Feature Article: Take Time to Feed Your Brain
All humans share the need to learn and grow. We’re not just talking about education here, in terms of getting a degree to be more employable. If you want your brain to continue to serve you into your old age, you must keep it active. Be curious. Wonder. Stretch. Grow.

In this era of overwhelming stress, companies need employees who:
• Care deeply about what they do.
• Think independently.
• Are responsible for their own growth and development.
• Work tenaciously and proactively to improve the performance of their team and organization.

Employees are learning that it’s their responsibility to remain “employable” by getting the new skills they need. Everyone is educated; some people simply lack a formal education but have learned from the school of hard knocks on the job and from their years living on this earth. 

In March 2003, it was reported that Bill Gates was worth $52.8 billion. He’d been at Microsoft since 1975, the year he started the company with Paul Allen. With 52 weeks a year, 5 working days a week, and assuming no vacation, Gates had made $7,252,747 a day since Microsoft began. Not bad for a Harvard dropout! You can bet he never stops learning and growing. And he proves that you don’t need to go to a university to achieve great things.

Stimulate your brain. Even if you have no desire to attend school and earn a degree, you need to keep your brain active. I subscribe to a series of books from the Easton Press call the “100 Greatest Books Ever Written. ” The series include titles such as Moby Dick, Wuthering Heights, War and Peace, and so on. Pretty heavy reads. I order one book every other month because each one costs about $50.00. They are leather bound, with gold leaf pages, a satin bookmark, and beautiful artwork. I finish reading one book before ordering the next one. At this pace, I read six in a year, so it will take me almost 17 years to complete the series. But that’s okay! In 15 years, I’ll still be 15 years older whether I read the books or not. In the meantime, I’ll be able to discuss these great works intelligently and use excerpts as examples in my speeches. When I’ve completed reading them all, I plan to travel to the best places I read about.

Attend conferences. Like me, I’m sure you receive flyers on special one-day conferences being held for local associations, universities, and chambers of commerce. Every once in a while, don’t throw the brochure away—GO! You’ll keep up with the thought leaders of the day, meet new people, and have interesting conversation material. I landed my first corporate client back in 1992 when I attended a conference held by Business and Professional Women. By chance, I sat next to the training director for Mobil Oil Company, and thus marked the genesis of a beautiful ongoing relationship. 

Check out public seminars. Check out seminars offered by American Management Association (AMA), CareerTrack (www.careertrack.com), or Fred Pryor seminars (which owns CareerTrack) when they come to your area. Explore new avenues of interest. Meet new people. It will be well worth your time and money.

Sign up for community college or continuing education courses. Our local community college sends out a catalog each quarter outlining the continuing education courses offered for no credit. If one looks interesting, sign up! Taking a course every Tuesday night for the next six weeks, for example, will add variety to your life and give your interest in learning a boost.

Take advantage of company education programs. Being in the training business myself, I’m often impressed by the wide variety of educational offerings by many organizations. Several host learning luncheons each month, brining in speakers to discuss everything from personal finances to yoga to time management. Some have an extensive catalog of open enrollment training seminars offered on-site during work hours. A few even offer degree programs during the week, compliments of a university that offers special on-site classes. You get paid to learn and improve. What a concept! 

Make it a productive day! ™

(C) Copyright 2005 Laura Stack, MBA, CSP. All rights reserved. 

This article may be reprinted provided the following credit line is present: "Laura M. Stack, MBA, CSP, is "The Productivity Pro"® and the author of Leave the Office Earlier. She presents keynotes and seminars on time management, information overload, and personal productivity. Contact her at 303-471-7401 or [email protected]."