What’s the ultimate competitive advantage in business and in life? It’s your ability to learn and (just as importantly) to quickly put what you have learned into action.
“Formal education will make you a living; self-education will make you a fortune.” -Jim Rohn
The first key is to understand that education is a lifelong process. Formal education may be finite and time-based, but self-education is ongoing and perpetual.
“Hard work spotlights the character of people; some turn up their sleeves, some turn up their noses, and some don’t turn up at all.” -Sam Ewing
The second key is to become a voracious student in your field. Mastering your field requires an investment of time in study and continual practice toward perfection. All the masters and top earners in any field have this attitude toward learning. Having this attitude allows you to thrive in situations where your knowledge gives you the competitive advantage over your competitors. You must be passionate enough about your profession that committing to mastery is a natural step.
“Upon the subject of education, not presuming to dictate any plan or system respecting it, I can only say that I view it as the most important subject which we as a people may be engaged in.” -Abraham Lincoln
Mastery can come from attending conferences, reading books, or working with advisers, coaches, and mentors. There is no shortage of knowledge sources. Training, development, and continuous education are the highest return investments you and your business can make. Top businesses and top industry professionals make learning a priority. No matter how busy they are, they make time for it.
Brian Tracy, noted author and speaker, stated that the highest paid people in America read an average of 2-3 hours per day. Developing a habit of learning and an appetite for information, both within your field and also outside your area of expertise, are the keys to a life of passion, purpose, and profits.
Citing a recent study of successful companies, syndicated columnist Verne Harnish wrote that training and development “out-return[ed] any other investment a business could make — more than R&D, hard, or capital investment.” According to Harnish, such investments resulted in:
24% higher profit margins
218% higher income per employee
86% higher company value
21% increase in productivity
300% reduction in employee turnover
A return per dollar invested of $6.72
“Don’t be afraid to give up the good to go for the great.” -John D. Rockefeller
Seek out the knowledge you need to be worthy of being a “trust agent” — someone who is viewed as a trusted adviser, rather than simply a supplier of services and goods. Make the investment and commit to continuous learning. You can’t win if you rely solely on keeping up with the status quo. Being a leader in your field means staying ahead by learning and becoming the known expert.