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Be a River, Not a Reservoir

Why do you learn? What is the point of your study? Your self development and professional growth? Really, why is it that you strive to grow?

I grew up in Utah. 35 minutes from my home was a very large reservoir. This was a great spot for a day trip, as it was often quite, it has calm water and the scenery was majestic. Yet, even as a young kid, I noticed something about this reservoir...A lot of water rushed into it in the early spring, but the rest of the year it just sat there, with only a small constant release of water.

Currently I live not far from the northern portion of the Mississippi River. This too is a great place to go for a day trip. I've observed this river many times, and each time I am impressed with how much water is flowing. It seems like there is a never ending source just gushing out voluminous amounts of water, which flows for hundreds and hundreds of miles, nourishing plants, trees, farms, animals and so much more.


If you were to compare yourself to one of these two water structures, which would you be more like? Do you study, learn and grow so that you can build up a nice reservoir on which you and perhaps some close friends and family could enjoy some recreation. Or, are you like a river...constantly learning and passing this information along to others, nourishing many through your hard work. Do you find yourself extremely excited about your personal development, filling that reservoir and then stopping for a season, or are you one that maintains consistency by having a daily learning plan?

Although it has not been easy, in my life I've chosen to be a river. I served a church mission for 2 years in my early twenties. Every day I studied for two hours, striving to better my presentation skills, learn new information, and ponder on foundation beliefs and how they could help those that I'd interact with later in the day. When I began my career as a teacher, I found myself studying at night, reading up on the next day's/week's content, carefully selecting non-fiction literature and actively striving to add water into this river so that I could help my students. Now as a speaker, trainer and coach I find that this is even more important. I've built a routine of active study, constantly adding to my knowledge base and to my understanding so that I can continually pour into into those that I work with.


So, if you'd like to be a river, that is, if you'd like to be a person that is continually adding value to others (rather than letting your value settle in a reservoir), here are some short and simple tips:

1. Develop a relationship with time. You have to find time to add to the river and that responsibility lies upon you alone. Many will say they don't have the time, but take away TV, sports, Facebook, or sacrifice a little sleep time and you'll be amazed at what you can learn.

2. Develop a learning plan. Learning cannot be random (you brain has a hard time with random). Take time to think about what you'd like to learn about, why, who would benefit from your learning. Plan what books you'll read, what TED talk topics you'll research, and what websites will give the best information.

3. Don't do this for yourself. This is not so that you can get smarter (although that is a must), but rather this is so that you can feed, nourish and enlarge others and their understanding. This is a mindset thing.

4. Open your mouth. You cannot be a river without opening the flood gates. Begin conversations with interesting things that you've learned, set up learning sessions, book studies and the like. Replace all that sports and political talk with new insights and understandings you've had through your learning. BEWARE: this does not mean that you dominate conversations, over run other people's thoughts or not care about asking them questions and listing to them. This does mean taking time in your life to learn things that will help those around you.

Best of luck in your adventure of becoming a river!

Jason Hunt is a speaker, trainer and coach for the John Maxwell team. He focuses his river on the principles and levers of influence...that is how people can gain and use their influence to create a greater, more positive impact upon their organization. He lives in Minnesota, with a beautiful wife Sarah and four amazing kids.

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