Are you a prisoner, vacationer or a learner?

When you attend a training program or seminar, you are likely in one of three categories – a prisoner, a vacationer or a learner – based on how you view yourself relative to the session.

A prisoner is someone who has been sent by management and personally doesn’t see the need to attend. The vacationer is the person who says, “Boy, I can chill out in this class. I really don’t need to work. I’ll just come to the workshop and write a grocery list.” The learner, on the other hand, is someone who truly desires to gain new skills and knowledge and grow personally and professionally.

I was in full vacation mode last weekend when I joined my wife, Katrina, on a getaway that included a cooking school. Some may have even decided they had been dragged to the class as prisoners, but I was sure the wine pairings would put most attendees into vacationer mode.

While traveling north of Los Angeles along the Pacific ocean on our way to California’s central coast, I began to see many old 1940’s and 1950’s restored Woodies, a car style where the rear bodywork is covered in fine grain wood.

A quick search on the smart phone told me they were headed to the collector car rally in Morrro Bay, near our class. The weekend was already planned, but this sounded like the perfect vacationer stop – looking at vintage Woodie station wagons parked along the ocean, epitomizing the local, easy going surf culture.

I suggested it to Katrina who had planned the culinary weekend, but she was in the learning mode. This just didn’t fit. She told me, “I just don’t understand that hobby, why would you collect cars just so you can stand in a parking lot all day with all the other collectors? How boring.” No shiny cars for me… But then, I realized an opportunity to call on my travel companion’s need to learn. I suggested visiting the car show would be the best way to answer her question. “Honey, you could observe the conversations and truly understand their motivations to gather in a parking lot.”

I was so surprised! It worked. She liked the idea. We were off to the rally. She was in learning mode and I was clearly in vacation mode. I went to enjoy these rare cars that had been lovingly restored to like new condition. My wife went to listen. After the show, she had her questions answered. She observed a whole group of men spend 15 minutes sharing best practices on how to restore the speedometer on a 1940 Pontiac Special Series 25 Woodie.

It then hit me, that is why we should all go to seminars and networking events – to show off our “shiny cars” and learn from others how to make them perform even better. I don’t collect cars, but I do build teams and develop leaders with strong communication skills. To be a learner, you have to be ready to share your experiences and listen to the experiences of others.

As expected, the culinary weekend did not have any prisoners. There were a few vacationers, and I had joined the ranks of the learners. Besides learning some new kitchen techniques, I met some other great leaders and we swapped stories about our finely restored and top performing businesses over culinary tips.

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photo by Katrina Snaps

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