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The importance of continued education

It used to be that all you needed to know, you knew at 25. We even had a formula that endorsed it: grow up, do well in school, get into a good university, study hard and get a good job. It might be odd to consider “learning” a worthwhile exercise beyond the walls of your university years, but, when scrutinized, it’s perhaps most ridiculous to think that all you need to know, you learned alongside odd loyalties to a football team and fraternity parties.

Certainty, there are holes in that formula.

Objectively speaking, what desk or day-to-day looks the same in almost any profession as it did even 10 years ago? The pace of change in professional development is seemingly exponential. Everything from the very layout of an office to consumer preferences, business goals, employee behavior and societal values are evolving at a near-daily rate. As this modern world increasingly demands the ability to keep up with a trait or industry to be successful, continued education becomes anyone’s best weapon.

Since its inception, the Vail Centre has endorsed the technical knowledge to keep up with certain industries. We have on the schedule programs with Cornell, Duke and Yale universities that offer certificates in hospitality, nonprofit and leadership as a way to tackle new concepts and challenges in industries important to the community. To be more abstract, the Vail Centre also endorses the idea of embracing curiosity and information.

Renowned Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck put forward a powerful summation of her research and observations in a 2007 book, “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.” In it, she determined two outstanding mindsets: “fixed” and “growth.”

A fixed mindset, rather intuitively, assumes that the brain can hit some kind of capacity where all traits are carved in stone — you know what you know and do what you do. People who have resigned themselves to this mindset often spend more time wondering if their traits are adequate to fulfill a position than they do trying to learn new traits.

Antithetically, a growth mindset is oriented toward development, or a belief that the brain and body are “a dynamic, ever-learning, ever-changing entity capable of all things through learning and practice.” People who embrace this mindset are more likely to believe that their skills can evolve to meet the needs of a position.

Researchers are also learning that, besides genetics playing a small role in providing advantageous abilities, all people have incredible capacity for learning and brain development. We no longer live in the age of craftsmen or cabinetmakers. Take the impact of technology on business as an example. Someone building a company in 1985 might have thought little of the internet’s influence, just the same as someone building a website for their business in 2012 might not have realized the importance of optimizing for mobile devices in 2017. You must possess the ambitious growth mindset to realize success in the ever-changing, often unpredictable, arena of business.

Consider this: Michael Jordan was cut from his high school’s varsity basketball team. Thomas Edison was told by teachers that he was “too stupid to learn anything.” Walt Disney was fired by a newspaper editor for his lack of imagination and good ideas. There are pages and pages of striking misjudgments in people’s ability to succeed.

The question of how to properly profile the true potential of candidates and employees prompted the professional services firm of Ego Zehdner to establish a framework of traits that could more appropriately predict ability. The four traits discovered were: curiosity, insight, engagement and determination.

Each trait, it would seem, feeds directly back to that growth mindset or being able to identify a willingness to bend focus in order to act appropriately in new scenarios or overcome new challenges.

In the 16 or so years you spend absorbing information in classrooms of varying age and place, your mind is inherently oriented toward growth. Students, even ours of varying ages and backgrounds at the Vail Centre, are curious, insightful, engaged and determined.

To expose the underbelly of success in the exponentially evolving modern professional landscape, then, is to say that education matters and always will. Our advice from the Vail Centre on keeping up is this: actively invest in understanding your industry, embrace change, forecast for the future, be genuine in your interest, seek out meaningful support, don’t ever grow stale in your practices and never, ever stop learning.

Ross Iverson is the Chief Executive Officer at the Vail Centre. Go to http://www.VailCentre.org for information on approaching certificate programs.


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