Why keep studying?

Key takeaways

  1. No matter how good you are at your job or how much experience you have, business is constantly evolving. If you are not learning the newest best practices and techniques, you will become obsolete regardless of your age.
  2. The best way to fight “age discrimination” is by staying current.
  3. In addition to learning serving a business purpose, it is critical to your well-being to always be expanding your knowledge.

While my friends and colleagues are very supportive of my decision to pursue a doctorate, the question of why comes up frequently. Given my business and industry experience, a school of thought is that there would be minimal returns on what will be a huge time investment. That idea, however, greatly undervalues both the professional and personal benefits from constantly learning.

Need to stay current

Everyone, despite experience, intelligence or past success needs to push themselves forward not only to improve but also to stay relevant. Several years ago, one of my most “controversial” posts was about keeping current to stay valuable. In it, I argued if you do not keep you skills up to date, you can find yourself a dinosaur professionally when you are 30.

While many people lament what they see as age discrimination, the reality is that some great, experienced people, have skills that are no longer valuable. This is not necessarily a factor of age, a 28-year-old user acquisition specialist who is an expert at Facebook marketing could find themselves irrelevant because of limited understanding of the influencer space. Where age often comes into play is that as people get more experienced, they start to believe they can stop learning. Thus, they may be less likely at 50 to take an intro course than they were at 20.

Not only are technologies continuously evolving, so are best practices. Management, marketing and the other “soft” business skills are very different today than ten or twenty (or even five years ago). Look at sports, when you watch a basketball or American football game from 10 or 20years ago, it is a very different event than a game today. It might be how basketball players focus on isolation and three-point shooting versus dominating in the paint with a big center and a coach who was great in 2005 might not know how to coach a team today effectively.

1940 basketball

Business is the same. What works best is different today than 2010. The players are different and have different expectations. Even if you are a great coach that won the Super Bowl in 2005, you might be very disappointed in results today if you do not evolve your style. Thus, the best coaches are watching tape and learning from what is happening at the college level and what is happening in different countries.

You need to do the same, learn what is working in adjacent or entirely different industries as well as what other companies in your space are doing. You need to learn or else you will find your business behind or risk getting replaced with someone who is more current on best practices.

Need to keep growing

The other reason to perpetually learn is more difficult to quantify but equally important, challenging your mind helps you grow as a person and become happier. If you are not learning, you are dying. Learning challenges your mind and helps it develop, while the lack of new stimulus does the opposite. We all push ourselves at work but that is largely limited to 8-10 hours a day, and probably not every day of the week. Those other hours also hold their challenges. However, as we gain experience, these challenges, both at work and home, become increasingly rote. It may not be easy but there is a sense of déjà vu.

Learning breaks that routine. Learning is a process, by definition, you are acquiring knowledge you do not already have. Rather than letting your mind slowly decay, you are expanding your awareness, still growing. Again, this is as important for a 25 year old as a 75 year old, in both cases you can grow or you can slowly decay.

Keep growing

Everyone has different interests and needs. There is no one size fits all way to continue growing your competitive business capability or evolving your intellect. The key, though, is determining what is the best path for you and pushing yourself forward.

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