I've never let my fear of academic settings be an excuse to halt my progress as a learner. Try thinking of yourself as a business. What would be the result of ceasing to grow as a company? Bankruptcy or extinction. Learning works the same way. The reality is if you're not growing forward, you're going backwards! Try these 3 steps towards becoming a lifelong learner:
1) Read. Readers are leaders. Books are packed with rich information. Industry magazines stay up to date on the latest news. Internet articles and blogs are full of insight and trends. Whenever I have "down time" I try to read so I can learn more and get inspired with new ideas. No one is too "busy" to read. You just have to put a priority on it and stay disciplined. Take advantage of this age of information and fill your brain with new knowledge!
2) Research. Let's focus on online research. The power of the internet is at your fingertips. With all the search engines available, it makes looking for statistics, expert interviews and data on your industry competitors simple. Leaders of every industry do research to stay ahead of the trends. All you need to do is turn on your computer, punch in your desired keywords and read!
3) Reach Out. There's only so much you can learn on your own. To be the best, stay connected to others. Learning does not happen in a vacuum. Set time aside for networking and meeting with people. As a sole proprietor, I reach out to multiple contacts per week. Don't focus on trying to "sell" yourself, instead offer your help and collaborate with others. Eventually opportunities will arise. You can learn so much from others who have a different perspective and experience than you do. With an open mind, you can always learn from others.
Being a lifelong learner is journey. There is no "finish line." Self-motivation, discipline and focus are necessary to succeed. If you have a hard time staying consistent, hire a coach to create a strategy and keep you accountable. At times you won't feel driven to learn because it's hard. Just remember the most successful people don't depend on "feeling" motivated to learn, they just do it. Start your journey of being a lifelong learner today!