"He who is afraid to ask is ashamed of learning." - Danish Proverb
There’s a convenience store where I buy Gatorade, candy bars or other things not requiring a trip to the supermarket. The store is managed by a Korean family with various relatives working throughout the day. Last year, a new family member – with a limited ability to speak English – started working at the checkout counter. The manager sat next to him for the first few weeks, helping him read the prices and make change.
After a while, the new employee was working the counter alone. When making a sale, he would count out the change when handing it to you. He also began asking customers the English words for things he would see – a briefcase, a pocket square, or the color of a tie. He would repeat the word to make sure he had the proper pronunciation, and then write it down.
Every visit, I noticed an improvement in the clerk’s English. I also noticed his persistence in continuing to learn. He’s still asking questions and writing down the answers. His desire to learn is a model for us all.
Many people will say that they have enough to do without the added stress of learning more. Work and family already take most of their time and energy. The challenge of studying a new skill or language is asking too much.
But we’re all faced with changes, whether it’s technology, processes or management techniques. The best way to prepare for these changes is through learning. We can’t wait for formal classes and seminars; we must take responsibility for our own learning programs.
In a busy world, it can be challenging to set aside time for training. Yet like the store clerk, we can integrate learning into our daily routine. We can read a few pages of a book until we finish. Or we can take the opportunity to ask questions about something we know little about.
Too often, people are afraid to ask questions. But asking questions is the easiest way to expand your knowledge. Usually the people answering your questions will welcome the opportunity, because it’s a chance to demonstrate their expertise.
Writing down the answers is a good habit to adopt. We all learn differently – some through listening, some through reading, and some through writing. When you write something down, you’re engaging “muscle memory” and creating a record for later reference. You also can include a hint to help you remember the answer.
What do you want to learn? And what do you need to learn? Make a list of some topics you’d like to know more about. Think about who you can ask for help and guidance. Open yourself to the opportunity to ask questions without hesitation. Start a log or diary to write down the answers.
One of my favorite aspects of learning? It never ends. No matter how much you learn about a specific subject, you find out there’s more that you don’t know. And you’ll usually discover even more that you’ll want to explore. Everything you’ve learned in the past becomes the foundation for the future. It’s a beautiful, continuous cycle of growth.