The best advice I’ve received: Never stop studying

Hiroshi Mikitani
CEO, Rakuten Inc
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Many students around the world have recently finished their classes before taking a holiday break. I have no doubt they had tests before their classes ended. Those who studied surely did well.

This reminds me of the best advice I ever received came from my favorite college professor – and I was not all that happy to hear it at the time.

“Study your entire life. Study everything.”

This wasn’t what I wanted to hear. I was not a patient student. I was the type who preferred to cram the night before rather than spread my studying over time. I certainly didn’t envision studying over my entire life.

But I have realized my professor was absolutely right. The key to success is to never stop studying.

Think of it in terms of an athlete. Does an athlete stop practicing when he turns professional? Of course not. He continues to practice. The day he stops, he is no longer an athlete.

The same is true in any profession. When you are in school, of course you study. But when you leave school, that is hardly the time to stop studying – just as it would be a terrible time for an athlete to stop practicing. As you enter professional life, you need to study to maintain your position and to advance.

What to I mean by study? Study anything. Everything.

  • Study a new language. At Rakuten, we require our employees to learn English. Even when they learn, we require them to improve. We make language study part of the everyday work of our company.
  • Study history. I am often inspired by great moments in history – for example, the way in which President John F. Kennedy was able to inspire and lead the U.S. science community to put a man on the moon.
  • Study success. All over the world, new processes are being invented. When we study successful people and companies, we see ways we can improve our own lives today.

Study your entire life, even if it is just an hour a day. The studying you do today will determine the person you will be in five years. What will that person of the future achieve?

This article is published in collaboration with LinkedIn. Publication does not imply endorsement of views by the World Economic Forum.

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Author: Hiroshi Mikitani is the CEO of Rakuten Inc.

Image: A Master of Business Administration (MBA) student works on a computer in a library at Management Development Institute (MDI) in Gurgaon, on the outskirts of New Delhi May 2, 2012. REUTERS.

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