RSS Incremental Learning: Lifelong Effort

I’m in a somewhat reflective mood as I write this week’s blog – musing, in fact, about the various lessons learned throughout my career. I thought it might be fun to share a few random thoughts.

Lifelong Effort Boiled Down to 3 Steps

  • First, I have come to realize that no one in a position of power gave me anything. Like most people, I have worked hard to create the value required of me. Over the years, I have been fortunate enough to be rewarded with various promotions that have both excited and challenged me, professionally and personally.
  • Second, I have come to realize that no matter what role I have been asked to play, it required a different level of knowledge combined with a healthy polishing of specific skill sets. For example, some skills were learned “on-the-job,” through coaching, mentoring, reading and, at times, learning from mistakes (both my own and others’). Other skills, such as leadership and public speaking, developed mostly outside the workplace by engaging in various civic, social and networking forums.
  • Third, and perhaps most important of all, I realize that in each instance I was able to develop a specific set of skills that could be used throughout my professional career. There wasn’t necessarily a lot of pre-planning going on; in fact, without realizing it I had stumbled across a career strategy I can only describe as “incremental learning.”

Incremental Improvement vs. Incremental Learning

We’ve all heard about incremental improvement — the concept whereby individuals and entire organizations achieve greater success by refining processes incrementally over time. In my example, however, it’s not about process improvement but rather knowledge improvement and skill improvement. While incremental improvement is a planned strategic objective, my incremental learning process has been a journey of personal and professional interest, not a planned outcome.

Looking back to my school-age years, I find it interesting that as good of a student as I was, I did not connect the dots between lifelong learning and professional development. I have to wonder how my career would have been different had I written a strategic career plan, complete with specific outcomes to achieve by a certain age. Frankly, I’m glad I did not go down that road. For me, the best part of my professional journey has been to enjoy each day for what it is, an opportunity to learn something new and find a way to put it to use. Had I chosen a different path, I likely wouldn’t have met all of the people who have profoundly influenced me, both personally and professionally. I have known many people who did create such plans, and while they were able to achieve success, they don’t always seem happy, let alone fulfilled.

In my mind, achievement without fulfillment and fulfillment without achievement is a real paradox. While both outcomes create tangible benefits, I have learned that fulfillment comes from finding the happy middle ground; the fork in the road where incremental learning meets opportunity. I’d love to hear your comments. Do you agree?

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Home About Archive Mitch HagstromMitch Hagstrom
Executive Vice President
Chief Banking Officer
Pacific Continental Bank

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