I have a saying that our lives can be divided into two broad phases. In the first, we don’t know anything. In the second, we realize we don’t know anything. Growth, learning, and improvement come once we realize the second phase. With that objective in mind, below are the lessons we have learned in building our company and the team within it, all the while creating a culture and mindset of continuous growth and improvement.
There is a saying that “youth is wasted on the young.” Regardless of how you feel about that particular belief, I would argue that a rephrasing of the concept is more appropriate: Education is wasted on the young. I am not arguing that we should not educate our young. Our brains are at their most plastic and technically receptive in our youth, and ignoring that would be a recipe for personal and societal decline. That being said, during this period where our brains are theoretically most primed for learning, our attention is often scattered. Anyone who has been a teenager can attest to this fact firsthand.
In my experience, I came out of school thinking I knew enough, but when I entered the “real world,” I came to the realization that I actually knew nothing. Just as I was hit in the face with this insight, I simultaneously began my continuous education. On the other side, during our peak years of earning as adults, we are often solely focused on doing the tasks in front of us.
Which provides useful insight on why this is such a poor way for us to structure our learning and our lives in this day and age. There may have been a time when we could divide our life into three mutually exclusive phases: education, work and retirement, but no longer. To remain competitive in the workplace, we must continue to learn. To fund our ever-lengthening lifespan, we must continue to work. Education and productivity must work hand in hand. The 100-Year Life Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott’s book, provides useful insight on why this is such a poor way for us to structure our learning and our lives in this day and age.
One of our core values is continuous growth, and we back that up in numerous ways. Investing in everyone’s professional growth is a given. But we also literally invest money in each and every employee’s personal growth.
This investment in growth does not have to be limited to dollars. A far more famous example is Google’s 20% time. The idea is to create space for employees to explore and grow outside of their day jobs. This growth and exploration certainly benefits the employees as individuals, but it also creates better results for the business. Gmail and Google Maps both started as side projects.
When speaking with potential candidates about joining our team rather than asking “How important is personal growth to you?” instead ask, “What have you done in the past month/week/day to invest in your own professional/personal development?” If a person does not know immediately, has to search for answers or draws a blank, it is pretty clear growth is not a personal value. Fine. Just not fine for us.
That being said, we only want those who have, who possess the hunger to make the most of it. By investing in them, they invest in us. We support one another in this perpetual second phase and our business is better for it.
All the best!
Demetrius L. Brown
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