I’ve always loved learning, and I can recall that sometime in my 40s I briefly feared that I would run out of worthwhile things to learn. Even trips to very large bookstores with thousands of books that I would never read didn’t assuage that feeling.
You may not be surprised when I tell you that I didn’t run out of things to learn.
Perhaps my most important learning over the past couple of decades has been about the process of learning itself—that when I give myself interesting and compelling problems to solve, significant and even life-changing learning follows.
The most common source of such learning is when I walk, metaphorically speaking, to the edge of my comfort zone and then take another step or two. That meant both stepping out and stepping up to new responsibilities.
As I look back, I can see that significant learning occurred when I:
• Accepted a professional responsibility that was beyond my current capacities to successfully fulfill it. That happened, for instance, in the 1970s when I was asked to help plan and implement a public alternative high school. It happened again in the 1980s when I was invited to serve on NSDC’s Board of Trustees and later became its executive director.
• Felt strongly about the value of something and no one else was willing or able to take responsibility for the work. That happened a few years back when I thought it was important for hospice patients to have the opportunity, if they wished, to leave a video record of their life stories for family members, some of whom who were not yet born and would never have the chance to know them in person.
Question: What were circumstances that caused you to step out of your comfort zone, and what were the benefits that you and others experienced when you did so?