The True Test

I sometimes get so focused on one area of my job, or one way of doing things, that I forget the key to success:  to constantly learn new things, and to improve the knowledge that I have of my industry.

Sound familiar?

I believe that’s the true test of any business. What have you learned lately?

“Knowledge has to be improved, challenged and increased constantly, or it vanishes.” – Peter Drucker, management expert

As an advertising account executive for a group of radio stations, a tv station and a few websites, I could rely on the same knowledge I acquired when I entered the ad business. The same stats, methods and sales pitches. And I would be successful, because I love what I do. But I would get no better at my job year-over-year. I’d be at exactly the same ‘knowledge level’ each year, next year and 10 years from now. My skills might improve, but not my knowledge. I don’t want to live like that.

“The recipe for perpetual ignorance is a very simple and effective one: be satisfied with your opinions and content with your knowledge.” – Elbert Hubbard

So, each month, I ask myself what I’ve learned. “What have you learned lately, Eric?”

This month, I came up empty.

I hadn’t really learned anything new. Sure I followed news updates, trends and product launches, but I hadn’t gained any knowledge of media, marketing or how people interpret advertising.

So I jumped online, headed to and purchased two audiobooks: 1) “Predictably Irrational” by Dan Ariely and 2) “How We Decide” by Jonah Lehrer. Both cover psychology and philosophy as it relates to decision making. I plan on using this information to help in my understanding on how people interpret advertising and how we connect with brands.

Whatever your field or area of interest, make it a point to learn something new. How your industry operates; how your competition operates; learn about your customers, or why they should do business with you. Maybe what you learn will contradict what you previously “knew.” That happens to me all the time — and after I get past the initial sting, it feels good. Not everything I do is right, not everything I know is true. But if I keep searching, studying and researching I’ll eventually figure it out.

I used to believe that studying was what you did in college to prepare you for a career. In reality, nearly everything I know about media & advertising I learned after college. And I don’t plan on stopping now.

Sometimes I just research topics that I’m interested in; they may not relate to my career at all. And that’s cool, too, learning for the sake of learning. Sounds obvious, I know. But how often do we take the time to do what makes us happy?

“Curiosity is life. Assumption is death. Look around. Be a sponge.” – Mark Parker, Nike CEO

Most people are too busy to learn. Those are the people I want to leave in the dust.

Don’t have the time? Or financial resources? I usually don’t. The biggest commitment will be of your time, but if you enjoy what you’re studying, it’s worth it. There are also a lot of great resources out there you can get for little or no cost.

I’m always on the look out for a great book or audiobook. Podcasts are also an excellent source for info, whatever the topic. As well as websites, blogs & magazines. More time-consuming and expensive options are  seminars and conferences.

Maybe what I learn this month will impact the rest of my life.

If nothing else, at least I enjoyed the ride.

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