Are we there yet?  It’s an often-voiced quote that we’ve all come to appreciate.  The origin may have been with the kids in the back seat, but as adults, the sentiment applies as well.  Consider the fact that successful professionals never “arrive,” but are always in search of that next destination.  In fact, adults who feel they always have more to learn, have inherent qualities that some “drivers” lack, and from which those self-identified leaders could benefit.

I’ve tuned in to an interesting dynamic while speaking to groups and adult learners.  Surprisingly, and somewhat generally, those who think they have little to learn, have demonstrated quite the opposite.  Often, they’ve missed the proverbial trees for the forest and could benefit more from the trip, but they are clouded in judgement by perceived knowledge.  In fact, I’ve found some common traits and challenges among this group.  See if you recognize them.   

Less Attentive

As we gain more experience, it can prevent us from seeking additional growth.  However, if we do, we can be less attentive to the subject matter.  You know the routine – checking e-mail during the presentation, talking to the person across the table, etc.  Sadly, the lack of attention can also be a disruption to others who are hungry for the knowledge, so stay attentive, if not for yourself, for those around you.   Often the lack of attention leads to missing opportunities for growth that can be hidden in the perceived repetitive themes and concepts.  Rather than stating “how does this apply” think “how can I apply this?”  This constant search for improvement would make Deming proud. 

Stagnation Risk

It’s not uncommon if you think you’ve “arrived” to stagnate, and not search out new opportunities. It may be difficult to uncover the unique challenges in the current environment and launch further learning opportunities. They’re often missed in the lofty position of knowing more than the rest, having done it before, or pre-judging. Don’t miss the clues that could move you forward. Stagnation may be the sign of burnout and present a desperate need to step back, assess, and be willing to make a change or take a leap.

Negativity

Those that think they have all the answers, can become frustrated with those that don’t.  In fact, the frustration with the inability of others to get on board and adopt “their way” frequently turns negative.  Only those with a strong inner circle (who could be the first to point it out) will know when this has become an issue.  Look for the positive in every experience and ask a close friend or colleague to call your attention to that negativity creep. 

Details Derail

I caution the individuals who believe they have “arrived” to stay out of the weeds and the “muck.”  Attention to detail can be fine IF you’re in charge of planning the destination.  However, getting caught up in the details, or the lack thereof, and demonstrating the “way it should be,” can color your experience and allow the negativity to creep in.  In some cases, it grows, takes over the room or your department, and colors the experience for others.  Know when it is time to give up control, take a back seat and simply enjoy the ride and look for the highlights in the travels.  Also be realistic, in some cases, it may be time to get out of the car.

Keeping an Open Mind

When you think you’ve arrived, there’s little opportunity for an open mind – after all, you already know how this goes, right?  You’ve been down this road before and you know the next challenge.  At least you think you do.  When a unique new twist or enlightening turn comes up, you’re not too likely to ride with the new direction.  There went another opportunity!  The old adage here is “Minds are like parachutes….they work better when they are open.”  It’s true, there is nothing better than being able to approach every single experience in life with an open mind.  Try it, and you may be amazed at your growth.

In summary, let’s hope you never “arrive” so that you can take advantage of the opportunities, people, and ideas around you.  As Colleen Hoover said, “Keep an open mind, it’s the only way new things can get in.”  There is still a lot to learn on the way to your destination and you’ll be a safer and more pleasant passenger when you stop badgering the driver.

David Fry is the president and CEO of Effective Advancement Strategies in Greensburg and consults with businesses and nonprofits throughout Indiana.