The Old Dog May Not Learn New Tricks, But He Can Always Learn New Lessons

As I vacation in Italy, I find myself learning an important lesson – not one that I didn’t tacitly understand before, but one that became more pronounced in my mind over the last few days.

I’ve always said that in the business of turnaround you want to go with the gray-hair or no-hair guy. That means that you want the guy with the experience. People don’t just enter turnaround fresh out of business school. They get experience by being involved in tons of other businesses, transactions, organizations and the like – especially ones that have faced crises and big problems.

But two people (or groups) have taught me a valuable corollary lesson: you’re never too old to learn something new.

The first person who helped me see this was my wife. In preparation for our trip to Italy – a place we try to go often and that we plan on returning to in the future – my wife started studying Italian with a new language program. Though she didn’t have much time before we came, she loved learning it and has already put many of the phrases and much of her vocabulary to good use. And she’s learning tons more every day we’re here.

I was so impressed that in her mid-fifties she started learning a new language. It’s enriching her life, it’s helping ours, and she’s found that the act of learning a new language and subsequently thinking in that language is letting her look at the world – and especially Italy – in different ways.

Now, my lesson of “never too old to learn something new” does not come from her learning Italian at her age – she’s not old at all! It’s me learning that at my age I can still learn new things and gain valuable experiences.

The other place I’ve learned this lesson is from my partners. They’re a great group, but they’re not gray-hair/old-hair people. They’re experienced but far more youthful than I am. That makes me think twice about my favorite saying, since I learn a ton from them and value the incredible work they do. As excellent turnaround professionals, my partners have taught me that there’s always something new to be learned, and you don’t have to be bald or gray to teach the lesson.

So, as I explore Italy, I have a renewed sense of the value of new experiences and new knowledge and the ways those experiences can enrich my life and the lives and businesses of my clients. I may have seen darn near everything under the sun as it relates to turnaround and business, but every star out there is a sun so I suppose there’s a lot left to learn.

What new lessons have you learned?

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