Merge's Blog

Straight roads do not make skillful drivers – the importance of continuous learning

LombardStreetAt my youngest niece’s high school convocation ceremonies earlier this week, the class valedictorian made a short speech to celebrate the group’s accomplishments and to encourage his classmates to further learn and challenge themselves. During his address, this quote by Paulo Coelho, celebrated Brazilian lyricist and author, caught my attention.

Straight roads do not make skillful drivers

– Paulo Coelho

From the perspective of the graduation ceremonies, it was obviously directed at the young people in the room who were about to embark on their adult journeys and adventures. But it occurred to me that this piece of wisdom was just as applicable in the workplace, particularly in the context of continuous learning.

As long-time readers of this blog know, I have always believed that we learn by pushing ourselves outside our comfort zones. In fact, both my flagship keynote and my first book, Why Does The Lobster Cast Off Its Shell? address exactly this topic of the value and importance of continuous learning. Coelho’s reflection on straight roads and skillful drivers is another (compelling) way of emphasizing the importance of not just taking the easy route, but rather pushing yourself to take on tasks and responsibilities that thrust you into areas where you are not as skilled or proficient. Because it’s only when we do so that we become even more capable and competent.

So do you agree? What are you doing to ensure that you travel on the roads that are not-so-straight? How do you create an environment of continuous learning, both for yourself as an individual, and for your organization? Please share your ideas.

P.S. Back in the fall of 2013 I wrote an article for CGA Magazine offering five suggestions for how you can create a genuine learning culture at work. Here is a link to It’s a leader’s job to actively promote lifelong learning.

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