5 Steps to Revitalize Lifelong Learning

15 | 5 Steps to Revitalize Lifelong Learning

Transform Your World through the Power of Continuous Learning

Want to know the secret to success?

It’s about embracing lifelong learning, being willing to try new things and seek out information, setting intentions to get better, and embracing the failures that come with learning your way forward.

I believe when we stay in learning – a learning attitude, mindset, and practice – anything is possible. 

Being a “learning enthusiast” is a foundational part of who I am. It’s given me the courage to step out into the unknown and, ultimately, has catapulted my personal growth and leadership impact.

In this week’s episode, you’ll learn the 5 core attributes I believe are the heart of becoming a Lifelong Learning Enthusiast, one of the competencies in my Change KATALYST™ model, and how you can leverage them to drive your success too.

So, if you’re ready to revitalize your commitment to learning and enhance your personal, team, and organizational impact, you’re in the right place.

In this episode of Chain of Learning you’ll learn:

✅ The importance of embracing new challenges and knowledge with a learning mindset

✅ The power of actively seeking feedback for transformative growth

✅ How to be intentional with what you’re trying to improve and the necessary role of reflection in the learning process

✅ A framework for becoming more adaptable, adjusting what you’re doing based on new knowledge and insights

✅ How to lead by example with vulnerability and clarity in purpose to create a learning culture and grow your Chain of Learning®

Listen Now to Chain of Learning!

If you’re ready to transform into a leader who can navigate the continuums between asking and telling, advocating and inquiring, being an expert and coach, this is one episode you don’t want to miss.

Watch the conversation

Watch the full recorded episode on YouTube.

Reflect and Take Action

Reflect on this episode as well as the five attributes of being a Lifelong Learning Enthusiast and take action:

  • What is something new that you can try?
  • Where can you ask for and seek out feedback and incorporate it into your intentional practice?
  • How can you better develop a habit of intentional practice and reflection?
  • How can you model the way?

Take the Katalyst™ Self-Assessment

Be sure to download my free Change KATALYST Self-Assessment, and then go back and listen to episode nine of this podcast to learn more about each competency so that you can step into your full transformational leadership impact.

Work with Me

If you want support for yourself or your team, work with improvement change leaders and executives like you to master these skills to lead change, step into your leadership impact, and create high-performing learning organizations.

You can learn more about my trusted advisor, team coaching, and leadership development programs here.

Important Links

Listen Now to Chain of Learning

Listen now on your favorite podcast players such as Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Audible. You can also listen to the audio of this episode on YouTube.


0:00 – An introduction to being a lifelong learner
1:15 – My personal experiences as a lifelong learner
9:26 – What’s at risk if you don’t make regular learning a priority
12:32 – Step #1 – Actively embracing new experiences and knowledge
14:50 – Step #2 – Being receptive to and proactively seeking out feedback and suggestions
17:40 – Step #3 – Setting time for intentional practice and reflection
19:44 – Step #4 – Adapting and addressing your approach based on new knowledge and insights
21:42 – Step #5 – Modeling the way as a lifelong learning enthusiast
26:19 – My recommendation for the best way to stay in learning

Full Episode Transcript

Katie Anderson:
What happens when you step into the unfamiliar? Like visiting a new city for the first time? Your eyes and ears open wide and your senses come alive. You might not know exactly how to get to where you’re going, but the adventure comes in the discovery. If only you could bring the same level of awareness to your day to day, what could you learn? And how might that change the way you lead in your organization and your life? Welcome to chain of learning, where the links of leadership and learning unite. This is your connection for actionable strategies and practices to empower you to build a people-centered learning culture, get results and expand your impact so that you and your team can leave a lasting legacy. I’m your host and fellow learning enthusiast, katie anderson. I’m recently back from two weeks in australia where I led a series of leadership workshops for nearly 100 aussie and kiwi leaders. The same program that has aspired and equipped thousands of other global leaders the past few years, from poland to brazil to north america, all to lead with purpose and intention. I’d been looking forward to this trip for years, not because it would be my first time down under, but because it was an opportunity to return to the place I’d called home for four years.

