I find it interesting that people believe that there are only certain places or situations they can learn from and others they cannot.

In my experience, it is possible to learn from just about any situation, conference or interaction with the people around me if I’m looking for what it is that I’m able to learn.

This doesn’t mean that you should flippantly go to every conference available to you. But rather that you should attempt to stretch yourself by attending things just outside your comfort zone in order to explore the possibility that there may be something there for you to learn.

If you’re having trouble thinking of places this could happen for you, here are some examples of places I have benefited from in the past.

1. Travel and Vacations. I recently made a trip to Africa, and I was able to learn several things there. The significance here is that this trip was more vacation than work, so I wasn’t really looking for things to learn but, to my surprise, I did. This came through great conversations, reading a good book and simple observation.

2. Sundance Hospital Learning Lunches. These free lunches include CEU’s for professionals, but anyone can attend. The lunches I have made in the past have been informative, sparked new ideas and opened networking doors I would not have connected with otherwise.

3. Leadercast Conference. This conference is simulcast from Atlanta around the globe. The content is geared to business leaders but, if you’re looking for it, anyone can glean ideas and information that could propel you and those around you to the next level of your life journey.

4. Industry-Specific Conferences. For me, these have been counseling conferences in the past. As my role with Teen Life has changed, I am now looking at classes and conferences related to nonprofit management and fundraising like the upcoming American Fundraising Professionals Conference in Dallas.

5. Industry Related Conferences. I only recently have looked more into these. For our organization, this would be school related conferences. Because of the work we do directly with school counselors and students, conferences focused in those areas would be a great related-learning opportunity.

You may be wondering how this connects to working with teens. One application I believe is for students who are in classes they feel are not relevant to their future. I would argue that those classes are helping them build a baseline and potentially even explore new possibilities for what their future maybe. You never know what the future holds.

This could also apply to students who get their first job. Maybe it’s not the job they hope to have their whole life, but it’s what they can get right now. It’s like my grandfather used to tell me that if I don’t want to be a roofer my whole life, I better make a plan for a different career path.

So, what do you think? What are some non traditional ways you have learned important lessons in your life? Let us know!

Ricky Lewis is our Executive Director and has been with us since the beginning. As a father of 7, he seeks to help parents and their kids Live Life Better.