It is a logically sound statement that we don't know what we don't know. Also, some of what we know we are rapidly forgetting. Further, as Ronald Reagan used to say of his opponents, "It's not that they don't know, it's just that they know so much that isn't so."

If we don't know what we don't know, and we are forgetting what we do know, and some of what we know just isn't so, it kind of makes one wonder what we really do know. Makes know-it-alls look a little silly, doesn't it? It also illustrates the importance of lifelong learning.

For many adults whose professions don't officially require them to pursue a continuing education, learning is relegated to areas of hobby or leisure, at best. Most grown-ups seem to think that they did their learning in school, and now that those days are over, so is the necessity and the opportunity for learning. This unfortunate state of affairs reduces reading to nothing more than entertainment, conversation to mere chatter, and mentorship to a lost and unpracticed mystery.

Enter the field of network marketing. Most of us approach our business initially as an economic opportunity. We become impressed with a product, decipher a pay plan, write down some goals and dreams, and get started on our way. The surprising part, at least for me, was the reawakening of my desire for learning.

As my upline invited me to meetings, loaned me books and encouraged me to listen to audio recordings, all of which comprised their "training system," I rediscovered the joy of learning. With countless hours spent in classrooms and two college degrees, I vividly remember both the highs and lows of studying and learning. For a while, I even subscribed to the notion that by graduating from college I could put away the books forever. Now, however, being provided with information and education directly relevant to what I was doing reopened my eyes and mind.

I couldn't get enough. I listened to recordings in my car any time the wheels were turning; I read on my lunch break, between appointments, in the morning and before bed; I associated with my mentors and other like-minded people as often as possible. In short, learning became a new habit, one of my greatest pleasures, my hobby and my sport.

Study with Purpose

Someone asked me once about my method of reading, implying that I must naturally read quickly or have had some speed-reading training. I replied that I don't read any faster than the average person, but my approach to reading has made all the difference. In short, I don't read—I study. I underline text, write notes in the margins, fill the back pages with ideas and comments, and, if necessary, argue with the author between the lines.

Books are to be devoured, recordings are to be memorized, and conferences are to be experienced to the maximum. I encourage people to treat their learning as a full-contact sport, one in which they crash ahead into new awakenings with the vigor of a professional athlete at the peak of his or her career—except that for those of us who make learning a lifelong profession, the career never has to end. There are no career-terminating injuries, definitive arrivals or finish lines. It's a never-ending journey of progress and discovery that invigorates our lives.

The type of education I fell in love with through my exposure to the networking profession was profound because it focused on truth. It sought to develop the best map possible of the peaks and valleys of life. The better the map, the easier the navigation. A solid education may or may not involve formal degrees or decorations, but it should always involve truth. The most edifying type of education leads us to discover more about ourselves and the world than we otherwise would have known. It opens doors of wonder, shines the light of awareness and builds strength of character.

In short, a proper education makes a better person.

Learn Different Subjects

There are many categories upon which our continual learning ought to focus. One of the most important categories is people. Learning more about ourselves, our spouse, our children, our business partners and mankind in general leads to better people skills and more wisdom in solving and handling the challenges that always arise among individuals and in groups.

Another important category for learning is financial literacy. It has been my experience that most people are horrendously uneducated when it comes to handling, making and investing money.

In network marketing, the particulars of one's product and market, business strategies and organizational norms should also be a big part of one's experiential education.

An effective education, as obtained through enthusiastic involvement in a network marketing training program, should be structured as a tree, with principles as the roots and methods as the leaves. There is a saying, "Methods are many, principles are few, methods always change, principles never do." A good educational experience will be steeped in healthy amounts of both.

One of the best ways to get the most out of your network marketing experience is to become a professional learner from day one and never stop learning. Treat your business and its training system with the intensity with which a professional athlete approaches physical training and conditioning. If an athlete is willing to put so much effort into building muscles that will last only a handful of seasons, does it not make sense for us to put at least as much effort into building minds that will last a lifetime?

Make learning your new favorite sport.

CHRIS BRADY is coauthor of the New York Times,
Business Week, USA Today, and Money best-seller,
Launching a Leadership Revolution. Together with
Orrin Woodward, he leads a network marketing
organization of tens of thousands of people. Their
common goalis to raise the level of professionalism
and leadership in network marketing.