Katie Anderson:
You might associate me closely with japan, but australia is actually the place outside of my home country of the us that I’ve lived the longest. I moved to sydney over 22 years ago in my mid-twenties, originally on a fulbright scholarship to get my master’s degree, and then I stayed working for another two and a half years. It’s a pretty amazing place, though far from home. I loved being back, seeing friends and places across melbourne, brisbane and sydney. I visited with some of my closest friends in the world, walked by my former sydney flat neighborhood and had flashbacks to my triathlon days. Another new thing I picked up while riding my bike 100 km down the coast and back and through the tunnel to the airport. What was I thinking? Competing in ocean swims and running along bondi beach? And of course it was a thrill to be connected with so many new people in my chain of learning. Through these workshops I’m often asked how I got the courage to move to the other side of the world not knowing anyone in my mid twenties, and how I had the courage to choose other overseas experiences earlier in my teens and twenties, like being an exchange student for a summer in the dominican republic in high school, to studying in spain and college, or moving to london for a year after I graduated from university.

Katie Anderson:
For a long time, I really didn’t know the answer to this question. While I always was a bit daunted to bark on my move to each new country and other new challenges, it was something that I’d always been drawn to and actually compelled to do. But I didn’t realize that this wasn’t the same innate thing to everyone. But over time, it hit me. The courage to leap into these new experiences came because how I saw it as an opportunity to learn about new cultures and about myself. I was excited by the adventure, the discovery, the challenge, the connection made between places, ideas and people. And as I share in the introduction to this podcast, I am a learning enthusiast. It’s defined my life and actions and it makes sense.

Katie Anderson:
My top strength on the clifton strengths finder is learner. I’ve realized that I love stepping into the unknown of setting new goals and trying new things so that it can become known. Because I believe when we stay in learning, anything is possible. This aha to how my love of learning is what gave me the courage to step into new levels of influence at different times in my life, not only moving to foreign countries, but leaving the successful career track that I was on ten years ago to start my own business, deciding to learn japanese when I moved to japan, writing my book, learning to lead, leading to learn and even starting this podcast. It’s about trying new things, seeking out new knowledge, connecting with new people and learning and improving my own skills so that I can create better impact. It’s also what’s driven me to share these experiences and what I’ve learned with others and why I’m so passionate about my work. Supporting leaders like you to grow and step into your own best self. Being a lifelong learning enthusiast is core to who I am, and if you’re listening to this podcast, you likely are a learning enthusiast too.

Katie Anderson:
But sometimes, even if we like to learn, taking action doesn’t always come easily or naturally. Yet it can be cultivated and fostered. In this episode, I want to explore how a commitment to lifelong learning is the key to your success and talk about five ways that you can enhance your leadership and your personal team and organizational impact by being a lifelong learning enthusiast too being a lifelong learning enthusiast is one of the core eight competencies of being an effective transformational change leader, what I call a katalyst with a k. Be sure to download your self assessment and explore all eight competencies@kbjanderson.Com. Katalyst k a t a l y s t. You might be asking yourself, katie, of course learning is important. Why are you talking about it so much here and dedicating a whole episode to being a lifelong learner because it’s the key to your success and that of your teams and organization. It is crucial for effective change leaders and successful continuous improvement initiatives and transformations.

Katie Anderson:
It is the foundation of a learning culture. Today, I want to explore the five core attributes for being a lifelong learning enthusiast. It’s someone who first actively seeks out new experiences and knowledge. Two is not only receptive to, but seeks out feedback and suggestions. Three sets of time for intentional practice and reflection. Four, adapts and address your approach based on new knowledge and insights and five models the way john wooden, the famous us collegiate basketball coach, famously said in his book wooden on how to create a winning organization the best leaders are lifelong learners. They take measures to create organizations that foster and inspire learning throughout. The best leaders are lifelong learners.

