“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” – Mahatma Gandhi
Being a firm believer in a growth mindset of learning and in designing the life I want, even if it goes against cultural norms.
I have been thinking about how to deal with constant changes in this area of technology.
Working with Microsoft Business Applications for the past 16 years has never been so challenging. Especially in keeping up with the unprecedented rate of change we see in the software suite that makes up Microsoft Business Applications.
In February 2017, my wife and I decided to down tools for a year and took a sabbatical to explore the world. The year turned into 18 months. And over this time, I reflected on my career to date and the lessons learned.
During the period of reflection, I realized that my concept of retirement is not in sync with general social thinking. I feel retirement is a mindset and not just a physical transition from working life into the sunset years.
I have no desire to work a 9-5 job anymore, with four weeks a year for holidays. No more passion for striving for other people’s goals and getting bogged down in the everyday work of M&Ms (Meetings and Managers).
I want to work on projects that I choose and help others grow and have the freedom to work anywhere in the world. With mini-retirements every year for at least a quarter to a third of the year.
But to achieve this, I must take responsibility for my learning.
The more I think about learning, the more I am convinced that the way we traditionally learn in IT needs to change. Especially when it comes to our growth mindset in learning the technology and staying up with the constant changes that Software as a Service (SaaS) has brought about.
When I started my career, the Software was updated once every three years or so. If you did a few weeks of formal learning at the start of a three-year cycle, you got a high return on your learning investment. That has all changed with SaaS.
In this past year, Microsoft has announced about 800 new features in this suite of applications. I continuously hear from Microsoft Partners and Consultants alike “how can I keep up with this constant change?”
I suggest the way we keep up with this change is to change the way we are learning. We need to develop a rhythm and habit of learning. We need to exercise a growth mindset of constant learning.
The idea of getting a university degree to set us up for life is wrong. A degree is nothing more than skills developed at a point in time, a checkbox on your CV to get you to the interview.
It may hopefully differentiate you from everyone else going for the role (though these days a degree is not a massive differentiator).
Side note: you might be wondering if I will encourage my children to attend university. Yes, I will, as I think researching and communication skills are essential to learning, and university can be a great place to learn that for some people.
I consider university like pre-school for future education; it’s only a starting point.
We need to think of learning as a way of life and consider it as important as physical health.
If you want to maintain your body in top physical health, you need to do a few things habitually:
- Eat the right food in moderation for your body
I am far from being an applied expert in physical health, but I have read a lot on the subject and tried lots of things. One thing most people can agree on is the need for exercise.
I think for the health of our minds as well as designing a career and lifestyle we choose; learning needs to become a daily habit.
The concept of doing a physical workout once every three to six months to maintain physical health would be considered absurd, so why do we do this when it comes to learning?
Regular exercise is key to health; by using our muscles we avoid atrophy and maintain physical fitness.
I suggest that this also applies to our mental health and learning. We need to adopt the habit and rigour of a Gym membership for our mind and adopt daily workouts for the brain.
Daily develop your growth mindset of learning
We need to create a daily routine of learning as part of our lifestyle.
I suggest starting with 25 minutes per day, five days per week. Just like a workout routine, design a plan, and work your plan. Do regular check-ups of the program to see if it is still aligned with your objectives and tweak as needed.
Once you have been doing this for about three months, you level up your game and move to two blocks of 25 minutes per day. And after doing that routine for another three months, see if it is time to step up to expert level.
The essential things are regularity and focus so that the method you create is taking you in the direction of your skills development goals and life goals.
Make it a Habit
“Repetition is the mother of learning, the father of action, which makes it the architect of accomplishment.” – Zig Ziglar
As I said above, you would laugh at me if I said that to maintain a healthy body, you only need to work out every three months. It is essential to develop persistence with habits that allow you to learn in this modern world.
Just like your health, it’s not someone else’s responsibility. I am responsible for me, and you are responsible for you. Not Microsoft, not your employer, not your Mother, but you.
There is no simple answer to this. But you need to find the solution that works for you, even if you try a few different things to see what fits for you best via trial and error.
Eighteen months ago, I found a way that worked for me, and it may work for you, or at least it could be a starting point to a way that could work for you.
If you have found other ways that have worked for you, please let me know in the comments below.
Please refer to the second post in this series – Power Platform and a Growth Mindset of Learning – Part 2