Caroline Briggs, CEO of Amici, was invited to speak at the 2021 University of Strathclyde Women in Leadership Network event. She was asked to give a 5-minute speech that would inspire an audience of the next generation. Caroline considered what she might tell her 21-year-old self now and chose Lifelong Learning as her topic. Her speech is below.
Five things I would tell my 21-year-old self now.
1. Embrace and commit to lifelong learning!
Strathclyde University’s motto is ‘The Place of Useful Learning’ and certainly, your brain is in its academic prime as a student. But this is just the very start of your journey. Life is an expedition. Sometimes it’s exhilarating and sometimes it’s terrifying. Embracing and committing to a lifelong dedication to learning makes for a smoother trip!
At the start of any new experience there are the known unknowns – the things you know that you don’t know. And then there are the unknown unknowns – the things you are totally unaware of!
Not knowing things could have an impact on your confidence. However, consider life as an expedition. Anyone who dares to step outside of their comfort zone encounters new experiences and has to go through a learning curve. It could be a new job, a promotion, a first-time manager, a first-time parent, buying a house, resolving a conflict, the list is endless. Every new experience is going to involve a learning curve. You can now confidently embrace the experience and take comfort in the acknowledgement that all around you, seasoned individuals are traversing learning curves of their own. Nobody ever finishes the learning journey.
2. Confidently learn how to learn.
As a young Graduate at Zeneca, my development was catapulted by a 4-day course run by an ex-monk from California. I learned how to learn, how our memories work, how to speed read, mind map, and understand personality.
Talking of personality, probably the most known personality traits are the introvert and extrovert. The introvert prefers to problem solve through quiet study, while the extrovert prefers to ask questions. Both methods have great merit, and combining these methods often gives you the deepest knowledge.
Access to online resources has never been easier with sites such as Wikipedia and YouTube, etc. Never be afraid to reach out and speak to someone face-to-face, though. Learning is like an onion: it has many layers. You will find that deep learning occurs when you’ve uncovered both depth and context. Mastering the context and depth on any topic allows you to put knowledge to use and retain it. Superficial knowledge is easily forgotten, and difficult to utilise.
3. Teamwork makes the dream work.
The study of personality and team dynamics is essential for all leaders – there are untold books, consultants, podcasts, etc. on the topic.
Firstly, understand yourself. What makes you tick? When are you at your best? What are you like when you’re under pressure? What are your blind spots?
Studying personality allows you to embrace a rich tapestry of diversity that exists and understand the benefits it brings. The outcomes that are achieved when people collaborate are much greater than the sum of any individual.
Teamwork can be inspiring, exciting, and supercharging, but it can be equally annoying. People can be scary or difficult. For success, there are two key things to accept and embrace.
- Every personality has major strengths and weaknesses – combining forces supercharges your capability
- People take time to learn to work well together – understand the process of team formation and taking people from ‘forming and storming’ to ‘norming and performing’
4. Some education takes a lifetime of experiences.
To the next generation of leaders: Use your time to learn, re-learn and constantly improve your management skills, leadership skills, how to handle pressure, emotional intelligence and last but by no means least, practice self-care. Your brain is like a muscle. You need to keep exercising it to keep it fit, but you also need to look after your whole self to stay in prime performance.
5. From failure you can bounce back higher!
The best thing you’ll ever learn is that despite your best efforts, from time to time, you will fail – and that’s statistically normal and totally OK! From mistakes and failures can come the strongest and best results. When the going gets tough, the tough get going.
Life is a vivid and exciting journey with so many opportunities and challenges that will enrich you. Embrace and commit to lifelong learning. Go even further – teach others and help them on their journey, too.
I wish you a bonne voyage!