Katie Anderson:
They take measures to create organizations that foster and inspire learning throughout. The most effective leadership are those who realize it’s what you learn after you know it all that counts the most. In alignment with this quote I talk about in my book, learning to lead leading to learn, that the only secret to toyota, one of the most famous learning and continuous improvement organizations in the world, is its attitude towards learning. Learning is the secret sauce that makes all of the tools and processes and principles of continuous improvement in kaizen and operational excellence work. And in my book, I highlight the three-part role of a leader. I call this leading to learn. First is to set the direction, two is to provide support, and three is to develop yourself. This is the commitment to lifelong learning, always seeking to improve and getting better.

Katie Anderson:
Yet this part is often overlooked. We get focused on the results and achieving goals. Like I’ve talked about in many of our past episodes of this podcast, the way to achieve results is developing people and creating the processes and conditions that enable that. And that means we have to continue to learn as well. And it requires us to be humble. Humble that we don’t know it all. Just like john wooden said, we often toss around this word, humility. Your leaders need to be humble.

Katie Anderson:
But it’s not always how we show up. And being a lifelong learner is how we demonstrate that. It’s about having the humility and the vulnerability to know that we all have opportunities for growth and that we too. As I say in a lot of my presentations and workshops, we too are all business conditions that require improvement if we’re functioning within an organization. A commitment to lifelong learning is the fuel for innovation and for staying relevant. It’s how we create the capacity for adaptability and resilience in continuing forward till we achieve results and success. And it’s essential if we want to develop a learning culture that we model the way and promote these principles to others through our own actions. A lifelong learning mindset is the embodiment of the growth mindset that carol dweck, author of mindset, and I talked about in episode three of this podcast and is the foundation for a continuous improvement learning culture.

Katie Anderson:
So what’s at risk if you’re not fully embracing being a lifelong learning enthusiast or sometimes losing your way? If we don’t have it, or lose sight of a commitment to lifelong learning, we will fall stagnant. It’s what leads to poor performance or even worse, irrelevance. It’s a difference between becoming stagnant and not achieving more, or becoming risk averse versus ongoing growth resilience and courage for greater risk-taking and achievement. Perhaps you’ve seen some examples in your work, too, of times where leaders or other continuous improvement change leaders have started to not demonstrate as much of this humility for learning. For example, sometimes executives might think that they have seen it all or they’ve achieved a certain level of success so they don’t need to change. Perhaps, you know, I’ve seen this many times. Leaders endorse a change initiative and want to invest in support for the rest of the organization out there to make changes, but not themselves. Maybe not making time for a coach or really wanting to change how they’re leading, which is so important for actually leading the organizational change.

Katie Anderson:
Or perhaps they’ve gotten to a higher level of success, of why do I need to change and learn. They’ve gotten comfortable, so it’s starting to be stuck in this rut of not making the change or seeing that the change starts with them. Inertia can also play a role in this. I see this happen with individuals who might see themselves as committed learners, such as internal lean practitioners or lean six sigma master black belts, who might become so focused on doing and doing the work and doing the improvement that they’re not taking active time to have new learning experiences or grow their skills in other ways, so they get stuck. Maybe this. You’ve experienced this too, of getting so focused on the things you need to do that you’re not taking advantage of other learning opportunities or growing your skills. For example, in the local consortia for lean leaders that I was leading in the san francisco bay area for the last six years, one of the biggest challenges my consortia lead members are having was getting their internal process improvement practitioners and internal consultants to come to some of our site visit exchanges or other learning events, all of which were free to them but required them to take some time out of the doing of their work or perhaps driving an hour. So there’s a risk of becoming stagnant and not developing your skills to be able to continuously get better at how you’re leading organizations to get better as transformational change leaders and continuous improvement practitioners, we have to continue to grow and develop skills to stay not only relevant, but to create better impact and lead others to create this learning mindset too.

Katie Anderson:
You have to model the way and see that continuous learning and active continuous learning is part of the job. So how can you enhance or revitalize your lifelong learning abilities? Let’s focus on those five elements of what it means to be a lifelong learning enthusiast. First, actively seeking out new knowledge and experiences. This means, as I just said, that seeing learning and growing as part of your job is the key to your success and your impact. Knowing that what got you here won’t get you there, and not becoming complacent, maybe because you’ve risen to a certain senior level in your organization or, or have received some sort of certification or degree. It can be hard because, you know, we don’t feel like we always have the time for learning or we get comfortable in a routine. That inertia of what our daily routine is like I just shared. It can be hard for the leaders that we coach and support too, to overcome some of that fear and feeling like maybe you’re a learner or a beginner again and not knowing either what’s coming next or feeling a little uncomfortable with not being the expert at all times.

