“When you stop growing you start dying,” is a famous quote attributed to William S. Burroughs, a major postmodern American author.
To me, the quote implies that there is no stasis, there is only growth or decay. From this rationale, one could argue that maintaining the status quo is actually the slow death of something.
The idea of a ‘status quo demise’ could be applied to so many things – relationships, businesses, even a savings account that doesn’t accumulate interest.
So, what is the alternative? I would argue that it is the constant pursuit of improvement in any form. The pursuit of professional development and of lifelong learning, of challenging oneself.
I don’t believe there are any other ways to avoid the backwards pull of the already-know, except for the forward motion of discovering the unknown, whatever that may be.
Several professions lean heavily into this notion, teaching and medicine being some of them. The occupation lends itself to the idea that more can always be done, learned or experienced as a professional.
But why is the practice of professional development not embraced by more organizations? I can almost guarantee that for every industry that exists there are opportunities for employees to attend conferences, build networks and learn from others’ successes – but especially from their failures.
I believe growth is ultimately a choice. Sometimes we seek it out and can prepare for it. Other times life's circumstances dictate the arrival of a learning opportunity like a meteor heading straight for you.
But then, there are times when we see an opportunity for growth or a challenge beckoning for us to take it on – and we want nothing to do with it.
With the obstacles and hardships that life seems so eager to provide at no extra charge, it can be easy to want to say no. Easy to say no to going the extra mile, no to taking on another responsibility, and no to learning a skill that computers may one day do at the touch of a button.
But, if we give up on developing and growing at any age, are we living or simply existing?
To just exist is to allow time to pass through you like sand through a colander.