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Embrace lifelong learning to elevate yourself and those around you

June 15, 2022
A humble attitude and appetite for learning is the way to make the most out of your personal and professional life.
Laura Nelson, BS, MS, FAADOM, Founder of Front Office Rocks

Learning should be a lifelong endeavor. I remember when I was in high school memorizing facts and data, wondering if I would ever need to know this stuff again. I know I wasn’t alone in that feeling, and although I memorized a lot during that time that I never referred to or used again, there are a ton of things I wish I had paid more attention to. At some point, I finally figured out that continual learning is the only way to get through life.

Avoid repeating the same mistakes

There are several reasons to prioritize continuous education. First, if we don’t learn things and continually improve, we won’t get better and we’ll make the same mistakes over and over without learning from them. Life will become bland and boring if we continue to see and do the same things, failing to increase our knowledge or abilities each time.

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For example, when I started as a dental office manager, I didn’t know very much about dentistry or the details of daily practice operations. If I was still at that same level of knowledge I had when I started, never taking the time to educate myself, I wouldn’t have grown much or helped the office improve. I had to seek out people with the abilities and knowledge I lacked and learn from them. I also had to make mistakes, figure out what went wrong, and change my approach the next time. 

Knowing it all is overrated

The second reason we need to seek out continuous learning is this: People who know everything can’t learn anything new. People who believe that they’re experts in an area or field might be for a short time, however, things are constantly changing and growing around them. If they’re unable or unwilling to learn and evolve, they will quickly fall by the wayside. When people think they know everything, they don’t seek knowledge, which leads them to pull away from others and new concepts.

We have a small local study club of dental office managers in my town, and there’s one office manager who’s been in our industry longer than most of us in the room combined. She has experience and knowledge that most of us wish we had, however, when we start to discuss anything in our group that’s outside the box of “how it’s always been done,” she pushes back. She non-verbally shuts down with a negative scowl on her face and crosses her arms. When she does that, many of the other members stop communicating with her and tend to distance themselves from her. She comes to these meetings to give guidance to younger office managers, yet because of her “my way or the highway” attitude and unwillingness to adapt, she loses the respect she wants and deserves.

Seek knowledge for increased credibility

I learn something new every day. It might not be something philosophical, or from a book necessarily, but I still learn every day. Life lessons, things about friends, a way to do a part of my job more efficiently, or something about myself. Learning is the reason life improves, relationships get better, we get more secure in our jobs, and feel better in our own skin. Learning and training improve life and everyone’s ability to get through it with more ease. I am a much stronger, more knowledgeable person in my forties than I was in high school when I was wondering if I would ever need to know all the stuff I was learning later in life.

Training and learning not only give us more ability and knowledge, but also credibility. People tend to gravitate toward those who take the time to learn new things. Most people who are open to learning, training, or growing also understand that a large part of their success is realized by listening, not talking. Gaining knowledge and growing is not about telling others how great we and how much we know. It’s about listening and discovering things we don’t know.

The first step toward knowledge and training is admitting that we don’t know it all, identifying knowledge gaps, and then finding the ways to learn or fill in those gaps. When we decide to embrace lifelong learning, we tend to be more willing to help others grow as well, which means that not only will they grow and improve, so will those all around them.

Unlike the very knowledgeable office manager who thinks she already knows it all, when we continually strive to improve, grow, and learn, our own network grows as a result.