You may have heard this Malcolm X quote before:

“Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.”

How are you preparing for tomorrow?

As I write this, I’m sitting in my office along with a wall of books— all of which contribute to my “passport to the future.”

I also have a row full of books with pages patiently waiting for me to consume.

Do you have such a bookshelf?

And if you do, what’s on it?

This is mine:

bookshelf

I, like every one of you reading this, have been communicating with the world around me since I was born. In fact, we can’t help it—even when we are silent, we’re sending a message.

If you remember last week’s blog, I mentioned a National Speakers Association conference I attended in Orlando.

What’s especially gratifying about that conference is the thought that everyone there (all 1,300 of us) was there for the same reason I was—to improve.

The fact is, no matter how good we are (or think we are) there is always an opportunity to get better.

One of the speakers who took to the main stage on the final day of the conference truly exhibited this fact. And he is someone I will never forget.

Walter Bond is a former NBA player who has since reinvented himself into a highly sought after motivational speaker.

He had a simple message for his audience that day about the importance of working and learning in their ‘off-season’—that time when we’re not getting paid to teach or train for clients.

Yes, you need ‘down-time’ and an opportunity to put your feet up, but if one’s goal is to get better, to improve— that doesn’t happen by happenstance.

Such growth is not achieved by simply thinking about getting better or hoping for a better performance next time.

After all, no one has ever achieved his or her dream without actually doing something about it.

We must work at it and learn from others who have gone before us.

For Walter Bond, as an NBA player, it was about spending time watching ‘game films’ and developing good habits and rituals within his practice time.

That was not just the time that he spent with his teammates on the court, but rather the time spent on his own in the gym as well.

The message he made was clear: if you want to improve, get out there and practice!

And along with practice comes creating good habits and rituals and learning from others.

Which is exactly why I was in Orlando in the first place—to learn from others and expose myself to different perspectives.

But how do I measure the progress that I want to make?

Is it in the evaluation comments from participants in the various workshops that I deliver?

Or is it the applause at the end of a keynote, or perhaps the smiling faces and energetic handshakes at the end of a presentation?

The evidence for me is a simple self-reflective question: Did I make a positive difference to someone I met today? followed quickly by this question: What can I do tomorrow to make sure that I am better next time?

We should all be asking ourselves these questions—whether or not you are a trainer, a facilitator, a coach, or a professional speaker.

Whatever our occupation is, our responsibility to ourselves (and others) is to always be growing.

And to grow, we need to learn.

Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.

Is your passport up to date?