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Memphis Daily News
What Did You Learn Today?
March 23, 2017
By Dr. Mary C. McDonald

Remember that question from your parents when you returned home from school: “What did you learn in school today?” And your parents, ever hopeful, dreaded your answer: “Nothing.” Actually, you did learn something, even if you didn’t want to engage in conversation about it.

The ability to learn is a skill that continues to grow. It doesn’t stop because we age, already know it all or are comfortable where we are. So, what did you learn at work today?

When my parents were in their early 90s, they moved from their home to assisted living. It was a big change. Although it was a beautiful, friendly place, the move had the potential for a negative outcome. After several days, my father, Joe Crowley, ever the pioneer of the latest technology, noticed there were no computers for the residents to use, and, as he put it, “The old folks here don’t know how to email their families. They should learn.”

He purchased several computers for one of the activities rooms, and posted signs that read: “Computer classes every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 10 a.m.” He had one student in his first class, a lady, also in her 90s, who had never been on a computer. She came because there was nothing else happening that day at 10 a.m. For the next hour, my father taught and she learned. They were both tapping into their growth mindsets, and both committed to remain in that growth zone.

Word spread about the computer classes, and after several weeks, my father had to add a second time to his schedule. His students emailed and surfed the web, and a few created a Facebook page to stay in touch with their family.

They came out of their comfort zones. They didn’t stay with a fixed mindset that says, “I’m not good at this; it’s too hard; I’m not that smart.” They tapped into their growth mindset that says, “What am I missing? This might take some time and effort, but I’m going to learn it.” They had a renewed motivation and sense of purpose and accomplishment that they hadn’t had in a long time. My father always ended his classes by asking, “What questions did you ask today that taught you something?”

Don’t wait until you’re in your 90s to learn something new, something challenging that will renew your motivation, sense of purpose and accomplishment. Learn it today at work. Learn something about the business you never knew. Don’t just practice what you already do there, learn something new. Tap into your growth mindset and ask, “Is this really my best work? I can always improve; it might take some effort, but I can do it.”

Progress comes when you engage at work, when you open your mind to new ideas, new ways of making things better for everyone.

Stay in that growth zone, and encourage others to do the same. What would your work become if you asked yourself, “What did I learn at work today?”

Contact Dr. Mary C. McDonald, a national education consultant, at 574-2956 or visit

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