9 Ways to Be a Lifelong Learner

9 Ways to Be a Lifelong Learner

by Al Getler

There are people running around calling themselves “lifelong learners”.

These weirdoes are always on the go, always attending seminars, always reading books and always seeking new opportunities to learn stuff.

These freaks can often be seen on the campuses of local colleges and universities attending lectures. They often visit websites with information about their occupation or interests and they even, God help us all, belong to professional groups.

Confession of a Freak

I am a weirdo, super freak lifelong learner. The biggest problem is that lifelong learners want to take you with them. They want you to have as much enthusiasm for learning as they do. If a lifelong learner is honest, then they know that most people talk about them behind their backs.

The reason I became a lifelong learner, the conversion point, the baptism that occurred, happened in my boss’s office at my first full-time job at a newspaper. The epiphany to my dedication to not be anything else but a lifelong learner occurred because of something my boss, a guy in his mid-thirties said, with a hint of pride.

“I haven’t read a book since the day I graduated college.”

That was all it took. I did not want to be like that knucklehead. I decided then that I would not be like that guy and I never looked back.

9 Ways You Can Dip a Toe into the Lifelong Learner Pool

Look, I am not looking to turn you into a cast member of the lifelong learner’s version of The Walking Dead (picture walking from seminar to seminar seeking knowledge like a zombie seeks flesh). Instead, let me give you nine ways you can sip from a garden hose rather that gulp from a fire hose.

Books – If you haven’t read books regularly in some time, at least give it a try. You can go traditional and buy a book or get a library card and borrow one or you can use a tablet (iPad, Kindle, etc.) to make it a bit more adventuresome. I put a list together in a previous post that might get you started. Feel free to click on my Amazon link (affiliate) to order books.

Get Abstract (affiliate) – If you don’t have time to (or maybe don’t want to make time) to catch up on the latest business books; then try Get Abstract. This service puts books into quick and easy to read summaries that get the main concepts of the books across to you without reading the entire prose. Print them out and take them along or read them as a PDF on your tablet and you will be one step closer to being a weirdo, but a smart weirdo.

Audible.com – Before iPods, these folks had an MP3 player that made the playing of books in an audio file possible. Today it is as easy as downloading their app onto your smartphone and choosing among thousands of book titles. The books are read to you by talented voice artists as you drive, exercise, garden or mow the lawn (one of my favorite things to do). In a year of commuting time you can listen to a significant number of books (both fiction and non-fiction) instead of what Tony from Gloucester thinks of the Red Sox bullpen for the umpteenth time on sports radio. Extra cool: Amazon bought them and you can now jump back and forth from listening to an audio version of a book to reading the words on your Kindle and the technology keeps your place.

Podcasts – As an early adapter to podcasts, I can tell you that it took time for them to catch on. Now podcasts are on fire and they have become a great way to stay informed of all types of things. Podcasts can educate as well as entertain and there is something for everyone. Start by downloading the app and then choose from thousands of podcasts. I highly recommend the podcasts  This is Your Life   (w/Michael Hyatt) or Grammar Girl  to start. I have been listening to Grammar Girl for a long time, but it ain’t helped none (that was a joke, people).

Webinars – It is amazing the knowledge that is being given away for free in webcasts. It does require that you sign up for a few email lists in areas that you have an interest. Start by doing a Google search using “webcast” as the search word. As an example entering “inbound marketing webinar” as a Google search yielded this webinar list: http://www.hubspot.com/marketing-webinars/ For fun, I entered “fly fishing webinar” and found this: http://www.womensflyfishing.net/ten_tips.htm

Seminars – There are dozens of seminars you can attend each year within driving distance of your home. Unlike expensive conventions in large cities, seminars can be very affordable because they only last from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM and do not require overnight travel. A good example is the Disney Institute’s traveling seminars that many Chambers of Commerce sponsor locally. Instead of flying to Orlando and paying the associated costs of travel and the higher registration fees, you can get the same training in your area. See EventBrite.com and search for affordable seminars in your region.

Ted.com – This is a destination on the web that delivers the brightest minds to your screen in the form of Ted Talks. Search Ted.com for a specific subject or just watched a featured video. With a little time and some searching you will find concepts that will rock your world and change your thinking.

Simulcasts – I have been attending simulcasts for several years and they are a great substitution for hopping on a plane to attend a daylong speaker event. The simulcast I have attended each year faithfully is Leadercast. Yes, it is sponsored by Chick-fil-A and yes, the owners of the company believe in “traditional marriage”.  Despite any disagreement you or I might have with the position of the family that owns Chick-fil-A, this is a great event. The simulcast has nothing to do with the issue surrounding peoples’ right to wed. I appreciate Chick-fil-A putting up the money and I defend their right to an opinion whether or not I agree with it (And I do not). So don’t cloud the issue and find a Leadercast site near you to hear people like Jack Welch, Condoleezza Rice and David Allen.

Turn Off the TV – Don’t tell me you don’t have time for any of this stuff when you watch TV six hours a day. Turn it off or at least DVR the good stuff (like Southland on TNT). If you have to watch reality TV, tune into Shark Tank on ABC. Nancy and I DVR it every Friday night and watch it with our 10-year-old daughter. That kid can smell an overvalued business better than any VC investor.

Are you a Weirdo or a Freak?

Choose one or two things from the list above and people will hardly notice that you have changed your habits. I will warn you of one thing:

Lifelong Learners Are Closer to Success Than They Appear!


Al Getler is a writer, speaker and consultant in the areas of media, digital media, leadership and customer service. He is also a comedian and a ventriloquist. Summed up, it means you will laugh and learn with him at your company, your convention or your event.


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