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Kaizen – The Fast Way to Success in the Classroom – and in Life

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”  – Dr.  Seuss

There is a Japanese word that I’ve adopted as my life’s philosophy. The word is Kaizen.

Kaizen means “to change for the better.”

It’s the idea that there is no end to learning. Kaizen is the concept that encourages us to always focus on improvement and self-development.

This never-stop-learning concept really isn’t new. It’s something that we as educators say to ourselves and our students all the time. What I’m talking about is making a decision to make self-development a daily part of our life.

Most of us understand that exercise is important for our health and well-being. For that reason, we have an exercise regimen that we follow – or try to follow – on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. We dedicate time to develop our bodies, so we can live healthier. Kaizen is a concept that asks us to do the same for our minds. Kaizen asks us to actively dedicate time to developing our minds, so that we can think healthier.

I used to believe that once I graduated college with my degree, that I was finished with learning –no more books, no more studying, no more school.

What I’ve learned, however, and what has made a tremendous impact on my life, is that if we want to be more successful in any area of our lives, we have to become kaizen-focused.

We have to make the decision to dedicate time to improve our minds on a regular and on-going basis.

When I was in college, I worked at a newspaper company loading vans with bundles of newspapers. They were heavy, and at first, I struggled with their weight. After a few weeks, however, I realized that my arms were getting bigger and the bundles were getting lighter. What happened? Through the constant use of my muscles, my body became stronger.

This is an example of what I call, development through experience. I got stronger, not by design, but rather by unintentional exercise. It took a while, but my body got stronger just by the normal daily use of my muscles.

Had it been my intention to develop my arm muscles, I could have done it a lot sooner if I had taken time each day to lift weights at the local gym. Right? If I had created a physical exercise regimen, I could have developed my body much sooner than by just working at my job.

The point I’m trying to make is, just with physical exercise, there are basically two ways to develop our brain as well. The slow way and the fast way.


Let me explain.

The Slow Way of Learning

This is the way most people learn.  It’s called trial and error. Another word for this is, “experience.”

After spending 10 years at the same job, we become better at it. Right? We know what works and what doesn’t, and we’ve become experts at our job. Brand new hires follow us around, because according to them, “we know everything.”

The only problem with this way of learning is that to gain 10 years of expertise, it takes 10 years.

What do we do if we don’t want to wait 10 years to become experts?


The Fast Way of Learning

What I’ve learned, a little late in my career unfortunately, is that there is a way to develop our mind a lot sooner than by just experience.

The way to get expertise in an area sooner than by experience is by “learning from experts.”

I’ve learned that the path to success is not hidden. It’s been discovered, paved and placed on the map. I just need to follow the map.

If I need success in the area of leadership or communication or any other area where I might feel deficient, I don’t have to just learn from my own trial and error. I can learn from the trials and errors of others who have found that success I desire.

This is why reading has become such a major part of my life.

Along with physical exercise, I have chosen to focus on mental exercise as well. That’s Kaizen.

I am always reading. My library has grown so much in the last few years. I love it. I look forward to quiet moments in my day, so I can pull out my book and read.

I know what you’re saying.

“Sam, I just don’t have the time to read.”

I used to say the same thing.

What I discovered was that if I really want to make something a priority in my life, I will make the time. Just like physical exercising, we need to make the time. For me, I decided to wake up a little earlier every day and use those extra minutes as my reading time. I also always have a book in my car, so when I’m waiting for my wife while she’s shopping, I have my book ready to go.

The best strategy for reading that I use is listening to audiobooks. I subscribe to, and I’m able to download books and listen to them while I’m driving to work. That in itself has made my commute to work so much better. Traffic used to frustrate me. Now I’m kind of happy when I see traffic approaching, especially if I’m in the middle of a good book.

The point I’m trying to make is if you want to be more successful in the classroom (or in any area of your life), you have to make kaizen a priority.

I wish I would have started my self-development journey sooner in my career. Still, these last few years of focused learning have been the most transformational years of my life.

I have listed a few books that I have found valuable to me as I become a better educator, father, husband and friend. You can find them on my Success Library page. Click here.

Since you’re already reading this blog post, you probably don’t need to be reminded of the importance of reading for self-development. Let me encourage you to continue on your journey. Not only will you benefit from your Kaizen, but so will your family, your colleagues and especially your students.

Until next time, here’s to your Success in the Classroom!



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