Most people go through life viewing learning as a necessity to get to the next step. Aside from a subject or two, most don't really learn in K-12 (and many K-16). We go to school because we have to. We have to pass each class to graduate and are afraid of failing, so we study and memorize and then ultimately forget the knowledge we should have gleaned.

For many professionals, learning continues to be a compliance-based part of our lives. When we finally start a career, we tend to approach things the same way: learn what you need to in order to do the job.  

The difference is, in school if you learn to be compliant, you are an A student, because you're learning in order to do well on the test (in most classes). At work, if you learn to be compliant, you are average (C student), because many people can "do the job." You can learn in order to be great, to push yourself to be better and achieve. That's what separates average from great.

Whether you're in marketing, accounting, HR, recruiting, sales, or administrative work, you can learn in order to go above and beyond in your area of expertise to become a subject matter expert (SME). When you study to become an expert, you're above and beyond the basic facts that would help you pass a test in school. Being great means situational learning, understanding the many, various scenarios and how to react and respond. It's not settling for the bare minimum.

Great professionals practice how to be better at processing information. They practice how to better communicate and execute on the basis of their understandings. Then, they practice how to better anticipate what's coming. They study the past so they're not making the same mistake twice, and simultaneously engrain the successes in their minds so they can rinse and repeat what works to be more efficient.  

The biggest difference between good and great is strategy and execution. Good people say they're going to make time for learning and development, and maybe they even make a plan to do just that, but they don't execute. The great people learn, and put it into practice that day. The great people don't say they're going to do something, they actually achieve it.

If you like this post, follow @TomGimbel for more.