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How to Never Stop Growing and Learning

How to Never Stop Growing and Learning

It was Gandhi who said, “Learn as if you were to live forever.” Why do you think he recommended this? It’s because human beings are not meant to stop growing and learning, even though our time on earth is limited. Part of finding and sustaining happiness in your life is opening yourself up to new things as you get older, though it’s not always easy to do this.

Life happens. Stress abounds and our responsibilities, typically financial, lead us to de-prioritize our own intellectual growth. Steps to change, however, are quite possible. These steps will help point you in the right direction of having a lifestyle that helps you unlock your unlimited potential.

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1. Surround Yourself with Achievers

We become who we hang around, so why not use this truth to your advantage? As you get older, find individuals who are growing and learning, and share your life with them. As they experience and accomplish new things, you’ll be inspired to do the same.

2. Turn Off the TV

Yikes. This can be a hard one, but TV pretty much numbs our minds and prevents us from producing like we can when our minds are at their peak. A way to ease into a television-free lifestyle is to ban TV from your weekdays and save it for the weekend. You can use the freed-up time to read and learn something completely new while still keeping up with your favorite shows at the end of the week.

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3. Find a Mentor

This can be a bit tricky since we sometimes like to rely on our friends to fill this role. A good mentor, however, is someone who is on a different level than you, though there are exceptions. You want a mentor who knows you well enough to call you out when they see you slipping into mediocrity, and you also want a mentor who isn’t afraid to push you to achieve more.

I had a mentor just like this in college. I knew he wasn’t just another friend because whenever we would hang out, he would spend the entire time evaluating and motivating me. Parents, older siblings and teachers are usually the best mentors, and they’re usually the most willing to accept your help if you ask for it.

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4. Be a Mentor

Nothing beats learning by teaching. When I was in school, I often tutored other students in order to help them and learn the material even better myself. Seek out opportunities to be a mentor for someone younger and hungry to learn. They’ll often inspire you to achieve more yourself, and taking on a tangible responsibility like this keeps you from decelerating your growth.

5. Focus on One Thing at a Time

Being “okay” at a lot of things isn’t as impressive as being the master of one. Let’s say you want to learn a language. It would be catastrophic (unless you’re that good) if you tried to learn two or three at the same time! Instead, focus on mastering each subject before you try something new.

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6. Stick to Subjects You Already Know

Let’s say you’ve managed to master the Spanish language. Awesome! But instead of trying to learn a topic that is completely unrelated, consider learning about Spanish history. You now know the language, so this the next natural step to gaining an even deeper understanding of the subject. It’s also a lot easier to learn more about a subject you already have an interest in.

7. Meet Interesting People

This is pretty easy in your 20’s, before you’ve really settled down. Once you have a spouse and kids, you won’t have as much free time to spend conversing with new people. Still, it’s worth the effort, and you don’t have to go to a bar to talk to strangers. Put yourself out there by talking to the myriad of people you run into, and maintaining this habit of curiosity will keep your mind open and receptive to the perspectives of others.

8. Create Something

One of my lifelong mottos has always been, “When in doubt, create something.” Sometimes our minds are just burnt out on taking in new information, and we need to express everything we’ve learned through our own “works of art.” For you, that can be a multitude of things like a novel, painting or skyscraper.

Whatever it is that’s begging to come out of that head of yours, know that pacing yourself in life is key to always staying interested in learning. Once you’ve exhausted your mental creativity, your inner self will be begging for you to learn something new.

More by this author

Jon Negroni

An author and blogger who shares about lifestyle advice

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Last Updated on April 11, 2019

How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

Possessing strong communication skills will help you in every phase of your life. This is especially true in the workplace.

I have personally worked with several leaders who were masters of communication. A few were wonderful speakers who could tell a great story and get everyone in the room engaged. Those of us in attendance would walk away feeling inspired and eager to help with what came next. Others were very skilled at sharing a clear direction and job expectations.

I knew exactly what was expected of me and how to achieve my goals. This was the foundation of an energized and vibrant role I was in. What I have found is strong communication skills are incredibly helpful and sometimes critical in how well we perform at work.

Here we will take a look at how to improve communication skills for workplace success.

How Communication Skills Help Your Success

Strong communication skills pave the way for success in many ways. Let’s look at a few of the big ones.

Create a Positive Experience

Here are two examples of how well developed communication skills helps create a positive experience:

When I first moved to the city I now live in, I began a job search. Prior to my first live interview, I was told an address to go to. Upon arriving at the address provided, I drove around and around attempting to find the location. After 15 minutes of circling and looking for the address, I finally grabbed a parking spot and set out on foot.

What I discovered was the address was actually down an alley and only had the number over the door. No sign for the actual company. The person that gave me those very unclear directions provided a bad experience for me.

Had they communicated the directions to get there in a clear manner, my experience would have been much better. Instead the entire experience started off poorly and colored the entire meeting.

As a recruiter, I frequently provide potential candidates with information about a job I’m speaking to them about. In order to do this, I also provide a picture of the overall company, the group they might be joining, and how their role fits in and impacts the entire company.

Time and time again I have been told by candidates that I have provided the clearest picture of a company and role they have ever heard. They have a positive experience when I clearly communicate to them. Even when the position does not work out for them, often times they will want to stay in touch with me due to the open communication and beneficial experience they had during the interviewing process.

