“Growth is the great separator between those who succeed and those who do not. When I see a person beginning to separate themselves from the pack, it’s almost always due to personal growth.” ―John C. Maxwell
Blocked Personal Learner
According to Barnfield and Lombardo (2014), a person is a “blocked personal learner” if he or she:
- Is closed to learning new personal, interpersonal, managerial, and leadership skills, approaches, and tactics.
- Prefers staying the same, even when faced with new and different challenges.
- Is narrow in interests and scope.
- Uses few learning tactics.
- Doesn’t seek input.
- Lacks curiosity.
- Is not insightful about him/herself.
Reasons Why a Person Is a Blocked Personal Learner (Barnfield & Lombardo, 2014):
- Hangs on, hoping to make it without changing.
- Low risk taker.
- May block change for others.
- Narrow in scope and interests.
- Not open to new approaches.
- Prefers the tried and true.
- Self-learning/development interest is low.
- Too busy to learn anything new.
- Too comfortable.
If others describe you as someone who is often stuck or living in the past. If you often resist change or anything new or different and you’re one of the last people to get on board with a new initiative, consider this: “You can’t survive today without keeping you and your skills fresh. There’s not much room anymore for someone stuck in the past” (Barnfield & Lombardo, 2014, p. 471).
“I do not think much of a man who is not wiser today than he was yesterday.”-Abraham Lincoln (16th President of the United States)
Perhaps the reason blocked learners are “closed to learning” (Barnfield & Lombardo, 2014, p. 472) is because they just don’t see the value in developing themselves. After all, why would they if their scope and interests are narrow and they’re comfortable with the way things are?
Being a blocked learner is harmful to one’s career. Barnfield and Lombardo (2014) list it as one of ten “Career stallers and stoppers” [Stallers and stoppers are behaviors generally considered problematic or harmful to career success” (p. ii)].
Living In the Past
Have you noticed that some people live in the glory of the past? If you listen to them talk, they’ll often reminisce about how life was 20 or 30 years ago. They’ll recall facts and events almost as if they’re happening in the present moment. There’s a sense of longing to relive their past and feelings of regrets about missed opportunities or steps not taken.
The key is to reflect on your past and learn from it, rather than to relive it or ruminate on your past.
Learning From Your Past
Nancy Koehn, a Harvard professor, historian, and author of the book Forged in Crisis, wrote in one of her “Leading yourself in crisis” posts on LinkedIn (Insight #151): “If you cannot learn from and then let go of past missteps, you cannot hone your talents and advance your mission. [Abraham] Lincoln became a great communicator because he kept moving beyond what went wrong in his speaking and writing.”
“Forgive yourself first. Release the need to replay a negative situation over and over again in your mind. Don’t become a hostage to your past by always reviewing and reliving your mistakes. Don’t remind yourself of what should have, could have, or would have been. Release it and let it go. Move on.” -Les Brown
“Great leaders push themselves to learn, evolve, and adapt. Once leaders stop pushing themselves, their chances of continued success are greatly diminished. Self-development is a key ingredient for leaders who want to stay on the forefront in their professions” (Nelson & Ortmeier, 2011, p. 17).
What’s blocking you from taking on the commitment to and the work of self-development (Scisco, Biech, & Hallenbeck, 2017)?
- You’re overwhelmed by how much you have to learn.
- You lack curiosity.
- You have been successful in the past and don’t see a need to change.
- You believe self-development calls attention to your weaknesses.
- You believe training time takes you away from your work.
- You’re satisfied in your current role and don’t want to take on another.
- You’re unable to fit your developmental commitments into your life.
- Your work priorities crowd out your attempts to develop new leadership skills.
“The bottom line is, those who learn, grow, and change continuously across their careers are the most successful. The skills someone has now are unlikely to be enough in the future. Acquiring new skills is the best way to navigate an uncertain future. . . . You look to grow from experience. Seek out feedback and are open to what you hear. Challenge yourself in unfamiliar settings. Try out new skills. Learn from others. . . . Development is a personal commitment. You make the choice” (Barnfield & Lombardo, 2014, p. 355).
