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Opening Yourself to Constant Learning
Blog / For Sales Pros / Sep 10, 2019 / Posted by Nikolaus Kimla / 305 

Opening Yourself to Constant Learning

6 comments

In the last article in this series, I made the point that today, you must constantly be learning—there’s no other way to survive in the 21st century. How do you practically do that?

Data Bombardment

Thanks to modern media, we’re bombarded with millions of pieces of information daily—most of it negative. Some of this news is so horrible that we can’t absorb it anymore. It’s bad enough that we simply shut ourselves off to it, and just don’t listen.

The rapidity and instantaneousness of the media pressure us for an immediate response, which often induces wrong reactions. We just don’t have enough time to process the actual problem—it can take time to see things differently or correctly.

If you want to open yourself to learning, how do you guard yourself against this constant negativity?

Assistance of Technology

When we hear something, how do we know it’s something we really need to hear about, engage with and adapt to learn? This is a problem we face today, as never before in thousands of years of history. This is especially true in social media.

As we face this challenge, we need the assistance of technology. As I’ve said previously, there is an ever-growing symbiotic relationship between humans and technology. In my first book published over 10 years ago, The IT Revolution, I created an illustration of a computer mouse on a human body (I wasn’t considering the fact we had computer chips at that time). Today, Elon Musk is discussing the implanting of a computer chip in the brain, and in Sweden they’re already proceeding with implanting chips under the skin, containing a person’s financial and medical details. So we’re moving in this direction at light speed. Technology is also being brought to be more and more “human”—witness Alexa and Siri. Technology is actually speaking to us.

In any case, learning without the aid of technology is no longer possible.

This technological assistance is drastically changing the way we learn. It used to be that we learned things in school by memorizing. We’d absorb facts such as when Alexander the Great was born, and where and when he lived. We learned other information by heart, too, such as geography, biology, and others.

Today this is no longer necessary. You can search for something online and have the information in under a second. You could ask something like, “Hey, Siri, who was the last president of Nigeria?” and instantly have the answer. There is no longer a need for memorizing such facts (although this could certainly still be useful). As time goes by, technology is becoming faster, better and more informative.

As I covered in detail in my recent ebook Sales Automation, I do think we have to be cautious in being advised by AI, because we don’t know who programmed it and what their biases are. This is something I feel we have to watch out for going into the future.

In any case, the advent of technology means that there’s a need for a new kind of learning that’s different from the old ways. It’s about thinking structurally and asking important questions about sources of information.

Adaptive Intelligence

It’s also about what I call adaptive intelligence.

An example I like to use to illustrate this concept is the scene in the film Schindler’s List in which the Nazis were clearing out the Warsaw Ghetto. The Jews were carrying suitcases and were told they had to leave them behind. They were then being shot. One boy adopted intelligence to the situation—as a group of machine-gun-armed SS troops was coming around a corner, this boy began sorting luggage, rearranging the way it had been left randomly on the sidewalk. The Nazis came along and, seeing him engaged in this odd activity, instead of shooting him, asked him what he was doing. He told them he’d gotten the order to help sort the luggage! It was a total lie, but he used his intelligence to come up with a diversion, pretty certain that if he used it, he wouldn’t be shot. He wasn’t, while many others were.

This is adaptive intelligence—taking information and rapidly using it to the best of your ability. Another example: let’s say you were stranded out in the desert and had about 30 seconds of power left on your smartphone. What would you do? Do you call someone? Do you send a text? Adapting knowledge to a situation is the challenge, here.
Yet another example—although I thoroughly disagree with this method of making money—is the stock market. To trade successfully in today’s markets requires fast thinking to know when to buy and when to sell. It’s not like in our parents’ and grandparents’ time when prevailing wisdom dictated buying certain stocks and hanging onto them for years. Today it’s like gambling, playing the lottery.

Returning to Our Original Pattern

The overall solution, I believe, is returning to the pattern we originally had human beings. When we were growing up, our minds were taking things in every waking second, absorbing everything around us. Children are also open-minded and not judgmental, which is why Jesus advised his followers to “become like a child.”

