Being Kind and Lifelong Learning


Lifelong learning.  I hadn’t heard of it until 17 years ago when I was fortunate enough to attend an Idaho Lifelong Learning Association (ILLA) conference.  I was immediately fascinated with concept.  I studied the pedagogy styles of adults, but, I also discovered that I was a lifelong learner and didn’t even know it.  I learned something new!  Wait, is that a juxtaposition?

If you aren’t familiar with the concept of lifelong learning, the Wikipedia definition is, “… the ongoing, voluntary and self-motivated pursuit of knowledge for either personal or professional reasons. Learning can no longer be divided into a place and time to acquire knowledge (school) and a place and time to apply the knowledge acquired (the workplace) Instead, learning can be seen as something that takes place on an ongoing basis from our daily interactions with others and with the world around us. It can take the form of formal learning or informal learning or self-directed learning.”  Learning can no longer be divided into a place and time to acquire knowledge.  How cool is that?  Many different people, places and things have something to teach us.

If my post on the Big Bang Theory didn’t give it away – I am a big fan of movies and television.  Heck, who doesn’t like the history channel?  Beyond documentaries, however, I like to look beyond the entertainment value to see what else the writers have to say.  What lessons can be learned? One of my favorite professors, Dr. Kathy Lund Dean, had our organizational behavior class watch Apollo 13.  Our assignment was to find leadership and organizational components within the movie.  Watch it again sometime — it is chockful of examples.  I’ll bet you will even recognize some of your coworkers.

Another example is the 1980’s chick-flick, Working Girl.  The main character struggles against the “system” while she learns information from several unlikely sources.  A gossip magazine article shows her a problem with a business deal that of course, saves the day in the end.  While other characters portrayed themselves as “too good” to read such things, the protagonist is a lifelong learner.  Her ability to look beyond “normal” information sources allows her to learn something new.

The other day I found an unlikely source for business advice. One of my friends posted a YouTube link to a video by James Martin, SJ. Editor at large at America Magazine –  While the original intent of the post was for Lent, the underlying message is good advice for any workplace.

Here are the three main points Father Martin makes in his post entitled, “Be Kind”:

  1. Don’t be a jerk (don’t pass along misery)

This one is pretty self-explanatory.  Once I had a boss who was for all intents and purposes a jerk.  He was an unhappy person and thought that others should be just as unhappy.  One day he comes to my desk and says, “Wendy, come with me.  This will be fun.  We are going to make somebody cry”.  Not my idea of fun.  At all.  This was a horrible work environment. Don’t be a jerk and don’t tolerate bad behavior on your team.

  1. Honor the absent (Stop talking about people behind their backs)

It seems like in every workplace there is at least one person who does this.  This person feeds on gossip and creates an unhealthy work environment.  My suggestion for dealing with this situation is to cut conversations with a person like this short.  Say something like, “Well, let’s go get (other person) and we will discuss the issue together.

  1. Always give people the benefit of the doubt (When there is a doubt about how someone means something or what someone does, give them the benefit of the doubt).

In a world of texts, tweets, email and instant messages it is so difficult to determine the voice or intent behind a message. Recently, I heard about an uproar over the text color in an email.  Someone felt the color was meant to convey anger, when in reality it was just a default setting in their email designed to show different conversations.  Had the reader given the sender the benefit of the doubt, a whole lot of drama (and lost time/productivity) would have been avoided.

My message for you today is to be kind, learn something new and go watch a movie.  You never know where you will get the next great idea.

Wendy Dutenhoeffer is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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Katarina Hong

I love how you learn things in places that aren’t conventional learning environments. Thanks for sharing the helpful business advice you found!

Sonia Chakrabarty

Thank you for these lessons! Lifelong learning is one of my top priorities, and I love learning new lessons from things people dismiss as entertainment or not relevant to work. I’m glad to see you feel the same way!