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Training and Education Lead to Prosperity

By Dr. Alan Zimmerman

If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.

I'm in the "education business" and the "motivational speaking business," and I love it. Indeed, I feel blessed and privileged to speak to so many people in so many organizations and see so many positive results. However, when it comes to those two "businesses," I must admit that I have two very strong biases. First, I believe that education without motivation serves no useful purpose. And second, motivation without education is dangerous. We must have both items ... especially in the tough times ... which seem to be everyday these days.

Unfortunately, it is during the tough times that many people and many organizations cut back or cut out their education and motivation. They'll say, "We can't afford to spend any money on training. After all, what if we train our people and they leave?" I respond, "What if you don't train your people and they stay?"

Other people and organizations will say, "This is not a good time for meetings and training." I respond, "After 26 years of speaking, I've learned that it is never a good time for a meeting or a training session. It is either a bad time or a really bad time."

To all those people and organizations who want to cut back on their education and motivation, you would be well advised to listen to the words of the great philosopher Aristotle. Even though he penned these words more than 2000 years ago, they still ring true today. He said, "The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet." In other words, it may cost you some time and money to keep on learning, but the results are always worth it.

If you're going to keep on keeping on, to continue investing in your education, motivation and future, I suggest four things....

1. Remember, our economy thrives on meetings.
And so do the millions of jobs that depend on those meetings. Business travel accounts for $240 billion in spending and $39 billion in tax revenue at the federal, state and local levels. Canceling meetings stifles a company's growth potential and negatively affects entire industries, including hotel workers, florists, cab drivers, restaurants, convention centers and hundreds of other professions.

Of course, I would never approve of excessive or unnecessary meetings. I would never approve of misspent money or meeting boondoggles for corporate executives. However, as you listen to the news and listen to your coworkers, you know there is an increasing need to motivate the workforce and get people excited about the contributions they are making at work. And few things accomplish those objectives more quickly, easily, and effectively than a power-packed meeting filled with education and motivation.

We all want to see our economy thrive. And thriving comes with education. As business philosopher Jim Rohn put it, "Learning is the beginning of wealth. Learning is where the miracle process all begins."

2. Keep on learning.
Don't stop. Whatever you have to do, keep on learning! Attend every training program your company offers. Read books. Listen to motivational recordings. Personally, I make myself read something educational or listen to something motivational at least ten minutes every day. And those ten minutes per day add up to an extra sixty hours of training per year that I might not get otherwise. That's huge. And the payoffs have been enormous in my personal and professional lives.

Perhaps that's why there's an old Chinese proverb that says, "By nature all men are alike, but by education widely different."

Daryl Flood, one of the most effective executives in America, knows the importance of education. In fact, when I asked him what it takes to be a successful leader in today's world, he said there are eight things you MUST do. One of the eight was the fact that you must "continuously learn ... seek out formal and informal education."

President John F. Kennedy held the same belief. He said, "Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other."

3. Invest in your own training and education.
They're both important. Training teaches you HOW to do something. It will help you get a job and keep a job. Education teaches you WHY something must be done ... which is a key characteristic of leadership.

You may be one of the fortunate ones who works in an organization that gives you lots of training and education. Great! You're blessed. Celebrate! But if your organization isn't offering much in the way of training and education, go out and get it yourself. Sign up for seminars on your own, even if you have to pay for them out of your own pocket. Just remember ... if the day should ever come when you want to or have to look for another job, your new, prospective employer will be impressed if you can show a track record of continuing education. He/she will not be impressed if you answer an interview question by saying, "No, I don't much about (fill in the blank) because my previous employer didn't offer any training in that area, and quite frankly, I wasn't willing to spend my money to learn those things."

The good news is it doesn't have to be one or the other ... your organization pays for the training or you pay for it. Several of my clients are taking a shared approach these days. As one manager told me, "I support whatever personal and professional growth my employees want to pursue. I trust the individual knows what areas he or she needs to work on. So I offer to pay half of the cost of a course or educational opportunity. The individual thinks twice before requesting a course since his money is at stake too. Plus, with an employee investing his own money, he is automatically committed to getting something from the educational experience."

4. Invest in other people's learning.
That's what Stephen Briggs did, and the positive ripples continue today. In 1906, while at South Dakota State College, Stephen Briggs came up with the idea for an internal combustion engine during one of his engineering classes. He graduated in 1907 and founded the Briggs & Stratton Corporation shortly thereafter. He and his co-founder, Harold Stratton, a friend of Stephen’s basketball coach, went on to have very successful business careers because Stephen was a prolific inventor throughout his life.

In 1958, Stephen established a scholarship at South Dakota State. After his death in 1976, the family foundation sent annual checks to the college to fund a number of scholarships each year for four years.

In 1993, the university invited Stephen’s son, John and his wife, Mary Jane, to come to South Dakota State. Neither had ever been to the campus. The President of the university, President Wagner toured the campus with them. And Briggs scholars from each of the seven colleges were invited back to hold forums or workshops with the current students. Those scholars talked about how their education had allowed them to become pioneers in child nutrition, experts on solar flares, leaders in rural health, influential journalists, and respected attorneys. It was a marvelous celebration.

However, the capstone was the evening event. A banquet was held. Briggs Scholars shared their stories. Truly, it was an aha moment. With six to twelve scholarships given out each year for decades, it was clear that the Briggs generosity had made a BIG difference in the lives of so many people and the hundreds of thousands of other lives those scholars had touched.

Dr. Michele Evink, the Director of Pharmacy Services at Clarke County Hospital was one of those scholars. As she sat in the audience, she later told me, "I sat in awe. I was reminded of my own astonishment and delight when I received a letter from the admissions office telling me that I was going to receive one of the Briggs scholarships for the freshman class of 1984. I shed another tear as I thought how honored I was when the school called and asked me to represent the College of Pharmacy Briggs Scholars for that special event. I looked across the table at the proud faces of my parents, both of whom were the first in their families to attend college."

When President Wagner stood up to give his remarks, he shared the entire Briggs story and legacy with the audience. He talked about seeing the faces of those that had been so generously supported through their college years, and he talked about the difference they had made in the world. There were very few dry eyes in the room when he was done. As Dr. Evink said, "It remains one of the most powerful experiences of my life. And it must have been a very powerful moment for the Briggs family as well because they decided to permanently endow the scholarships instead of sending yearly checks."

You get the point. Invest in your own learning. Invest in other people's learning. It's a win-win for everybody.

In fact, education may be the very fountain of youth that people have been seeking for hundreds of years. As entrepreneur Henry Ford put it, "Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at 20 or 80. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young."

What will you do in the next 30 days, 60 days, and 90 days to ensure that you know more and can do more than you already know and do?

As a best-selling author and Hall of Fame professional speaker, Dr. Alan Zimmerman has taught more than one million people in 48 states and 22 countries how to keep a positive attitude on and off the job. In his book, PIVOT: How One Turn In Attitude Can Lead To Success, Dr. Zimmerman outlines the exact steps you must take to get the results you want in any situation. Go to Alan's site for more information.
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