Vail Valley Voices: Why keep learning? |

Vail Valley Voices: Why keep learning?

Vail, CO Colorado

VAIL, Colorado – At the Vail Leadership Institute, we define learning as an orientation toward acquiring knowledge and gain-ing wisdom. We say “orientation” because it’s more about an attitude of growing and less about the rigors of institutional education. And we believe learning is tied more to ques-tions than answers.

Frederic Hudson, the sage executive coach, once said, “If you’re not grow-ing, you’re dying.” By “growing,” he meant learning, expanding your per-spective, trying something new. With technology, it has become easier to stay connected and to uncover knowl-edge. This makes learning more read-ily available. But learning what? All of our wisdom literature asks that we build our learning on doing what is good and right and helpful. Everything we need to know about behavior, ethics and every other key leadership issue is contained somewhere in those scriptures.

But how does one turn learning into wisdom? Sim-ply stated, it most often comes with experience and maturity.

Learning the lessons of life can be difficult, partic-ularly in our early years, but over time a more patient, more spiritual approach seems to bring us answers more readily. Understanding can often be gained in interaction with others, particularly in small groups, where dialogue allows the lessons we’ve all learned to come out in a sup-portive, loving fashion. Wisdom is earned, not acquired!

Some leaders, however, view knowl-edge as all-powerful. Market knowl-edge, technological know-how, intel-lectual capital. The reality is that knowledge is good, but it’s not the pri-mary thing that makes the world go ’round. Effective leaders know that it’s more about people and how we relate to one another.

Too often, learning is thought of as something only done in school. But the process of continuous maturation that occurs all throughout life is best fueled by an attitude of “not know-i-ng,” of longing to understand and the joy of freely asking the ” why” ques-tions. The title of Peter Vaill’s thoughtful book, ” Learning as a Way of Being,” expresses what we all might strive for.

Some of the most effective practices or applications in the learning realm are to develop a spirit of inquiry that has you exploring new horizons, jour-naling your thoughts and taking time to reflect. Another approach is to con-sider teaching – not necessarily in the classroom but perhaps just sharing a skill you have with a friend. You might consider being a mentor or perhaps using an executive coach. The concept is just to keep learning!

What’s your attitude toward learning?

This column has been written in con-nection with Exploring Potential, a character-development program offered in Eagle County high schools.

John Horan-Kates is the president of the Vail Leadership Institute in Edwards. He can be reached at 970-926-7800 or

Support Local Journalism