The Need to Learn.

The Need to Learn.

Johann Goethe wrote in Maxims and Reflections, “There is nothing so terrible as activity without insight.” To build a private practice with sustainable growth, you need an understanding of everything the business world can throw at you. Demographic analysis and site selection, marketing and positioning, recruitment, management and motivation of employees, clinical and administrative systems, leadership, community development and the list goes on. How curious are you about all of this? On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate your desire to learn and implement new things?

At the age of 86, Warren Buffett still reads 5-6 hours per day. Years ago, he read over 8 hours per day. He does not own a computer nor a calculator. He sits in his office, alone, and reads for hours on end. He delights in developing a better understanding of companies, investing and human behavior than any other investor – even though every other investor has the same access to the same reading material. The playing field is level, and Buffett delights in learning more than everyone else in his field. At times, I’m certain he learns more than everyone else, even if it isn’t always delightful to him. He is human after all, although a remarkable one.

Deep in the thick of my MBA training, while running a handful of private practices, teaching and coaching clients & residents, writing books and raising three young kids at home, it took every ounce of my energy to study and complete the assignments on time. Yet, to build a better business and to better serve my clients, I knew I needed a better understanding of everything the business world could throw at me. I started each new course with enthusiasm because I needed to, not necessarily because I always wanted to.

My smartest clients and friends who own businesses worth $50 million or more all have an insatiable curiosity and need to learn. They focus deep and wide, reading everything they can get their hands on and talking to anyone who will listen about subjects they find fascinating. Their offices are messy, with stacks of papers and reading materials. They keep journals, newspaper clippings, torn out articles from magazines and periodicals strewn about their desk, counters and floors. Even if they have a “show office” that’s neat and pristine for meeting with business associates, they all keep a messy one somewhere behind closed doors. Next to any chair where they sit for more than a few minutes, you’ll find a stack of books and papers. They’re all reading more than one book at a time. The smartest read fiction and non-fiction, trade reports, newsletters and shareholder letters from industries both inside and outside their own. This is the standard behavior of the rich and successful. They have a deep-seated need to learn more than anyone else in their field.

How do you view the acquisition of new knowledge – as the end or beginning of your journey?

Do you merely want new knowledge or do you really need it?

Worked at Burleson Orthodontics. Attended University of Missouri–Kansas City. Lives in Kansas City, Missouri.

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