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Strong communication skills will provide a positive experience in virtually any interaction you have with someone.

Help Leadership Skills

It’s certainly a skill all its own to be able to lead others.

Being a mentor and guiding others towards success is a major hallmark of great leaders. Another characteristic of effective leaders is the ability to communicate clearly.

As I referenced above, having a leader who can plainly articulate the company’s mission and direction goes a really long way towards being the Captain of the boat that others want to follow. It’s like saying “here’s our destination and this is how we are going to get there” in a way that everyone can get on board with.

Another critical component of everyone helping to sail the boat in the right direction is knowing what your portion is all about. How are you helping the boat move towards its destination in the manner than is consistent with the leaders’ vision?

If you have a boss or a manager that can show you what it takes for not only you to be successful, but also how your performance helps the company’s success then you’ve got a winner. A boss with superior communication skills.

Build Better Teams

Most of us work in teams of some sort or another. During the course of my career, I have led teams up to 80 and also been an individual contributor.

In my individual contributor roles, I have been part of a larger team. Even if you are in business for yourself, you have to interact with others in one manner or another.

If you have strong communication skills, it helps to build better teams. This is true whether you are in an IT department with 100 other fellow programmers or if you own your own business and have customers or vendors you communicate with.

When you showcase your robust ability to communicate well with others while interacting with them, you are building a better team.

Now let’s jump in to how to improve communication skills to help you pave the way for your workplace success.

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How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

There are many tips, tricks, and techniques to improve communication skills. I don’t want to overwhelm you with too much information, so let’s focus on the things that will provide the biggest return on your time investment.

Most of these tips will be fairly easy to become aware of but will take time and effort to implement. So let’s go!

1. Listen

Ever heard the saying you have two ears and one mouth for a reason? If you haven’t, then here’s the reason:

Being a good listener is half the equation to being a good communicator.

People who have the ability to really listen to someone can then actually answer questions in a meaningful way. If you don’t make the effort to actively listen, then you are really doing yourself and the other person a disservice in the communication department.

Know that person who is chomping at the bit to open his or her mouth the second you stop talking? Don’t be that person. They haven’t listened to at least 1/2 of what you’ve said. Therefore the words that spill out of their mouth are going to be about 1/2 relevant to what you just said.

Listen to someone completely and be comfortable with short periods of silence. Work on your listening skills first and foremost.

2. Know Your Audience

Knowing your audience is another critical component to having strong communication skills. The way you interact with your manager should be different than how you interact with your kids. This isn’t to say you need to be a different person with everyone you interact with. Far from it.

Here is a good way to think about it:

Imagine using your the same choice of words and body language you use with your spouse while interacting with your boss. That puts things in a graphic light!

You want to ensure you are using the type of communication most relevant to your audience.

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3. Minimize

I have lunch with a business associate about 3 times a year. We’ve been talking for several years now about putting a business deal together.

He is one of those people that simply overwhelms others with a lot of words. Sometimes when I ask him a question, I get buried beneath such an avalanche of words that I’m more confused than when I asked the question. Needless to say this is most likely a large portion of why we never put the deal together.

Don’t be like my lunch business associate. The goal of talking to or communicating with someone is to share actual information. The goal is not to confuse someone, it’s to provide clarity in many cases.

State what needs to be stated as succinctly as possible. That doesn’t mean you can’t have some pleasant conversation about the weather too.

The point is to not create such an onslaught of words and information that the other person walks away more confused than when they started.

4. Over Communicate

So this probably sounds completely counter intuitive to what I just wrote about minimizing your communication. It seems like it might be but it’s not.

What I mean by over communicating is ensuring that the other person understands the important parts of what you are sharing with them. This can be done simply yet effectively. Here’s a good example:

Most companies have open enrollment for benefits for the employees in the fall. The company I work for has open enrollment from November 1 to 15. The benefits department will send out a communication to all employees around October 1st, letting them know open enrollment is right around the corner and any major changes that year. There’s also a phone number and email for people to contact them with any questions.

Two weeks later, we all get a follow up email with basically the same information. We get a 3rd communication the week before open enrollment and another one 1 day before it starts.

Finally we get 2 emails during enrollment reminding us when open enrollment ends.

There’s minimal information, it’s more of a reminder. This is effective over communication.

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5. Body Language

The final critical component to how to improve communication skills for workplace success is body language. This is something most of us have heard about before but, a reminder is probably a good idea.

When I am in a meeting with someone I am comfortable with, I tend to kind of slouch down in my chair and cross my arms. When I catch myself doing this, I sit up straight and uncross my arms. I remember that crossing arms can many times be interpreted as a sign of disagreement or conflict.

In general, the best rule of thumb is to work towards having open body language whenever possible at work. This means relaxing your posture, not crossing your arms, and looking people in the eye when speaking with them.

When you are speaking in front of others, stand up straight and speak in a clear voice. This will convey confidence in your words.

Conclusion

Possessing strong communication skills will help you in many facets of your life and most certainly in the workplace.

Good communication helps create better teams, positive experiences with those we interact with, and are critical for leadership.

There are numerous tactics and techniques to be used to improve communication skills. Here we’ve reviewed how to improve communication skills for workplace success.

Now go communicate your way to success.

More Resources About Effective Communication

Featured photo credit: HIVAN ARVIZU via unsplash.com

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