It's no surprise many of the most successful people share the constant learner gene. They carve out significant time for absorbing new information and deliberate learning. Some dedicate an hour every single day.

But if an hour a day of deep learning doesn't seem possible for you, there's still hope. You can still be a constant learner. You can even do it on the job. The trick is to switch your mindset and approach challenges and projects from a different angle.

In a First Round Capital blog post, GSV Acceleration founder Anne Dwane explains how her constant learning mindset was crucial when she became the CEO of college scholarship matching service Zinch. The company was later acquired by Chegg, a testament to how well Dwane was able to push the business forward--despite having no previous experience in the education industry.

Here are Dwane's top tips for becoming a constant learner, which you can apply to virtually any situation or environment to keep your brain sharp.  

Get into game mode

Gamers are focused on the task at hand, but they're not discouraged by the possibility of failure. Every time you start a new game, you have hope that this is the time you will finally dominate and win--even if you just lost the exact same game 30 seconds ago. Your past experience may help you anticipate which challenges you will face, or this may be a completely new game to you. Either way, you're excited about the potential of what's ahead.

This feeling of empowerment fuels your drive and comfort for risk throughout the game; and these qualities are equally beneficial for success in work and life. Dwane says constant learners approach challenges like games. Don't give up before you've started. Get excited about the challenge. See it like a puzzle to be solved. There's problem-solving potential in every new experience.

Put yourself in kid shoes

Unconscious bias often prevents us from innovating. It keeps us on autopilot. Few problems are solved when your brain's running on autopilot. How to snap out of it? Pretend you're a kid. Kids are curious and question everything. They have zero pre-conceived notions about the way things should be done. They never stop asking why or what if, and they keep exploring what's possible.

So throw out your adult sensibilities. Approach the situation as if you had never been in similar circumstances, had never met these people, or had no idea of the solution. This means you'll end up asking lots of questions about things you thought you already knew. You'll likely be surprised by some of the answers. The way to think outside the box is to act as if you didn't know the box existed in the first place.

Embrace falling forward

Dwane describes constant learners as constant self-actualizers, self-improvers, and life hackers. They never take the approach that they've got it all figured out. Once a constant learner has reached an aha! moment, she doesn't stop there. She seeks out new challenges or new questions to keep that streak of learning going strong.

If you deliberately seek out developing new skills and taking on new challenges, you're in for a bumpy road. That's entirely the point. But the more you do this, the less important perfection becomes. Getting better becomes the goal. "Most worthwhile tasks are not easy," Dwane says. "The struggle for mastery is something we should enjoy. It's the journey and the destination."

Published on: Aug 18, 2016
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