My dad never received formal education beyond the seventh grade.
He is also a skilled speaker, evangelist, missionary, and leader who has traveled extensively preaching the Gospel, successfully established hundreds of churches around the world, and helped reach more than 1.8 billion young people with God’s Word through OneHope, the ministry he founded. He has been doing the Lord’s work for over 75 years and has never stopped growing and innovating his thinking.
Though my dad might seem like a contradiction to today’s standards, the truth is that a degree is not the only predictor of success. There’s danger in believing that graduating from college is the culmination of education and the only guarantee of future achievement. Let me be clear: I believe formal education helps many become well-rounded leaders, and studies show that having a degree leads to better job satisfaction. However, I want to challenge you in this: committing yourself to actively being a lifelong learner will take you further than a diploma ever could.
Peter Drucker, one of the most influential management experts, wrote, “We now accept the fact that learning is a lifelong process of keeping abreast of change. And the most pressing task is to teach people how to learn.” 1
Often, traditional education fails to prepare you for what you will face in the future, especially in today’s knowledge economy that is more connected than ever. Subjects such as Web 3.0—which will democratize governance, organizational management, and workflow—are just now being talked about in most educational settings. Being a lifelong learner is crucial because you need to position yourself ahead of change instead of struggling to catch up to it.
At OneHope, we saw the importance of having a space available for our own employees to keep learning and growing, so we created an internal program for developing our top talent called The Innovation Launchpad. This program teaches the core principles and tools necessary to design and launch new initiatives, manage teams, and introduce fresh ideas into one’s organization. The pandemic made it clear that a lot of other ministries needed this same resource to continue innovating during a time of confusion, so we opened it up to a wider audience. Today, anyone can sign up for this amazing program. This is just one example of what a genuine desire to continually develop one’s mind and skills can create.
Proverbs 18:15 is the perfect reminder to never lose curiosity, “The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge, for the ears of the wise seek it out” (NIV).
Growing confident in asking questions, seeking answers, and allowing yourself to think of innovative solutions are all doors to greater success for you and your future organizations. A commitment to continuing to explore how to improve your craft, innovate, and hone your skills will serve you well. I’ve seen too many leaders fall behind because they let pride keep them from admitting when they need help understanding a new concept or idea. An inquisitive spirit can both bring innovation and save you from unnecessary risks.
As a leader, being a lifelong learner means having a hunger not only to continue acquiring knowledge but also to continue growing in specific characteristics and qualities consciously. This type of personal growth requires wisdom and a humble spirit.
When it comes to developing traits that lead to success, entrepreneur and best-selling author Seth Godin says, “In a world where we can connect to whomever we want, why would we connect to someone who is boring and selfish? We’re going to connect to people who are interesting, walking the tightrope, and generous.” 2
It is not enough to remain stagnant in what you’ve already learned and in the qualities you already have. Too many people are content stopping there. To be a transformational leader, you have to be willing to confront your own weaknesses and continually make progress.
In my personal leadership journey, I’ve chosen to pursue certain traits, including being hardworking, outcome-based, pure, efficient, faithful, and an uninhibited leader that is led by the Spirit. These are the same traits we’re pursuing at OneHope, the ministry my dad started that I now lead. My dad has done an amazing job modeling these traits for me over the years. Today, I encourage young professionals to focus on a couple of these traits and make a conscious effort to create practical habits that will help strengthen them.
Throughout my life, dad has shown me that, above all else, it’s character, an open mind, and a Spirit-led heart that makes a great leader and leads to successful organizations.
Graduates should be incredibly proud of their accomplishments while keeping in mind that graduation is only the starting point. Then, it’s up to the student to move from being in a disciplined educational environment to self-governance and intentionally creating positive habits.
I encourage you to take some time today to consider how you can create spaces and habits within your life that will lead to knowledge and growth in different areas. Let’s keep learning together.