Katie Anderson:
The fact that you’re listening here already means that you’re seeking out new knowledge. But how can you make sure that you don’t come complacent or stuck in a rut and you’re continuing to actively seek out new experiences and opportunities for growth. First, it doesn’t have to be something huge, like moving to a new country or going to a new city. It could be choosing to listen to a podcast like this, read a book, go to another organization, and have an opportunity to go see or even take a different route that you usually do on your walk through your organization, or to work and see what you see differently and discover what that new mindset can have. Maybe taking a class to fill your gap in knowledge or grow a new skill. Or it could be something bigger, like visiting a new city or country, such as coming to japan with me to enrich your experiences and broaden your horizons. The most important thing is that no matter how big or small, it’s about actively seeking out new knowledge and experiences so that you can grow and learn. So reflect for yourself.

Katie Anderson:
How actively do you seek out new experiences and knowledge? How can you step out of your comfort zone sometimes and try something new and be intentional about ways, small and large to continue to grow and learn? And then how can you help your team members, leaders and others do the same? A second key component of lifelong learning is not only being receptive to feedback and suggestions, but seeking it out. This could be in the form of getting an official coach or just asking those around you for feedback about how your actions are really impacting them. In episode 13, I shared some challenging feedback that I received from my coach. It was really hard to hear, but it transformed my life and my professional impact. Learning is not just acquiring knowledge through reading books or listening to podcasts or going somewhere new, but it’s also about looking at ourselves for opportunities for improvement in our actions and behaviors. Are we having the impact that we want, that we intend? One of my key messages is that intention equals heart plus direction. Who do you want to be and what impact do you want to have? And then what actions are aligned in that direction? We often need help from others to hold up the mirror because we have gaps in really seeing the impact of our actions. Just like my coach helped me.

Katie Anderson:
The best performers know that feedback and coaching is essential to high-performance athletes, musicians, and more, and this is true for leadership as well. It can be hard, though, to hear feedback or seek out feedback because it requires us to be vulnerable, to really hear the impact that we’re having and then to take that in. We often feel under pressure to perform and to be seen as competent. Just as eduardo briseno and I discussed in episode five that we can fall into what he calls the performance paradox and feel like we need to be high-performing all the time. But if we can reframe times where we can be learning, it can help us be more receptive to and seek out feedback and suggestions for improvement. It’s about recognizing those times where we can be in learner mode versus the times we really need to be going for ultimate high performance, and then how we can use that feedback to help us grow and improve. Some suggestions on how to become more receptive to and actively seek out feedback first, recognize that feedback helps us see things we can’t always see on our own. Two, enlist the support of people who care about your success, team members, colleagues, your boss, or get a coach who can provide caring and honest feedback, asking for feedback and sharing that you are practicing new things also can be really helpful, especially with team members.

Katie Anderson:
Maybe if you are in a role called coach or you’re a boss or a leader. It’s a virtuous cycle where it creates a level playing field of trust and fosters an environment of continuous and learning. Because it creates an environment where it’s acceptable to show that you’re learning and to give feedback to help others along their journey. So reflect. How open are you to feedback and suggestions? And how can you seek it out more proactively? The third element of being a lifelong learning enthusiast, intentional practice and reflection. Feedback is only as good as what we learn from it and take action on change only happens with purposeful and intentional practice, and learning only happens through reflection. This is how we take action on the feedback we get or the new knowledge that we’re reading first, it’s the study in the plan, do, study, adjust, cycle or like what I like to say, study, adjust, plan, do. Because we always cut out that steady part, the reflection, because we don’t have the time.

