Whether we’re aware of it or not, we all learn something new every day. So I guess that makes every one of us life-long learners. It’s relatively early in the morning for me right now, and today I’ve already learned that:
- In the U.K., gasoline costs nearly $10 a gallon.
- If you don’t water plants, they die – take a look in my office.
- I really, really don’t like two Splendas in my morning latte (an honest mistake made by a new barista).
I took a more deliberate step in my long life of learning by going back to school at age 53. After a bunch of research, taking the GMAT (4 times!) and extensive interviewing, I enrolled in the Executive MBA program at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL.
My decision to go back to school was strictly personal. I’ve always been interested in learning – I’m an avid reader, I pay attention to what’s going on around me, I watch way too much TV and I ask a lot of questions. But I hadn’t had any formal education in more than 30 years and until I thought about it, I didn’t realize how much I missed that classroom experience.
Throughout my career, I’ve spent a lot of time administering training to adults – I’ve always been “in charge” while in the front of a classroom or an audience. What a luxury to sit back and listen; the only pressure on my part was to pay attention, remain engaged and participate when appropriate. And, the older I got, the more I realized how much I didn’t know.
So here’s what those two years at Kellogg did for me.
I got a much broader understanding of economics, finance and accounting concepts. Some new subjects were fascinating for me… game theory, commodities, logistics, change management. I don’t necessarily apply what I learned each day, but understanding these concepts has given me tremendous respect for those who do.
What my MBA didn’t do for me was get me a new job or a raise — neither of which was my goal. What it did do was give me a level of confidence that has changed nearly everything about the way I interact with those around me.
So the lessons for all of us:
- Don’t ever turn down an opportunity to learn — whether formally or informally.
- Throughout the process, remain engaged and inquisitive; don’t waste the opportunity you’ve been given.
- Don’t set unrealistic expectations about what happens next — do it for personal development.
- Continue to search for opportunities to learn more. It can only enrich your life.
- Have fun while you’re at it!
Finally, after successfully earning that MBA, I’m even more aware of what I still don’t know. So what’s next? Should I tackle nuclear physics?
Now it’s your turn… what have you learned lately?