Lifelong Learning

Allen Toussaint is an American treasure.  You may not have known he wrote the song in the video above. You probably recognize this version though.

He also wrote Working in a Coalmine, Fortune Teller, Whipped Cream, and Java.  His songs have been performed by a wide range of artists including Patti LaBelle, The Rolling Stones, Ringo Starr, Robert Plant and Allison Krauss, Bo Diddley, The Who, and The Pointer Sisters.

You may be asking yourself, “What does this have to do with learning and performance?”  It all comes down to a comment he made in an interview I listened to recently.  He attributes his success to the variety of music he listened to and tried to “mimic.”  He thought that the piano players all knew something he didn’t so he felt like he needed to learn what they “knew” regardless of the genre.  It was this “innocent, naive attitude” that caused him ” to have a very large scope and with equal respect.”

Consequently he “naturally evolved from being a session piano player to a composer, songwriter, and producer.”  This commitment to learning gave us songs like this.

Thank you Mr. Toussaint.

This post on learning from mistakes is thought-provoking.  It will only take a couple of minutes to read.

I think she gives chance too much credit over outcomes and chose an example that does not translate well to business (playing the lottery).  All that aside, success doesn’t come without risk and risk does not come without the possibility of a negative outcome.  In many cases a negative outcome is considered a mistake.

The error in the clip above did not happen when the button was pushed.  It happened years before as noted in the analysis.  It is flawed thinking to consider something a mistake based on the outcome.  Mistakes don’t always happen when you see the result.

Its likely a mistake occurs in the planning stages.  You just find out about it later.  You prepared.  You did your analysis.  You made your plan.  You got input from others.  Somewhere in those preparations the “mistake” was made.  Was it flawed logic?  Was it unrealistic expectations?  Did something unforeseen happen?

I hope you never have to deal with a situation as serious as losing men in space.  However, there is something to learn from this scene.  When this team is problem solving, they are learning.  In a crisis you can’t sit back and document everything you are learning but you should not wait long after the crisis is resolved to reflect.  I like the summation of the article below.

There are costs and benefits of mistakes. Immediately after making a mistake, you see only the costs: you didn’t win; you didn’t get that account; you’re beating yourself up. But the benefits of a mistake are greater than the costs. Failure is a bigger departure from expectations. Basically, it’s the world telling you that you didn’t see it in best way to begin with.  If you ignore that, what have you learned? If I were a CEO, I would say these mistakes are corporate assets, and I paid for these. I need to learn from them.

The title of this post is not the conclusion that Michael Hyatt’s guest blogger wants you to come to after reading his post on lifelong learning.  As a person who loves reading but has a hard time finishing a book, I appreciated the strategies he gives at the end (and a justification for buying an iPad).  He also shares some good insights along the way.


a love of reading can easily lead to a love of learning—a gift that will well serve both leaders and those who simply aspire to leadership.