Attending a conference of colleagues, for me, is both inspiring and rejuvenating. It is an opportunity to reconnect with old friends, hear new ideas, discover what tactics are being effective and reconfirm my belief in what I do and why I do it. My goal is to actually do things better as a result of having attended. I recently returned from such a professional conference that I attend quarterly with colleagues from all over the country. But we all know what happens. We come home; we return to work; we get back into our routine and we lose the momentum we gained in those few short days.
In fact, we can lose much more than momentum. Think about a workshop, seminar, conference or “inspirational” program you have attended – a “good” one. What happens the next day? What about two days later? What about two weeks later? What about two months later? Remember anything from the program? Maybe. Apply anything from the program? Not likely.
In our research, we have asked hundreds of people what their experience is following a typical “learning event”, which includes all those personal development and inspirational examples listed earlier. The response is almost unanimous: the next day “stuff” gets in the way, the handouts get thrown into a file (at best), no one cares what you’re talking about when you try to share what you’ve learned and soon (in about 16 days, according to our research) only about two percent of the information is retained – information you invested your valuable time and hard-earned money to gain. Two percent profit. Two percent return-on-investment. It’s not “all for naught”, but mighty close to it.
Knowing that this loss of value from learning investments is a very real possibility for me as well, I have asked myself what I need to do differently to prevent this “brain drain” from happening. The whole thing reminds me of the movie “Castaway” starring Tom Hanks. Tom is deserted and alone on a small island after a fatal plane crash. He struggles to start a fire and when he finally gets that first spark, his life depends on keeping the fire burning.
…So I began to do some research on how fires continue to burn. According to what I read, there are three basic elements to start a fire:
- Air or Oxygen,
- Fuel (wood, paper, petrol, dry branches, etc)
- Ignition (striking a match or bringing heat from another source, i.e. lightning or another fire).
If you remove any of these three things, you will either not start a fire or cause your fire to go out.
So how might these same three basic elements “keep my fire burning” after learning something new?
Air or oxygen – the life of the fire.
I know that what I do makes a significant difference for others. Having an opportunity to guide someone through a decision making process, helping them construct an action plan that moves them from the present to the desired future, walking them through a goal setting process that allows them to define and remove all obstacles, determine appropriate action steps, the rewards from accomplishing this goal and the belief that they can. This is what brings me alive.
Fuel – the tangibles.
My fuel is the interaction I have with other human beings. I do not see everyone I meet as a potential client; however, I relish the idea of meeting new people, getting to know them, hearing their story. I believe everyone has a story and this is something that we all forget from time to time. Not only do we have a story, but the chances are very great that, by sharing pieces of our story, we can help someone else walk through something in their own lives.
Ignition – What is my “fire starter”?
Activity gives life to my business. What is the best way to spend my time? What creates the most business for me? Is it cold calling, networking, joining organizations? How can I breathe more life into my business? I believe it is important to be strategic about the activity in which I am engaged. I can fool myself into thinking I am busy because I am doing stuff (going to events, making phone calls, etc.); however, if this is just random activity, it rarely produces any results. The right activity produces the right actions, which lead to the right results.
Lighting a fire is an intentional act.
Keeping the fire lit requires just as much intention.
Now what will you do to keep your fire burning?