Remember The Laggard! My Story of Overcoming Fears and Choosing To Learn

Have you ever heard of or heard yourself or others be referred to as a Laggard?

Google defines a laggard as:

noun – “a person who makes slow progress and falls behind others.”

adjective – “slower than desired or expected.”
Do you identify with that? Have you ever referred to anyone like that? First of all, I think that laggard is pretty rough of a term…which is why you also see the reference to the “mainstreamers” as a more friendly word for it.
I believe when we tend to think of a laggard we think of the classic curve in reference of the Rogers version relative to adoption:
Regardless of what we call it I have some things to share today in reference to my real-life “laggard” realization in my career and the decision I made in my life to stop being stuck where I was and choosing to further in my career.

About 10 years ago I graduated from college with a Bachelor’s of Science in IT, focusing in the Information Sciences and Programming backgrounds. During that final year a very wise professor at the time made a statement towards the end of my tenure in school that really shook me then.

“Whatever you have learned up to this point…three years from now will be completely obsolete.”

“Whatever you have learned up to this point…three years from now will be completely obsolete.”

After some confused faces and reactions in the room, the professor continued:

“However, if you have truly paid attention to the concepts that help you to understand the basics then regardless of the language of the day or technology you build your practices will guide you through.”

“However, if you have truly paid attention to the concepts that help you to understand the basics then regardless of the language of the day or technology you build your practices will guide you through.”

At the time, I thought to myself in a moment of confidence, “Wow, that seems a bit forward, I’ll be fine!” Wrong! I have learned through 10 years of experience now that there were no truer words ever spoken to me (about my career) at the time that I heard them.

In today’s ever-moving technical climate of mobile evolution, social media startups and new technologies making it easier than ever to go to the once mysterious cloud I have found that things are moving much faster than my professor may have even understood.

Being in a transition period in my career in the past 2 years I have found that I am in a place that I believe a lot of other folks have been in before or may be in the near future. There was a point where I felt like everything I was confident in understanding had become obsolete and that everything that was in front of me for a new future required me to make a choice to want to evolve my learning. On top of that there was the constant reminder of new people coming in and demonstrating in their learning (sometimes in ways that left me feeling very deflated) what I did not understand as great. Not to mention the ever looming call to responsibility to drive positive results with the best of my ability.

“There was a point where I felt like everything I was confident in understanding had become obsolete and that everything that was in front of me for a new future required me to make a choice to want to evolve my learning.”

What do I do? Well, I knew at the time of my self-evaluation that most everything I ever was taught in language, system or structures ten years ago was definitely in the latter part of the mainstream part of the adoption curve. It was only a matter of time where if I did nothing else I would have to begin taking a long look at the market to see where else I could thrive with my existing skill set. Maybe there is something close by? Then, as that began to feel scary I began to think about what my options could be to grow. After looking at courses I began to feel discouraged as a lot of the topics out there cost time, money and your presence away from your day to day work (that ensures to make you feel behind).

After many months of soul searching, being made to feel ignorant in work settings, left out by others and left on the assumption that I wouldn’t know I finally made a decision. I decided then that I would chose to grow and refused to be stuck anymore.

I would not be bullied by fears of learning or worried of leaving a few tasks behind to make time to grow. Even if I would not be provided moments during the day I chose to grow where I could elsewhere. It was a mindset change, a choice I made, and do not regret it. I would no longer blame my surroundings, commitments or challenges to keep me from making this something I do. I may fail. I may not understand it all. However, I would rather fail fast and grow than to give up! I then recalled being willing to do this before I started my career in college and this encouraged my willingness to want to learn more now.

Today, I am fighting for my relevance in my career and will encourage all that I can to remember to do the same.

“I may fail. I may not understand it all. However, I would rather fail fast and grow than to give up!”

These days I am learning every day. Free resources such as videos and websites out there are the best place to start. Joining social networking groups around topics I am unfamiliar in is another great step. I am voicing my want for more and am investing by making the time for it today. And in just a couple years of time I know for sure I am turning back the meter and heading towards new things! Conferences are great but make time for the learning opportunities and not just the free t-shirts. Training and courses, whether virtual or in-person and a must in today’s evolving tech climate and a must. Whatever you choose to do use these learning moments to fight to stay relevant with your investment into yourself!

So today as I close this open story of my personal career to those still hungry to work and others curious of the meaning of my intent I leave you with these words: Remember the laggard! 

Companies, remember that one of the most meaningful means of retention is the means to which you invest in people, especially their ability to evolve their skills and mindset. Laggards are not just people who know old things; laggards are loyal, invested people who simply need the opportunity to grow. Empower people with the freedom to be away in the short-term (for a little while) normal efforts to invest in themselves and you will see growth and trust in the working relationship for building longevity and driving positive results. When we choose short-term results and fail to invest here we begin to see teams that become less apt to adopt new things and challenge themselves, thus leaving key areas of business stuck in the mercy of mainstream and slowly letting our fears slow our progress. Fail fast, take chances on people, and never lose the grip of the importance of investing in continual learning!

“Companies, remember that one of the most meaningful means of retention is the means to which you invest in people, especially their ability to evolve their skills and mindset.”

Individuals out there, remember to choose to grow no matter your obstacles and know that you are able to do it. Remember to prioritize it as much as you want it. And just like every good degree, certification or learning experience any knowledge you gain to help you evolve and move forward in your career is worth the investment. Every time. Make sure you always include learning in your career plans and give voice to making sure others that help you succeed know that it is important to you. Do not get stuck in the mainstream and lose your confidence to try new things! And lastly, remember that if you are in a good place in your career and are in the midst of new learning…take others with you. Mentor and help others to not be afraid of embracing growth!

“Individuals out there, remember to choose to grow no matter your obstacles and know that you are able to do it. Remember to prioritize it as much as you want it. And just like every good degree, certification or learning experience any knowledge you gain to help you evolve and move forward in your career is worth the investment. Every time.”

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