The never-ending doctorate

The truth is we don’t know everything and we never will. But improving yourself, advancing your career and being the best EA you can be is a sure-fire way to come close! It just requires constantly learning, tweaking your skills and adding to your knowledge and experience, says Nigel Collin.

Over the years I’ve had the opportunity of interviewing hundreds of successful people from all walks of life – be they executive leaders, Olympians, community leaders, artists or EAs – and one of the common traits is that they understand the importance of continuous learning. I like to call it ‘the never-ending doctorate’ because you never get a piece of paper at the end. It’s not a formal degree – it’s a mindset.

Figuratively enrolling in the never-ending doctorate is about learning to do things better and learning to be better, both professionally and personally. There’s no formal enrolment or curriculum, just a desire to learn new things and to be open to new ways of thinking and new perspectives.

You need to be curious and inquisitive then ask questions and listen (really listen) to the answers. It happens through formal and informal education; from the people you meet, the books you read and even the dance classes you take, on a daily consistent basis.

Of course, that sounds completely overwhelming because who’s got the time and energy, especially after the past few years, to embark on a regiment of learning? But what if constant learning wasn’t a project or a one-off endeavour but a matter of consistent small steps? What if the never-ending doctorate was a game of inches?

Here are five places to start…

  1. By doing
    There’s an amazing tourist destination in far North Queensland called Paronella Park. It’s a stunning property, once the home of Jose Paronella, and now an award-winning venue. However, Paranello Park is situated in a cyclone belt south of Cairns and owner Mark Evans has experienced a few. Each time he’s managed to get better and faster at cleaning up, rebuilding and reopening. I asked him once: “How do you get through a cyclone?” and he told me the only way you can get through a cyclone is to go through a cyclone. Top tip: It’s worth pausing and thinking about that!
  2. By meeting people
    Have you ever attended a conference where the ‘game-changer’ learning didn’t come from the formal presentation and, instead, it came from a conversation with someone you met in the coffee line? I’m endlessly amazed at what I learn from others – not just my peers or the people I know, but the people I just meet. Never underestimate what you can learn from a chance rendezvous with someone.
  3. By devouring books, videos, podcasts and whatever comes next
    No doubt you’ve heard the expression that successful people are readers. True. However, in today’s world, you need to extend this idea from just books and journals to blogs, online platforms, videos and podcasts.
  4. By formal education
    I’m a huge fan of formal, evidence-based education and, fortunately, advances in technology have made it much more accessible. Be it a postgraduate degree or a short course, there’s massive value in formal learning.
  5. By learning something completely different
    Who said learning can only be about advancing your career and professional skills? Why not learn something just because you want to, or for the fun of it? And who knows, what you learn in a completely different sphere may help you as an EA. So, go on, enrol in that acting class or art class you’ve been tempted to try…