Tapping Into the Power of Lifelong Learning

I asked you to consider this in the last article, but it seems appropriate to ask it again. How is your career doing? (Honestly, ask yourself again.) Are you progressing along the career pathway you saw for yourself five (or maybe ten) years ago? Do you feel like you’re in a “career prison cell,” just getting by on your “three squares a day?” I’m reminded of a movie many of us love, Shawshank Redemption. In it, the hero, Andy Dufresne (played by Tim Robbins) as he’s faced with accepting life in prison or trying to escape says, “I guess it comes down to a simple choice, really. Get busy living or get busy dying.”

If you want to choose to “get busy living” and proceeding more intentionally along your career pathway, I am here to help you. Each step along it will require learning, or better yet a “posture of learning” as John Maxwell puts it. With a posture of learning  (I picture leaning forward), we can create momentum to move up the career pathway.  Maxwell further states that we need to be, “Passionate about learning, and about leading (the two are inseparable.)”

So, how can each of us ensure we’ve got a “posture of learning?” Here are some of my takeaways from  Chapter 14 the book, Leadership Gold by John Maxwell (famed leadership expert and author):

    • Determine to never stop learning, or we will stop being able to lead
    • Nothing is worse for people who are stuck with leaders who aren’t learners
    • Be intentional about managing our life so we can take advantage of learning opportunities
    • 1: Invest in yourself FIRST: Harry Truman, “You cannot lead others until you lead yourself first.”
    • 2: Be a CONTINUAL learner: Rick Warren, “The moment you stop learning is the moment you stop leading.”
    • See Monte for your “Career Planning Pathway” assistance starting today – Click here for step 1
    • What is your attitude when it comes to learning? Probably one of these three:
      • Zone 1: The Challenge Zone – I attempt to do what I haven’t done before
      • Zone 2: The Comfort Zone – I do what I already know I can do
      • Zone 3: The Coasting Zone – I don’t even do what I’ve done before
    • We all float in and out of these three zones – the more time you spend in the challenge zone, the more you will grow, learn and develop
    • Check your peers and friends around you: do you have more who challenge you and help you grow? Or more who let you coast?
  • AVOID BEING “Mr. Answer Man” OR “Ms. Answer Woman” and realize these statements are true. Having a learning posture means:
    • It’s okay for me/you to “not have to know everything” (in fact, it’s freeing)
    • It’s okay for me/you to seek wise counsel, find the answers in a book, online or by asking a mentor
    • It’s okay for me/you to learn something before I try to teach it
    • It’s okay for me/you to learn through asking questions, through reading, through listening, through experiences and observations
    • It’s okay for me/you to not be impressed by our work, our output or our thinking from five years ago (as a matter of fact, we shouldn’t if we’re growing)
  • OBSERVE WELL – and learn from, take notes on, what you observe
    • Observe our mentors behaviors, not just what they tell us, teach us
      • What are they doing right? And why?
      • How did they respond in that situation?
      • To whom did they go for input at that particular time?
    • Observe and take note of the hidden value from “reverse mentors” – what’s a reverse mentor, you ask? (Hint: they show you what NOT to do.) Instead of points, let me share a story of comparison below.


Several times, in the last six years, I have heard young professionals  tell me about how their supervisor was unhappy with them because they were choosing to go to a different facility, believing they could learn more, grow and be challenged (not to mention make more income, and get better benefits.) Along with that, stories about passive-aggressive behaviors from the supervisor sometimes were part of the experience. Really? (Wow. This is an example of a reverse mentor move – clearly a “what not to do.” And, it’s an example of a supervisor not being a mentor, a leader, etc. and it’s disappointing. I would assert that all of us should be offended by the thought that any of us would seek to “hold back” or hold down another’s career.)

On the other hand, I know of other PGA professionals, like Kathy Wake, PGA who’ve modeled the right behavior throughout their career. In Northern California, or here in the PNW, Kathy has been an incredible leader and mentor for her staff. She has gone out of her way to help them grow, develop and learn; I’ve seen her put her own interests in 2nd place behind peers and subordinates alike for the good of the team and team members. Further,  I have seen her cheer them on as they move to a better opportunity. (In this case, I’ve known she is struggling too, full well knowing she’s going to have to work even harder until she can find the new staff to fill the now empty staff spot.)

You see, these career moves rarely happen at the right time. They always seem to happen in April, May or June. I did that to Gus Jones, PGA once. He did exactly what Kathy has done for those she’s lead and mentored, he cheered me on to my first HP position. He could have tried to hold me back, but he didn’t…and he didn’t hold it against me. For me, Gus modeled a posture of learning, and a heart for servant-leadership. It wasn’t easy to lose “his right hand guy” on June 16, 1999, just before the club’s member-member (as a matter of fact, it sucked for him.) I felt really bad, but he didn’t make me feel bad about it, he cheered me on. He may have questioned my decision inwardly too, but he never sought to make me second-guess myself (even though I did at the time and for a few years after.) Now, looking back at this 19 years later, I’m still grateful to Gus for it.

A POSTURE OF LEARNING is an attitude seeking out “what can I learn today?” I found the key in every day, is to find out what I can learn that day. In many cases, I was given a chance to apply what I’ve learned and test it in a new situation, a different relationship, or both. Sometimes it was to observe and learn from someone with more experience. Often, it was how to handle a difficult situation, or how to help someone go from unhappy to better understood, or better valued.

Every day is a learning opportunity, and the best professionals I know have an attitude of life-long learning. Learning is observing. Learning is noting and having the ability to recall what he’s learned, and then apply it the next time it comes up.

As I inferred earlier, some of my great learning days, in retrospect, were observing someone doing it wrong. Looking back at those days, I would say a thank you may be due to my reverse mentors. By showing me what not to do, they helped me see that I needed to find a better way, a better attitude or approach, delivering information better with more thoughtful phrasing.

There’s no doubt that I have been and still can be a very “good” reverse mentor myself. But, I am committed to a lifelong learning process so I can be more effective as a career and business coach and mentor for the golf professionals and industry stakeholders who choose to work with me. I am committed to learning from them, from their successes and their mistakes, and being a conduit of valuable information in the process. In my case, there is, (as John Maxwell said) an inseparable link between my passion for learning and my ability to lead and influence others for the good of their career. In that light, I must continually seek learning.

If you’ve read this far, I dare say, the same goes for you. If you are seeking to make more of a difference in this game, at your facility and make more income, have more job stability and have “more meaningful fun” while doing it, then let’s get together and learn with and from each other soon. Doing so will allow me to pursue my professional why to help you (and other PGA professionals) find job satisfaction, greater career stability and increased income. I look forward to the chance to learn more about you, your facility and your career vision.


Monte Koch, PGA Certified Professional/Player Development | Career Consultant
PGA Career Services | PGA of America
Serving PGA professionals, employers in the Pacific NW & Rocky Mountain PGA Sections
Email: [email protected] Cell: 206/335-5260

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