Essential Reading (and Other Skills) for Staying Ahead in the Learning Space

I read a lot, and I am often asked by my friends (you know who you are), “how I do it?” In a recent conversation with a friend and colleague, we discussed this very topic. He has just finished his masters degree, and has not had time, in a long time, to keep current on learning industry trends and technologies. He asked me how I keep up, and how I manage to read so much. The answer lies in the premise that staying current in any field is a vital part of the job, not a luxury to be indulged on occasion. I told my friend that my job is not just to do my job, but to prepare for my job of tomorrow, whatever that is. For me, reading is as necessary is brushing my teeth, eating vegetables, and exercising.

One of my favorite quites is from Harry Truman about leadership:

“Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.”

This quote has influenced me greatly because if all leaders are readers, then I was going to be a reader. However the question remains, “How do you make the time?”

Schedule the time

My friends comment most frequently that they do not have the time to read. I respond by telling them that if the President of the United States can read a book a week, then we can certainly make time for it, right?

In 2000, I read the Bob Woodward book about Alan Greenspan, Maestro, and learned one vital lesson about staying current, studying, and reading. Greenspan would reserve Friday afternoons for reading and studying. He did not schedule meetings. Instead, he blocked out Friday afternoons to read. This made a big impression on me and from that point on, I made time at work, to read. I scheduled it into my calendar, and I have been doing that fairly consistently for the past 10 years. I also make time at home to read early in the morning and right before I go to bed. If you want the time to do something, you make the time to do it.

Network and learn

Another way I stay current is by networking with industry professionals, attending conferences, and participating in discussion groups on Linkedin, the CLO Network and on #lrnchat, a Twitter chat of learning professionals. As a board member of a local chapter of the American Society of Training and Development (ASTD), I stay connected with people in our field, continuously learning something new. I learn as much from communicating with other people in our field, as I do reading books, magazines, and blogs.

Devour good pubs and blogs

I read a variety of magazines, newspapers and blogs. In addition to reading the Wall Street Journal, The Economist, and the Financial Times, I read Chief Learning Officer Magazine, T&D, and Learning Solutions magazine. I have several learning blogs in my newsreader, including:

It may seem overwhelming to look at this list and think about reading everything on it. Take a deep breath. The point is to consider your mindset towards learning. As learning professionals, we should literally be learning leaders in our organizations always studying, preparing, and learning something new. Moreover, we should make our own learning visible, so we can inspire others to stay current in their fields.

How do you stay current? Add a comment below and tell us what you read, how you make the time, and about the challenges you face.

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Bill Cushard, Chief Learning Officer at The Knowland Group, is a learning leader with more than 12 years experience in training and performance improvement at well-known companies like E*TRADE Financial, Accenture, and Time Warner Cable.