What makes a lifelong learner?

Don’t we all love learning new things, the idea that we might dislike would be of “formal education.” However,  learning is fascinating and we keep learning through out our life. Today, not only are we in need of learning new skills often, adapting to new environments but also to keep our competitive edge. My guest blogger today, Mike Collins, talks about lifelong learning and why is it so important to be one.


Mike Collins is a learning architect, a learning community evangelist, positive deviant & learning disruptor, and a lifelong learner, working with , Manchester, UK. cfyrn0vfMike is also an occasional blogger and an international speaker. He is a firm believer that HR/L&D and those in any leadership position have a huge part to play in building the workplaces of the 21st century by developing the environments, conditions and cultures in which we work and learn. He describes his focus and his “why” in most amazing way, as he says, “sharing and learning is what makes us who we are, it helps us develop as people. It helps us become better people AND helps us help others to become better people.”

Read Mike’s insights, to really understand what it takes to be a lifelong learner.


Lifelong learning. It’s a term banded around quite a lot. I’m sure you’ve heard about it. It’s not been used to the extent that it could warrant being the next buzz word, but I’ve heard it a lot all the same. It’s a term I like as for me it’s as clear as Ronseal and does what it says on the tin. You learn as long as you live, through everything you do. That’s obvious though isn’t it? Or is it?

Education concept: book Head With Gears, Learning on white background

It’s certainly not exclusive to those in Learning & Development but it’s something I’ve been made more aware of through being part of the L&D community. In fact, it’s through learning communities that I’ve been more aware of and experienced continuous learning. In my early L&D career, I like many focused purely on the course, the training session, the workshop, training as an event, a single opportunity for people to leave their roles and come together to learn. Once completed my ‘learners’ (yes they were MINE) would go back to their roles and put in to practice what they had learned. I’d review happy sheets, sorry evaluation forms, knowing I had done a good job, the room had been the right temperature and water in plentiful supply.

Fast forward 10 years and a lot has change. My view of the world, the number of children I have, my hair colour and my thinking around workplace and personal learning. Training and the classroom is a small part of how people learn in their working lives (it’s still important for the right things I hasten to add) but the Internet has changed how people access information, collaborate with others to share knowledge and communicate in a world that is always on, always connected. The way we work and live our lives has changed beyond recognition with the rise of mobile technology bringing new meaning to the word smart.

We live in a world where social tools have given everyone a voice and a means to share what they think and what they know at the touch of a button. The ability to access information and learn from this is exciting but also boggles the mind. Within all the noise, all the content that’s out there it’s the acknowledgement of continuous learning that is subtle but significant. The skill is not to find content, but find content that is relevant and matters at a time you need it.

Looking at everything you do or read as an opportunity to learn something is as much about attitude and a growth mindset as anything else. Having worked for the last 7 years developing and supporting learning communities, I have seen first-hand the power of networks and sharing. I’ve seen people grow in confidence and credibility through sharing what they know. I’ve seen people make connections and ask questions to receive wonderful responses and insights from those who are generous with what they have learned through their own experiences.

Generosity. I love this word and what this stands for in learning. Would you say you are generous with what you know? Think about the last time you shared something to help someone else. Go on. Either face to face or online when was the last time you shared something to help someone else?

Your knowledge is your power? No, it’s not. 

Sharing your knowledge and insight is far more powerful. More powerful that the latest smart gadget thingy which becomes redundant in a world with nothing to share and connect.

What about other words important in lifelong learning?

How about humility, integrity, honesty and curiosity. To share what you know offers up a sense of vulnerability, a feeling of being exposed. It takes guts to share, do you consider yourself brave?

You can lurk and consume content to your hearts content but if you don’t give back the job is only half done. Lifelong learning is two-way process; it’s got to be. As a community manager I learned about the 90/9/1 rule very early on in my career, the ‘rule’ that states only 1% of people contribute most of the content with 99% contributing very rarely or just lurking, purely consuming. My role involves helping people discover that they have a point of view, an opinion and something to share that others could value and find useful.

Here is the thing, the value in learning is through connections and context, building ideas with and through others. Being curious and seeking new knowledge is key to being a lifelong learner but it can’t be a one-way street.

My belief is that if you only consume and lurk then you are missing out on so many opportunities to support your own learning, to develop your critical thinking, to debate, to discuss and to challenge. What’s more you’re missing out on helping others do the same and that’s it, to be a true lifelong learner you help others and give back. You participate, you contribute and you share what you know. You constantly look out for opportunities to make connections, to build relationships and develop others as well as yourself.

It can feel uncomfortable, you can feel exposed – but be brave, be curious and contribute. Don’t be part of the 99%, don’t just sit back and lurk.

Be a lifelong learner and get stuck in.


Now Mike and I would love to hear from you. Are you a lifelong learner? If yes, how do engage with learning? What tools do you use to learn new skills everyday? Or if you’re struggling with lifelong learning, what exactly do you think is stopping you? Put it down in comments below.

This post has been specially contributed towards 30 Days of Awesome Learning. Also, don’t leave without becoming an insider. SIGN UP NOW. I’ll be emailing a great resource this Sunday. You’ll love it!

Copyright, 2016. http://www.priyankachopraumrigar.com



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