Ancora imparo, translated as “I am still learning” or “Still, I am
learning,” is attributed to Michelangelo in his eighty-seventh year.
The man who painted the Sistine Chapel and sculpted the Pieta and
David, whose very name evokes mastery of his craft, exemplifies a
lifelong learning philosophy.

Contrast him with a fifty-two year old executive I read about in the
Wall Street Journal touting in an interview that he had never written
or sent an email, refused to read staff messages received in email, and
was uninterested in learning how to access the internet. He was
perfectly content using l980s skills in the 21st century.

I\’ve met too many people in the workplace who think they only need the
skills and knowledge they have. They\’re content doing things the way
they\’ve always done them. They\’re not interested in learning and
growing and stretching. They\’re not interested in keeping up with
technology, improved methodologies or new approaches. They\’re not
interested in faster, better or enhanced ways.

They\’re satisfied with how they do what they do, believing what\’s
worked in the past, will keep working for them in the future. They
think they know what they need to know. But they\’re wrong. People who
stop learning stifle their opportunities, reduce their results and
limit their life\’s potential.

These status quo people can be found in any age group. I\’ve known as
many twenty-five year olds as fifty-five year olds with this
self-limiting mentality at work. You see, it\’s not an age, but a
mind-set. Are you a finished product or a work in progress? How you
answer impacts your future.

People who embrace an ancora imparo philosophy are easy to spot in the
workplace. These are the people with new ideas; the ones focused on
continuous improvement; the ones enhancing their productivity and
constantly developing their skills. These are the people offered
interesting work, new projects and increased responsibilities. They\’re
also the ones receiving the largest increases in a pay-for-performance
environment. That\’s because they\’re making the biggest contributions.

They invest in themselves. They spend time learning new things,
challenging their thinking, practicing their skills and developing
themselves. Like Michelangelo, they\’re interested in becoming better
tomorrow at what they do than they are today. For them, learning is a
never ending process of becoming; of developing their unique gifts.

It\’s no surprise it\’s these same people who are winning at working.
Want to be one of them? Make ancora imparo a guiding principle for your

Nan Russell has spent over twenty years in management, most recently with QVC as a Vice President. She has held leadership positions in Human Resource Development, Communication, Marketing and line Management. Nan has a B.A. from Stanford University and M.A. from the University of Michigan. Currently working on her first book, Winning at Working: 10 Lessons Shared, Nan is a writer, columnist, and speaker. Her career insights column, Winning at Working ( ) regularly appears on over eighty websites; and her life-reflections column, In the Scheme of Things ( is published in six states and Canada. Her work has been selected to appear in several anthologies. To sign up for Nan's free eColumn(s), or read more about Nan or her work, visit: