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by Nan Russell

Ancora imparo, translated as "I am still learning" or "Still, I am learning," is attributed to Michelangelo in his eighty-seventh year. The man who painted the Sistine Chapel and sculpted the Pieta and David, whose very name evokes mastery of his craft, exemplifies a lifelong learning philosophy.

Contrast him with a fifty-two year old executive I read about in the Wall Street Journal touting in an interview that he had never written or sent an email, refused to read staff messages received in email, and was uninterested in learning how to access the internet. He was perfectly content using l980s skills in the 21st century.

I've met too many people in the workplace who think they only need the skills and knowledge they have. They're content doing things the way they've always done them. They're not interested in learning and growing and stretching. They're not interested in keeping up with technology, improved methodologies or new approaches. They're not interested in faster, better or enhanced ways.

They're satisfied with how they do what they do, believing what's worked in the past, will keep working for them in the future. They think they know what they need to know. But they're wrong. People who stop learning stifle their opportunities, reduce their results and limit their life's potential.

These status quo people can be found in any age group. I've known as many twenty-five year olds as fifty-five year olds with this self-limiting mentality at work. You see, it's not an age, but a mind-set. Are you a finished product or a work in progress? How you answer impacts your future.

People who embrace an ancora imparo philosophy are easy to spot in the workplace. These are the people with new ideas; the ones focused on continuous improvement; the ones enhancing their productivity and constantly developing their skills. These are the people offered interesting work, new projects and increased responsibilities. They're also the ones receiving the largest increases in a pay-for-performance environment. That's because they're making the biggest contributions.

They invest in themselves. They spend time learning new things, challenging their thinking, practicing their skills and developing themselves. Like Michelangelo, they're interested in becoming better tomorrow at what they do than they are today. For them, learning is a never ending process of becoming; of developing their unique gifts.

It's no surprise it's these same people who are winning at working. Want to be one of them? Make ancora imparo a guiding principle for your life.

(c) 2006 Nan S. Russell. All rights reserved.

Nan Russell may be contacted at

Author of Hitting Your Stride: Your Work, Your Way (Capital Books; January 2008). Host of "Work Matters with Nan Russell" weekly on Nan Russell has spent over twenty years in management, most recently with QVC as a Vice President. Sign up to receive Nan's "Winning at Working" tips and insights at


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