Every year, we waste about 98% of our opportunities to grow, learn, and develop as professionals. The deepest insights go undiscovered and possibilities for transformation are left by the side of the road. The best teachers are ignored or given lip service by half-hearted commitment or empty promises. We let the most powerful learning experiences available pass us by with scarcely a glance or scant recognition that we are missing out.

Yet, we hear everywhere that “experience is the best teacher.” You have probably said it yourself, after some unfortunate mistake that brought you up short and gave you a hard lesson. My experience and research has led me to believe that almost all of us can learn how to take advantage of our day-to-day work and life experiences, and turn the 98% of our working days into a powerful growth and learning opportunity.

The following outline can serve as a guide to enhancing your ability to learn from experience. It’s only an outline at this point, and it’s organized very simply, but over time I plan to share more detail about how to use these ideas to accelerate and strengthen our ability to learn from experience. I invite you to share your comments, insights, questions, and other relevant information, and hope this will be a valuable resource for you.

Get Ready

  1. Take responsibility for your own learning and development
  2. Develop a clear understanding of your strengths and areas for development
    1. Self-assessment
    2. Feedback from others
    3. Objective data
    4. Check your mindset about learning

Get Set

  1. Decide what you want to work on and set some development goals
    1. Set goals that motivate and excite you
    2. Set goals that challenge and push you
    3. Create a development plan
      1. Challenging experiences that stretch you
      2. Engage with other people as co-learners
      3. Read and study on your own


  1. Treat every experience as a learning opportunity
  2. Pursue stretch assignments that challenge you to grow
  3. Experiment with new approaches/behavior
  4. Closely observe/attend to people around you
  5. Participate in formal development programs
  6. Engage with others in joint/shared learning and development
  7. Learn from your mistakes and failures
  8. Actively reflect on your experiences
  9. Apply what you learn to new situations