The High Value of Lifelong Learning

By Jim Cathcart

“Created and repaired in the USA…but made somewhere else.”

When I grew up it seemed every disposable product was labeled “Made in Japan” or “Made in China.” If it was easy to reproduce – or inexpensive – then that’s where it was made.

It may have been made in another country, but we often had to repair it or replace it. “Made in the USA” products were produced in Detroit or Pittsburgh or Chicago. They were solid, reliable, and substantial.  

At least that’s the way it seemed to me from my home in Little Rock, Arkansas, in the late 20th Century.

The Growing Influence of China

Japan had its renaissance a generation ago and, today, its innovative products are serious players in the world markets. China, on the other hand, has remained mostly a manufacturing economy.

For the past few years I’ve been making annual trips to China to conduct seminars on leadership, sales, and communication skills. My audiences have been 1,000 to 2,500 young success seekers who sit enthralled with learning for up to six hours a day as I share ideas and techniques. It’s not that I’m necessarily that interesting but rather that they are that interested. These folks are hungry! They’re eager to learn.

For generations the Chinese have been learning, copying and producing what the USA and other countries have thought up, tested, and refined. But now, their leaders are encouraging them to innovate. They want to learn to think like we do.

The Will to Prepare

There are 400 million millennials in China, born between approximately 1980 and 2000. By contrast, there are 80 million millennials in the USA. China has more young adults than we have people of all ages in our entire country plus all of Canada!

And they work differently than we do. They spend years learning, practicing, and studying. Long before they need to take an entrance exam or compete for a job, they are spending hours every day in intense study of their chosen craft. Plus, they want to learn to think like you do. One-third of all international students in U.S. universities are Chinese students – learning here, then returning home.

Why does this matter to you and me? Because these are the people with whom we will be competing in coming years. They are learning English, studying in our schools, learning our techniques, and competing with our products. So far, it’s been mild – but wait till they start innovating! When their creativity and entrepreneurial juices are unleashed there will be no force large enough to resist them.

The Value of Lifelong Learning

What can you do about it? For one, learn like they do. Start spending a portion of each week learning skills and techniques you don’t need…yet. “Yet” – that’s the word to watch. Business is fine now, but what is the next stage of business for you? With whom will you be competing for tomorrow’s sales? What technology will you need to understand in order to keep up? What could you learn now that would give you more options later?

What technology could you begin to invest in today that would expand your capacity to reach more customers with more services next year? In the new book, Sales Ex Machina, authors Victor Antonio and James Glenn-Anderson show exactly how technology is not just augmenting but replacing the human element in some of the sales steps we thought only we carbon-based life forms could handle.

In order to remain a leader in your community and industry, and against impressive new competitors, you and I must continually innovate and prepare. Learn to use technology we don’t yet believe we will need. Create new solutions – exciting ways to do things better than before – and prepare for opportunities you haven’t even seen yet. Get ready…for more than you originally thought you’d need to be prepared for. Just keep growing, learning, experimenting, collaborating, and improving. That’s the American Way and it is what makes the rest of the world want to be more like us. GBA! God bless America.

Jim Cathcart, CSP, CPAE, is the original author of Relationship Selling and one of the world’s leading professional speakers. Jim is a regular contributor to Selling Power and a certified Peak Performance Mindset trainer. Contact Jim at