In line with this, here are 4 patterns I feel we must now avoid:

  1. When people grow older, they tend to react to reject new ideas and react negatively to them. They commonly say, “When you’re older, you will see.” So the first thing we must do is stop blocking new ideas.
  2. We must stop judging, which goes even deeper than blocking. Blocking is simply pushing something away, while judging is categorizing in a negative sense.
  3. Often when we don’t block and we don’t judge, we simply file a piece of information away, like putting a book on a bookshelf and forgetting about it. This means you’re not willing to go through the process of finding out if it’s relevant.
  4. Also try as much as possible to not view things from a “specialist” viewpoint, because this also gives you blind spots. People often say, “That has nothing to do with me. I’m not listening to that. I’m not interested. I don’t have time for that.” We actually do have time, because how much time do we spend in worthless activities, such as watching empty content on TV or engaging in pointless discussions in social media?

We need to shift our mindset so we’re not blocking, not judging, not lazily categorizing or deciding it has nothing to do with us.

How?

So how do we do this? I think we have to have somewhat of a mechanism. This mechanism consists of starting to learn in the way I have described, and then not giving up when you don’t do it perfectly immediately. Nothing you have ever done in life was perfect the first time—think of how many times you attempted to walk before you got it right.

There are no hard-and-fast principles to it—the only principle is, you do have to learn this process. When you do, you begin to change your habits, you become more open and you begin to optimize your own system. This is, of course, different for each person, based on their innate abilities and willingness to engage.

But I do believe we can open our minds, which have been shut off for learning since we were in school and being to absorb new and important things.

Why is learning so important to sales? Because as a salesperson you are constantly speaking to human beings to sell to them. Each human being is different, unique, has a different background and culture—and you must rapidly learn all about to respect them.

Let’s Get Right

Today, the world has gone in a very different direction. We’re all placed into tiny little categories, and if we refuse to go there, we’re marked, judged, mocked, labeled and reduced.

I do believe in the creation of every human being, and I believe we’re created in the highest image, which reflects the greatest level of creativity. Therefore we have to respect every human. Just think of what happens when you have a cut finger—in a very short time the body is reacting, healing itself. Or, look at the birth process, the greatest miracle that parents can experience. It’s amazing to watch this tiny human emerge, fully formed, and then watch it grow to be a super-human. But now, as grown-up super-humans, we’re busy fighting each other, and it’s very tragic and unintelligent.

If you were able to take a long step back, you’d see that we’re on this isolated tiny little planet, with very limited resources, surrounded by hundreds of millions of miles of dark empty space. Fighting amongst each other makes absolutely no sense.

So start learning! Respect other human beings. You must learn to not block, judge, reject and automatically categorize. Be open—because it could be that the person who comes to you and tells you something is delivering you the biggest lesson of your life.

    About Author

    A 30-year veteran of the computer industry, Nikolaus has founded and run several software companies. He and his company uptime iTechnology are the developers of World-Check, a risk intelligence platform eventually sold to Thomson Reuters for $520 million. He is currently the founder and CEO of Pipeliner Sales, Inc., developer and publisher of Pipeliner CRM, the first CRM application aimed squarely at actually empowering salespeople. Also a prolific writer, Nikolaus has authored over 100 ebooks, articles and white papers addressing the subjects of sales management, leadership and sales itself.

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    Comments (6)
    1

    kabir abiodun ganiyu commented...

    this piece is eye and mind opener!

    0

    Kehinde Oyeleye commented...

    This is an amazing article. I must say it is educative.

    0

    Oyenola Ayomide commented...

    Amazing.

    0

    Ajith chandran commented...

    Awesome article…

    0

    Akshay Taneja commented...

    The best aspect of learning is learning by problem solving. Numerous research studies have shown that if we read or listen a particular thing, we may forget it. But if we practice problems using it, we will rarely forget it.

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    Chigozie Okeke commented...

    Open minds has to be one of the best gift an individual can have because they always have one more room for new ideas for the rest of their lives. Humans are not technology thus the brain has it’s weakness at old age but for only those who don’t service it regularly. The brain tends to shut up on them so constant learning is non negotiable, it’s part of life at least if you still want to be part of this life.

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