely in different industries and sciences. This often sparks creativity and innovation. My goal is to read 50 books this year on five major themes: intentional living, leadership, Christian living, communication, and organizational development. What are you reading these days? Here’s a starter list if you want to knock out some books for the summer:  Top 30 books every young influencer should read.

5) Conferences

I’m a conference junkie. I’ve been to dozens and dozens of conferences to widen my exposure to learning. If you feel you are stuck and simply lost the desire to learn, you might want to attend a conference. Conferences are good for a source of inspiration. Keynote speeches will spark lots of new thoughts and get your creative juices flowing.  This is a great opportunity to connect with like-minded individuals who are striving to excel in whichever profession you’re in. Though the cost may be hefty at times, consider this an investment. Click here to learn how to maximize your conference experience. Here’s my top 9 conferences every leader should attend

6) Interview People

After interviewing Celina Lee, the author of Live Your Dreams, I realized how much I enjoy listening to people’s stories. I am inspired by people who have big dreams and compelling character. That’s why I started an interview series on my blog. After interviewing dozens and dozens of leaders so far, I feel my perspective has been largely expanded through learning the diverse experiences each person has shared in the interview. Whether you are looking for a job for an informational interview or simply interested in meeting your favorite author, don’t hesitate to reach out with a genuine email, tweet, FB message or phone call. You’ll be surprised how willing these people are to help out.

7) Travel

“The world is a book. Those who don’t travel read only a page.”

Having the opportunity to travel around than 35 cities in 10 countries, I can simply say this is one of the most life-changing ways to learn and grow. Not only do you appreciate the diversity of culture, language, and people, but you also get to experience how people are different in many ways yet alike at the same time. I also would recommend that the earlier the travel, the better it is. My friend Leo Fuchigami is widely traveled. Most of his traveling is a backpacking trip. If you are thinking about traveling, read his post on how he traveled to South America costing him only $35/day.

8) TV

While I am not a big supporter of TV generally, but there are very interesting TV shows that widen your knowledge. My favorite shows are Mythbusters, Unearth America, and slew of other interesting shows on the History and National Geographic channel.

9) Team Learning

The book of Proverbs says that as iron sharpens iron, a person sharpens another. We all heard this truth but often the value is undermined in our learning journey. Today, it’s virtually impossible to achieve anything today by yourself. It’s all about teamwork and learning to operate as a high-performing team. Mastermind Groups are a great tool to learn a subject with like-minded individuals who have many differences of thought, perspective, and experiences.

10) Bible

A thorough knowledge of the Bible is worth more than a college education.”

Above all, all the learning tools above are great. But it amounts to nothing but human wisdom. I read, study, and meditate on the Bible because simply it is God’s Word to us. The Bible is literally “God-breathed.” Not only is this the best-selling book in the history, but as creations of God, the only way to make sense out of life is to read the words God speaks to us. The fundamental questions that we all face such as “Who am I?” “Why am I here?” “Is there life after death?” “What is success?”  If you’ve never read the Bible before, I would suggest you start with the gospels of Jesus.

Questions: What other learning vehicles are you using to be a life-long learner?

  • Great post! Under alternative media, I would add Twitter – which is a great way to follow the top leaders in the world, and hear from them on a regular basis. And one of my favourite TV shows to watch is Dragon’s Den (and the US version, Shark’s Tank) – lots of business learning from that show!

    • Absolutely Tim – Twitter and Facebook are awesome tools to follow the top leaders in the world. I have been more active using Twitter to connect with others. Thanks to your advice, I’ve been able to meet some like-minded individuals.

      I heard Shark’s Tank is a great show. Heard lots of good reviews about it.

  • Awesome post. I would also add Instangram – People share their ideas and interests by posting photos of they’re liking, desiring, or working towards.

    • Good thoughts Sandra. I think Instagram is a tool that I’ve seen used to create creativity and inspiration. Thanks for joining the conversation!

  • I enjoyed your post. I will be back! Check out my blog when you get a chanve. We have a similar outlook and world view


    • Thanks for coming to my blog Patrick! Just checked out your blog and left a comment. Good job!

    • Hello Patrick,

      I look forward to checking out your site. Make sure you keep reading Paul’s blog because we writes great content!!!

  • Hi Paul. This post has really helped me. Something I am going to have revisit from time to time! Point 5 is one of my favorites…I started reading a book a week last year and it has really shaped my thinking in new ways. Looking forward to reading more of your posts. Thanks for being Kingdom minded!

    • Hey Luke I’m glad you found the blog post helpful. What were the top three books that profoundly influenced your life? I’m always looking for great books to read. Thanks for joining the conversation!

      • That is a hard question answer! If you don’t count the Bible…I would say the books that most shaped me in the last couple of years have been The Magic of Thinking Big by David Schwartz, Wild Goose Chase by Mark Batterson, and The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt by Edmund Morris.

        How about your top 3?

        • Interestingly, I haven’t read all three books you mentioned. Just included in my wishlist! So many books to read yet not enough time.

          My top three are the following:
          1. Brothers Karamazov – Fyodor Dostoevsky
          2. Slave – John MacArthur
          3. Walking from East to West – Ravi Zacharias
          These books had a profound impact in shaping my worldview in every unique way.
          By the way, do you know what’s your top five themes for your Strength Finder result? Mine are input, focus, harmony, restorative, and learner.

  • Those are great avenues to growing and learning. I primary read, attend conferences, get around other leaders, and am mentored. It’s essential for leaders to keep learning.

    • You are a talented connector Dan. Just by observing you, I learn a lot from you. Thanks for sharing your knowledge, resources, and time with me! 🙂

      • Thanks man. It’s something anyone can become better at with effort and time. I’m glad I can be a good example for you:) It’s amazing what we can learn from observing, right?:) Glad we have been able to connect.

        • Absolutely! Thanks for being an example and your continual encouragement!

  • Great post Paul, and very valuable. Podcasts, reading, self study, conferences, and hanging out with older and wiser people are great ways to grow yourself. Even in my passion of grace, I am always looking to find what others have said to deepen my understanding. Thanks for a great post!

    • So true, Chris. Thanks for adding value here.