Insurance Academy

Keep Learning

By | October 9, 2019

I have used a phrase in my email signature for the last several years.

Keep learning.

It’s central to the way I live. That’s why I try to read at least 15 minutes every day. That’s why I started working on CPCU after almost 15 years in insurance. That’s why I study topics of interest to me. That’s why I’m supportive of learning industry associations. That’s really why I am in this position. It forces me to keep learning. Here are a few ways that I keep learning.

Keep reading.

You had to see this one coming since I mentioned that I try to spend 15 minutes reading. I’ve struggled with this a lot over the years. I don’t read nearly as much as I should. I’ve even added a daily task to my to do list, “Have you read today?” That’s a hard one to say yes to some days. I just don’t take time to do it, but I’m working on it.

So, to be a little transparent, I’m working on a book I should have finished a year ago so that I can start another book I should have finished a year ago. I have to get a few books finished before I buy the newest Simon Sinek book. Here’s what I’m reading right now.

  • You Have to Say the Words by Kathy Ryan. Kathy is one of the Academy’s instructors. She sent me this manual for the discussions that leaders have. I’m enjoying it because of the short, practical chapters. It’s really helping me in my role here because sometimes, you have to have direct, honest conversations.
  • Atomic Habits by James Clear. I picked up this book at our company retreat. I’m looking forward to starting it. It’s in an audiobook format, which should be helpful for finding time to listen to it. I’ll let you know what I think of it.
  • Becoming a World-Class Expert by Timothy Christ. This one was sent in by a reader and I’m excited about reading it. It’s about forensic engineering, a topic I know nothing about. New stuff makes me happy.

Keep teaching.

The most important lesson that I learned when I was in the Army was to make sure to pack only what’s necessary. The second most important lesson was that the best way to learn something is to prepare to teach it. That one has stuck with me since the third day at my first duty station when my supervisor told me to get ready to teach the team on Friday. Little did he know that he was starting me down a winding path.

Some people can teach content because they have studied the same content for years. They may have updates and they may change out stories, but they’ve essentially done the same thing for a long enough that they become experts. That makes them good at teaching it.

Everyone starts by being new at teaching. We take the time and do the research. We ask questions and we experiment. The content comes out and we have our moment in the sun where we teach. Then the feedback comes in. Hopefully it shows us where to tweak and adjust. We listen or watch the recording of our teaching so that we can find the mistakes, misquotes, and other errors and omissions. We clean those up and go after it again. If it works out, it can become the content that is studied and worked on for years.

Teaching is a legitimate way to keep learning.

Keep trying.

I know that Yoda told us, “Do or do not. There is no try.” Yoda is truly wise, but I don’t mean like Luke was trying to get his X-wing out of the swamp. I mean try new things and try to tackle new topics.

You might not know this, but I don’t know everything.

OK, some of you might be convinced by now that I don’t know much, which is fair. I know very little about biochemistry and even less about astrophysics.

You know what I am doing? I’m trying new things. I really don’t know how I’m supposed to write this blog. Should it be strictly about coverage issues? Maybe I shouldn’t delve into bigger issues in the context of the insurance landscape. I don’t know. What I do know is that I’m still working on it. I’m honing the voice. I’m looking for the right topics. I’ll tell you what I have learned. It’s not as easy to write on a regular basis as I used to think.

I’m trying different classes than I used to teach. When I was in an insurance company, I started out teaching only to underwriting. Then I got to do some soft skills teaching. I also got a chance to work on adjuster orientation. I learned that I like to try new topics and new audiences. I’m still learning the audience that we get to speak to with the Academy.

Keep trying new things. Whether it’s writing, speaking, carpentry, or astrophysics. Trying new things is a cool way to keep learning and if nothing else, you’ll find some things that you either can’t do, or don’t like doing.

Keep falling.

25 years’ experience as a parent has taught me some important lessons. The most salient in this context is that people almost never learn from other peoples’ mistakes. We all have to make our own mistakes. I’m not a fan of doing less than quality work, but I am a fan of making mistakes. It happens to make the list of things that I am expert in.

Mistakes are a natural result of trying, teaching, and anything else that you do to keep learning. How many of us have gone after a task thinking, “How hard could it possibly be?” The answer always is harder than I thought it was.

If you will put yourself into the public discourse, whether you teach, speak, or write, there will be people that will help you by pointing out your mistakes. Sometimes they are kind. Most of the time they aren’t. I try to figure that people provide feedback because they want to help, but I know better. Some people provide feedback because something makes them mad and I get that. No harm, no foul. I just learned that I’ve made another mistake. It might be a mistaken assumption, bad research, I’ve drawn the wrong conclusion, or I misspelled something.

When you are learning, you will make mistakes. It’s just a part of it. Keep learning by making mistakes and hopefully we’ll do it better the next time.

I’m a fan of life-long learning. Use books. Use podcasts. Use your experiences but keep learning. That’s what I plan to do.

About Patrick Wraight

Patrick Wraight, CIC, CRM, AU, is director of Insurance Journal's Academy of Insurance. He can be reached at pwraight@ijacademy.com.

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