Katie Anderson:
We just got to keep doing, doing. But it’s where we learn and grow. So it can be hard to take action on intentional practice and reflection. Because we are in this process of doing, we miss out on the learning. But as I talk about in episode four, successful leaders and companies do this better. They have intentional time not only for reflection, but for the practice. It’s the doing versus the learning. This requires us to be deliberate and intentional about what we’re practicing, what we’re trying to improve, so that we can say, this is what I want to really do today and then I can reflect on did that actually happen and what do I learn from it? One of the best ways to build in and incorporate more intentional practice and reflection to your habits is to actually commit to doing this for 30 days.

Katie Anderson:
Set five minutes aside every day to decide what is the key thing that you’re going to practice today. And then make sure that you’re reflecting at the end of the day and write this down. It can be initially hard, but you will find it accelerates your learning. Sean carter on episode ten highlighted how he used this process and then it became a habit of journaling and it was truly an accelerator for his personal and professional growth and impact. So reflect here. How intentional are you about what you’re practicing and how are you creating time for reflection and learning? The fourth part of being a lifelong learning enthusiast is being adaptable and adjusting what you’re doing based on new knowledge and insights. This is about taking action. It’s a difference between consuming information or having an experience, or getting feedback and learning and applying it.

Katie Anderson:
It’s the adjust part of the plan. Do study, adjust cycle. So you have to study and reflect on what the impact is and what you’re learning. Then you need to make an adjustment. What are you going to do differently? It’s how you take your reflections and knowledge learned and apply it and adapt your approach. It’s also about recognizing that old patterns or held assumptions might not be applicable in the future and that you need to make adjustments based on all of this information you’re getting about yourself and the environment around you. It can be hard because we get into this knowledge overload cycle where information and feedback goes in one ear and out the other, or our vision of what the outcome is or the result or the improvement is such a big gap or a big leap that it feels too daunting to move forward. One suggestion that I have for you, and I share this all the time with those in my trusted advisor program or in workshops, is to break things down into micro bites that feel more achievable.

Katie Anderson:
Not what does perfect look like, but what does better look like and then apply what you’re learning through that intentional practice and reflection to keep getting better. So this is a cycle of what you need to adjust and then have the intentional practice and then reflect and study and learn and just keep doing. That is the continuous improvement cycle. What does better look like? So think about for yourself. How are you actually applying what you’re learning, the new knowledge that you’re gaining, the experiences you’re having? And how can you focus each day on getting a little bit better and through those continuous cycles move towards greater improvement. The fifth part of being a lifelong learning enthusiast is about modeling the way. This means we actually have to show up being a lifelong learner who is then able to create a learning culture. And we need to be explicit with those around us about what this means to be a lifelong learner, and not just the actions of learning, but explaining our intentions and the purposeful practice behind them.

Katie Anderson:
This is what it means to build a chain of learning. It’s about modeling the way and sharing our learning with others so that they too can get better at learning. Yet it’s not always easy because it means we can’t just say that we’re a learner, we actually have to do it. Maybe sometimes you’re embarrassed about sharing that you’re not an expert or you’re a beginner, or trying something new, you feel like you maybe should already have competence because you’ve achieved a certain level of success or you know, you are in this operational expert role. But it’s exactly this vulnerability that creates that level playing field and creates the conditions for people to know that it too is okay for them to be learning and trying something new. It requires us to share that it’s okay to be going through the struggle of learning and growing. It’s also not always obvious what we’re doing and the why behind it. We’re often used to people teaching us technical skills, but modeling the social competencies of learning, asking questions, reflection, and all these aspects of what being a learner is is also very important.

Katie Anderson:
My main recommendation for this is to label what you’re doing, tell people what you are practicing and what you’re doing with intention and the why. Be explicit. Labeling it is one of the best ways that I know how to model the way. It can be a great way to open up feedback, as I shared earlier, to tell someone that you’re practicing something new and you’re going to come back and ask them for, say, what was a helpful question or something that you did in that situation, and you can use it in many other cases as well. For example, the purpose behind me asking an open-ended question rather than a closed one, and the impact of that why there was a seemingly excruciatingly long pause when I counted to ten after asking a question and more. I do this to model the way of those skills around lifelong learning and how we create conditions for learning in other people, too. I encourage you to narrate and label what you’re doing more frequently, too. Not just when you’re facilitating a workshop, but in your daily interactions with people, the people who you’re coaching, the people who report to you, your team members, your family members.

