“I’m here to learn.”

That’s a phrase that I’ve used to guide many aspects of my life.  And I credit it for helping me achieve high levels of success.

When something I’m working on doesn’t go as well as I had hoped, I say – either to myself or sometimes out loud – “I’m here to learn.”  This, to me, means that nothing has to be a failure.  At worst, anything that didn’t turn out as well as one had hoped can be chalked up as a learning experience.

Every learning experience is valuable.  And a career or lifetime of learning experiences is exponentially valuable if you use what you’ve learned to become a better worker, a better leader, a better person.

When I say, “I’m here to learn,” to me, it means that I’m not going to stop.  It means that I am going to make corrections.  It means that I will apply and adapt the lessons learned to other situations so that I can be successful in the future.

We all have to do things for the first time.  And we are not equipped to do these things from the womb.  Too often, we get very little instruction.  So, we have to rely on our “intuition” or our “gut.”

Well, your “intuition” or your “gut” doesn’t have to be some mystical superpower.  It can be a structured way of thinking that gets refined every time that you say “I’m here to learn” and look for takeaways that you can use to make better decisions in the future.

Post something on eBay that didn’t sell?  Don’t get frustrated and say “eBay sucks.”  Say “I’m here to learn,” look at other listings that did sell, and figure out what you can do differently.  Maybe your end time was too late, or your starting bid was too high, or your description omitted a few key words.

Have a first date that didn’t turn into a second date?  Don’t get frustrated and say “Dating is impossible in 2017.”  Say “I’m here to learn,” rethink what happened during the date, and maybe don’t tell that misinterpretable joke next time.

Have a supplier that failed to deliver on time and, when it did, provided goods that didn’t meet quality standards?  Don’t say “Salespeople lie and suppliers always cut corners.”  Say “I’m here to learn,” review your supplier qualification process, and tweak it so that you provide yourself with a better prediction of supplier performance before cutting the next PO.

Too often, we associate “learning” with being an amateur.  Like, if you have to learn something, you’re a novice.  That expert business people spend their time “doing,” not “learning.”

Well, I’m here to tell you that the opposite is true.

The more you open yourself up to learning, the more of an expert you’ll be.  No one knows everything about procurement.  Not you.  Not your boss.  Not even me.

So, don’t pretend that you know everything you need to know.  That will only limit how far you can go.

Acknowledge that there is always much to learn:  in procurement, in business, in life.  Only then will you be able to learn the things that will elevate you to expert level.

I’m here to learn.  Are you?

Charles Dominick, SPSM, SPSM2, SPSM3

Charles Dominick, SPSM, SPSM2, SPSM3 is the Founder of the Next Level Purchasing Association. Charles is also the Co-Author of "The Procurement Game Plan: Winning Strategies & Techniques For Supply Management Professionals."

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