At Velentium, we place a high value on quick learners who are resourcefully able to teach themselves and learn quickly from others how to rapidly work through problems until a solution is found. But when we say we value “quick learners,” what is it we're really valuing? Is it reading speed? Raw intelligence? The ability to synthesize ideas?
I would suggest that humility is the foundation of all learning. We recognize that to get velocity and momentum – two ideas that make up our company name and help define our brand – we've got to hire competent staff who display humble charisma. If someone thinks that what he or she already knows is adequate, that person is slower to seek out help and resources, and resistant to instruction.
You may have heard the phrase “empty your cup.” The story goes that a well-educated man once approached a Zen master, seeking to learn from him. But instead of asking questions or listening quietly, the educated man kept on interjecting his own ideas and views. Finally, to get his attention, the Zen master poured them both tea. Instead of stopping when his guest's cup was full, he kept on pouring as the tea overflowed.
“Stop!” the Zen master's educated visitor cried. “Can't you see the cup is full?”
“Yes, I can,” the master replied. “You claim you've come to me to learn. But you are so full of your own ideas I can't teach you anything new! Your cup is overflowing. Before you can learn, you must first empty your cup.”
First and foremost, learning requires humility. Being experts at what we do doesn't mean there's no room for growth: true expertise means making every project better than the one before, on time, under budget. Humility facilitates the quick learning we need to accomplish that.
Want to put this into practice right away? Resolve today to ask “What does that mean?” or “I don’t get it, can you help me understand?” anytime something confuses you. You’ll be amazed how often someone else in the room comes to you later and thanks you for asking – because they didn’t grasp what was being said either!