Abigail Adams said, “Learning is not attained by chance. It must be sought for with ardor and attended to with diligence.”
Even more than 200 years later, her words resonate – especially in today’s world where messages and impressions continuously surge around us but may never be absorbed nor applied. From a public relations point of view, real learning takes place when we internalize and process information and then use it to enhance organizations’ relationships and reputations among their publics. There are five specific actions we can easily incorporate into our daily PR lives to ensure that we “learn with ardor”:
That means as much as you can of every genre. For me, the single most important way to learn is to read: newspapers, blogs, lifestyle magazines, industry journals and novels. Yes, novels! (See Anne Kreamer’s Jan. 2012 blog post). You never know where the next creative idea will come from – often a single word or powerful image can open the door to a new way of thinking (if you let it!)
Did you ever watch the TV show, “House”? Just when it seems that all is lost and there will be no diagnosis for the mystery illness, Dr. House grasps on to a nugget of conversation that lights up his synapses and solves the problem — lives are saved! While your results might not be as extraordinary, you can still learn a tremendous amount by truly listening to others around you. This is your opportunity to garner knowledge from other people’s experiences and expertise, and use it to help yourself and others.
Step away from your desk and look at the world around you. I just read a NYT article about the lost art of conversation — sad but true. So often our heads are down, our eyes focused on our little screens, that we can miss both the simplicity of a friendly conversation and the huge, amazing things happening right in front of us. Look around and take it all in – you’ll get more out of life and have more to talk about!
Even if you’ve taken the time to listen, and lifted your head to observe, there may be still more to learn. Develop your sense of curiosity, that urge to know more, and take it to a higher level. Ask the questions that come to mind, or look for further details online, or even walk through the doors of a library. Take ancestry.com, for example – you can learn a great deal about your family history by visiting the website. Even better is when the featured celebrity on “Who Do You Think You Are” actually visit a library. That’s when they dig deeper into real documentation, perusing the archived records that bring their pasts alive and make them meaningful.
Back to Abigail Adams quote, connecting is the key to attending to your learning with diligence. All those precious morsels you’ve gathered by reading, listening and observing will just float freely through your imagination if you don’t find a way to corral them and use them purposefully. The best way we can use our information in the field of public relations is to apply our new knowledge to help someone else. Have you read about a technology advancement that you can pass on to one of your clients to make their business run more smoothly? Or did you hear someone discussing an upcoming seminar that would help a business associate further his/her career? Perhaps you’ve just met the perfect collaborator for your next venture — and your next learning opportunity.
What have you learned lately that you would like to share? We would love to hear about it here!
Looking forward to your comments.