“Live as if you’ll die tomorrow, Learn as if you’ll live forever.” -Mahatma Gandhi
Well, that seems like a good rule of thumb.
According to the Pew Research Institute, half of adults read fewer than five books per year. And men read thirteen percent fewer books than women. I don’t know if you’re above average or below average, but five books a year doesn’t cut it; especially since most men, myself included, average twenty hours of ESPN per week.
Further the Pew Research Center reported that nearly a quarter of American adults had not read a single book in the past year. As in, they hadn’t cracked a paperback, fired up a Kindle, or even hit play on an audiobook while in the car. The number of non-book-readers has nearly tripled since 1978.
The rate at which organizations and individuals learn may well become the only sustainable competitive advantage. Products can be copied, services can be copied, and even processes can be copied. But if we are learning more rapidly than the competition, we can get ahead and stay ahead. The world is changing. We have a more global environment. Industry boundaries are collapsing at an alarming rate. We’ve got new business models. If our rate of learning isn’t greater than that rate of change, we are going to fall behind.
If the rate of global change is increasing—and it sure seems like it is, but the rate of learning is declining—what does that say about American society as a whole? If we plot that out 10 to 20 years, what does the society begin to look like?
Ponder this law of ecology: L ≥ C. For an organism to survive, the rate of learning must be equal to or greater than the rate of change happening around them. With the rate of change escalating, we must learn faster, learn better, and learn more.