Katie Anderson:
It creates a space that shows that we can all learn and grow together. There’s one thing that will keep us out of learning, though, and that is fear. Fear of not having all the answers, of not having everything under control. Fear of the struggle that is inherent in learning something new. It requires us to have the courage to step into that learning mindset and act on it. My number one tip for getting over this fear of having the courage to move forward is to frame everything as an experiment. It takes away the risk of trying something new. It gives us the permission to be imperfect or not competent yet in a new skill, including leadership.

Katie Anderson:
When you’re trying a new behavior, applying new knowledge, or trying to take a step forward towards a new goal or a new experience. Frame it as an experiment. What do you expect to happen then? Reflect. What actually happened? What did you learn? Reflect and adjust. What feedback can you get to help you discover things that maybe your own reflection isn’t exposing and then thinking. How can you apply your new knowledge and insights to inform your next steps in the future and then go through this continuous cycle of learning? This is the learning mindset. This is learning in action. Frame everything as an experiment, as an opportunity for learning.

Katie Anderson:
I’ve had to apply these same concepts to me in this podcast and use my strength as a lifelong learning enthusiast to keep me moving forward. I stepped into this podcast chain of learning for the challenge of learning something new and the opportunity to connect with you and share learning together. But I too can get paralyzed in recording a new solo episode like this with feeling like I have to have the perfect content or what if I’m going off script, I start spending hours mapping it out and doing revisions, and I can get stuck and paralyzed. But when I remind myself too that this is an experiment and every episode is an experiment and an opportunity for growth, I get the courage to keep moving forward. Second, I actively ask for feedback from my podcast editor and my team about how I can improve. And I really appreciate hearing from you too, about what’s resonating or not and how I can continuously serve you best through this podcast. For each episode, I set an intention for my practice and I reflect after each session about how did that go and what worked and what didn’t and what maybe then I need to adjust for the future. I remind myself it’s not about being perfect.

Katie Anderson:
It’s about applying what I’m learning and getting a little bit better every time. And fifth is about modeling the way that learning is part of the journey and sharing what I’m learning, just as I’m doing here. This is the way that we grow our chain of learning and help each other get to be better learners and grow and create cultures and organizations of learning as well. Remember, learning comes through the failures, through the struggles. But what’s most important is about getting up and continuing to apply what you’re learning and have intentional practice and keep moving forward. This is why I love the daruma dolls from japan. These paper mache figures that represent the japanese proverb fall down seven times, get up eight. It’s about the patience and persistence that we have to have to learn our way forward.

Katie Anderson:
It’s about knowing that the path towards better is wrought with setbacks and stumbles and challenges. The most important thing is getting back up. These little dolls are like weeble wobbles and they will always write themselves up. It’s about getting up, learning your way forward. So next time you’re faced with an opportunity outside your comfort zone, test yourself to see if you’re in a learning mindset or a fear mindset. Reflect on this episode in the five attributes of being a lifelong learning enthusiast and take action. What is something new that you can try? Where can you ask for and seek out feedback and incorporate it into your intentional practice? How can you better develop a habit of intentional practice and reflection? And how can you model the way? Be sure to download the change katalyst self assessment@kbjanderson.Com katalyst with a k and listen to episode nine to hear about all eight competencies in the change katalyst model so that you can step into your full transformational leadership impact as well. And if you want support for yourself or your team, I work with improvement change leaders and executives like you to master these skills to lead change, step into your leadership impact, and create high-performing learning organizations.

Katie Anderson:
You can learn more about my trusted advisor, team coaching and leadership development programs on my website, kbjanderson.Com dot. To create a people-centered learning culture to grow our chain of learning, we have to model the way and show by example how powerful it is to be curious about new opportunities to seek them out. How challenges and failures in learning from them are the key to staying adaptable in the face of a volatile, ever-changing market and world. And remember, when you stay in learning, anything is possible. Be sure to follow or subscribe now to chain of learning and share this podcast with your friends and colleagues so we all can strengthen our chain of learning together. Thanks for being a link in my chain of learning today. I’ll see you next time.

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