Last week I met a legend in the business world, Larry Wilson.
I had first heard of Larry in the 80’s when I began my
career. By that time he had founded one of the largest training companies in the
USA and was a nationally known speaker and author. Oh yeah, and he
revolutionized the selling profession by teaching sales people how to focus on
what the customer wants rather than manipulating them into buying what they had
So, meeting Larry was a high-point last week, to say the
One of the things Larry said that I remembered was
“Knowledge is the enemy of learning.”
He must have seen the funny look on my face, so he
explained. His message was that we often choose to ignore learning opportunities
because we think we know all we need to know. Our current knowledge prevents us
from exploring and discovering further.
This reminds me of a similar idea. Our present situation
is often what prevents us from getting to where we want to go. We get too
comfortable or too averse to risk to make a change. We fall into a “things
are okay so let’s not rock the boat” mentality.
Another way to look at this is we get into habits. Our
habits help us keep a stability and continuity in our lives. But they can also
prevent us from experiencing more of what our world has to offer.
“As soon as we think we are doing it right, we stop
paying attention. We kill the experience. Our understanding ossifies and becomes
inert, until some later event forces another brutal awakening.”
In our lives and our businesses, we often stop paying
attention. We stop because of habits, because of routine. So many parts of our
lives get put on auto-pilot. When this happens, we stop experiencing, we stop
understanding, we stop feeling and we stop improving.
To a certain degree, we stop living.
If we want to grow sustainable, successful organizations,
we can’t stop living in any part of our lives. We can’t let the habits and
routines of our lives get in the way of learning and experiencing. We need to
continue acquiring raw information based on living and doing, not on what we
One way to describe what Larry talked about is, we need
to “learn to get out of our own way”. We are often our own biggest
obstacles to learning, doing and changing.
So, as you look for ways to grow and improve your
business, take an honest look at what you’re doing right now. Are you an
obstacle to change? Are you letting what you “know” stop you from learning
anything new? Are you letting where you are (or what you are) become an obstacle
to where you want to go or what you want to be?
Inaction is the enemy of change just as knowledge is the
enemy of learning. To grow and improve we need to overcome both enemies every