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Jim Rohn, an American author and motivational speaker, said, “Formal education will make you a living; self-education will make you a fortune.” Think how that affects all of us in our daily lives. Many of us received some type of formal education, whether in high school, technical school or college. What we have done since those days of formal education would indicate what we have done to become successful in our lives. Many of our successful colleagues have never stopped educating themselves and would relate well to Rohn’s statement.
When we think about what we do every day, we see the need for continued education. The equipment we use becomes more technically challenging, seemingly by the hour. This self-education we need takes many forms. It might include a course presented by a manufacturer on recently released equipment, or it might consist of a program discussing the most recently published code adopted in your jurisdiction.
But, the challenge becomes how to ensure we take the time to include whatever modes of self-education make sense in our daily lives. We can easily get caught up in the grind of doing the work. And certainly, at the end of the day, we feel we deserve some time to relax. At the end of the day, the last thing I want to do is study some course, but not all self-education needs to take a formal approach.
For example, this magazine offers a form of self-education. Each issue provides articles, news and advertisements that can help you in your daily work and give you an additional advantage over your competition.
You may also subscribe to numerous self-study web-based courses, which you can use at your leisure. Because they offer such a wide range of subjects, you may find these online courses particularly useful. Of the many companies providing web-based courses, I have found both the Automatic Fire Alarm Association (www.afaa.org) and the National Fire Protection Association (www.nfpa.org) provide good courses on the subjects of fire detection, alarm systems and related code subjects.
Of course, you should also review the code. Going through the National Electrical Code (NEC) and NFPA 72, the National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code, is an obvious way to self-educate on the most recent changes to these documents that may affect your daily work.
If you don’t feel confident enough to simply learn the codes through self-review, then both the NFPA and AFAA also provide one- to three-day fire alarm or electrical Code review seminars that walk you through the most recent codes and the changes you need to know.
And, keep in mind that not all subjects you review need to contain technical information. One course I seem to need at least once a year offers a refresher in the subject of “time management.” An annual review of such a course helps me get back on track and puts my time challenges in perspective, so I can prioritize my work more efficiently.
Speaking of time management, I encourage you to take at least an hour at the beginning of each week to carefully plan your week. It will enable you to purposefully make provisions for some time devoted to self-education. Remember the modern-day proverb: “Failing to plan is planning to fail.”
Another form of self-education involves learning how to use your computer more efficiently. When was the last time you attended software training to better understand the computer programs you use everyday, such as Microsoft Excel or Word?
What about the products you install? Do you understand all their features and options? Manufacturers and their distributors offer educational programs on their products; in some cases, the manufacturers also offer code-based programs as well. They may present these courses as a day-long effort, a one-hour lunch or an evening presentation. The courses may include new marketing ideas to increase your business, so your attendance will generally net multiple benefits for the time you invest in them. And, of course, the providers generally offer these classes free of charge.
Another training source is organizations, such as the National Electrical Contractors Association, AFAA and the Society of Fire Protection Engineers (www.sfpe.org), that regularly offer webinars on a wide range of subjects. They usually take an hour or so but may only be presented during the day, so they may not be accessible if you are out of the office on job sites. However, some providers also record their webinars and offer them for downloading to your computer, so you can view them at your convenience.
You will find another opportunity for fire alarm systems self-education by subscribing to newsletters available from manufacturers and other fire protection organizations. Ask your manufacturers’ representatives what they have. And, for a newsletter dedicated to answering your fire alarm code questions, you may subscribe to The Moore-Wilson Signaling Report, available at www.haifire.com.
If you have read this far, you may have already thought, “I rarely have time for training,” but commitment is the key to effective self-education. You will notice that most thriving contractors are busy people, yet they still make time for some form of self-education. Missing that one TV reality show could make the difference between discovering that next new idea to promote your business or the key benefit of a new technology to sell to your customer.
But, of course, training for success does not just apply to you. If you run a company, it applies to your employees as well. When you provide training for your employees, the word spreads, and you attract employees who want to grow. When you have trained employees, their morale improves. They will also represent you better. Your customers will appreciate the fact that you and your employees know what to do and will provide cost-effective service as a result of your knowledge. And, well-trained employees become more productive and are less accident-prone because they have the skills to understand their job.
Instilling the desire for self-education in your employees becomes equally important. Once they understand the need for self-improvement, they will know how it will affect their advancement within the company. It will become obvious to them that promotion opportunities come to the better-trained and more knowledgeable employees.
But the most important part of encouraging anyone to develop the self-education “habit” comes from you setting the example. If you demonstrate a commitment to self-education, those around you will sense the importance of self-education in their own lives.
Quoting Jim Rohn once again: “If you keep refining all the parts of your character (yourself, your health, etc.) so that you become an attractive person to the marketplace, you’ll attract opportunity. Opportunity will then begin to seek you out. Your reputation will begin to precede you, and people will want to do business with you. All of that possibility is created by working on the philosophy that success is something you attract by continually working on your own personal development.”
Make the commitment to self-education today. Personal growth through training will enable you to grow your business and increase profits. Do this, and you will confirm Rohn’s assertion: “Self-education will make you a fortune.”
MOORE, a licensed fire protection engineer, frequent speaker and an expert in the life safety field, is a past chair of the NFPA 72 Technical Correlating Committee. Moore is a principal with Hughes Associates Inc. at the Warwick, R.I., office. He can be reached at [email protected].