Growing from the InsideOut
In his book, You Already Know How to Be Great, Alan Fine (2010) writes that much of what holds us back from our full capacity or potential (i.e., high performance or being our absolute best) is interference. Interference is anything that keeps us from high performance (InsideOut Development, 2019); anything that gets in the way of higher performance (InsideOut Development, 2018); or anything that blocks progress (InsideOut Development, 2019).
For blocked learners and those who don’t believe or invest in self-development, their interference or the things that block progress or get in the way of their high performance include: fear of taking risks, not being open to new learning or approaches, being complacent, being arrogant, being defensive, being unsure what to do, and being afraid to fail or fearful that others may see their shortcomings.
It Takes Ownership to Have a Breakthrough
In order to become unblocked and begin a journey of learning and self-development, these individuals must want to change and be motivated to change. They must take ownership for and accountability of their own learning and development.
“Accountability is doing what needs to be done because someone expects it. Ownership is doing what needs to be done because you expect it yourself.” ―Alan Fine
Seize the Opportunities
In his book, Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell shares some interesting facts about the Beatles. For instance, many Americans thought that the Beatles were an overnight sensation when the band came to the United States and put out a string of hit records. However, the Beatles had been playing together for a while and had many years of experience under their belt. As a matter of fact, “By the time [the Beatles] had their first burst of success in 1964, . . . they had [already] performed live an estimated twelve hundred times” (Gladwell, 2008, p. 50).
Gladwell points out that “the time that elapsed between their founding and their arguably greatest artistic achievements—Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and The Beatles [White Album]—is ten years.”
Gladwell (2008) reminds us that, “success follows a predictable course. It is not the brightest who succeed. . . .Nor is success simply the sum of the decisions and efforts we make on our own behalf. It is, rather, a gift. Outliers are those who have been given opportunities—and who have had the strength and presence of mind to seize them” (p. 267).
“Extraordinary achievement is less about talent than it is about opportunity.” ―Malcolm Gladwell
Takeaway: Success belongs to individuals who seize opportunities in front of them or, if there aren’t any, they seek out opportunities. Regardless of how intelligent or talented you are, you will not succeed if you don’t invest in time to develop yourself and hone your skills. Never stop learning. Keep your skills fresh, be open to learning, and learn from your past to improve yourself. Even if you are a genius or lucky or both, you can still very easily squander your talents if you don’t seize on the opportunities that are presented to you. Your success depends on the opportunities presented to you, along with a bit of good luck. But above all, success is about putting in the effort and hard work and using your imagination and creativity to act on the opportunities that might not be so obvious or even hidden.
“Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing.” -Pele
Written By: Steve Nguyen, Ph.D.
Leadership Development Advisor
Barnfield, H. C., & Lombardo, M. M. (2014). FYI: For your improvement – Competencies development guide (6th ed.). Korn Ferry.
Fine, A. (2020, March 25). Working amid Coronavirus: 3 ways coaching can help. Retrieved from https://www.chieflearningofficer.com/2020/03/25/working-amid-coronavirus-3-ways-coaching-can-help/
Fine, A. (2010). You Already Know How to Be Great: A Simple Way to Remove Interference and Unlock Your Greatest Potential. Penguin Group.
Gladwell, M. (2008). Outliers: The story of success. Little, Brown and Company.
InsideOut Development (2018, November 13). How to Get Executives Invested in Your Coaching Initiative. Retrieved from https://blog.insideoutdev.com/how-to-get-executives-invested-in-your-coaching-initiative
InsideOut Development (2018, November 26). Intro to the GROW Model and Performance Wheel. Retrieved from https://blog.insideoutdev.com/intro-to-the-grow-model-and-performance-wheel
InsideOut Development (2019, August 13). Interference: The Impediment of Performance. Retrieved from https://blog.insideoutdev.com/interference-the-impediment-of-performance
InsideOut Development (2019). The State of Workplace Interference: An InsideOut Development Research Report. Retrieved from https://resources.insideoutdev.com/articles/the-state-of-workplace-interference
Nelson, S. E., & Ortmeier, J. G. (2011). Awaken, Align, Accelerate: A Guide to Great Leadership. Beaver’s Pond Press, Inc.
Scisco, P., Biech, E., & Hallenbeck, G. (2017). Compass: Your Guide for Leadership Development and Coaching. Center for Creative Leadership Press.