If you ask me who I admire, I’ll always say children.
Their resiliency and enthusiasm is inspiring. But even more so, their thirst for knowledge and orientation for learning about the world is a constant reminder and guide on how to go about life.
As a CEO, I make hundreds of decisions a day, or help to guide others to a decision. I make these decisions, sometimes (often) with less information than I’d like. But I am always committed to learning more and understanding the context.
I find that I surround myself with others who also have a learner orientation. Reflecting on my first year as a CEO and thinking about all that is happening in the world, I can’t help but realize that this has been critical to my ability to navigate the challenges. It’s also vital to how myself, the company and the world moves forward.
As a company, we’re quick to say tell a client, “we’re not experts on your business, you are.” And that’s a good thing. We’ll bring a thirst for knowledge to learn your business, how every dollar is made, where your industry is and where it’s headed — but we will never achieve your level of insider level of knowledge.
Instead, we’ll bring perspective — on your business, on culture, on media and on your audience. We’ll learn from each other. If we all showed up as experts, we’d miss the changes and nuances in the business, the industry and in culture. We’d miss opportunities to truly create impact. We’d miss new ways to do all of the above that we haven’t learned yet!
Learning is how you develop great relationships and make incredible creative work that wins. Learners show up ready to listen and search for possibilities. Experts show up ready to talk and point to past accomplishments.
Being a learner, however, doesn’t mean we ignore the past. We have to learn from it, but we can’t long for it. This has been critical for me over the last year. 72andsunny has never believed in “protecting” our company culture, but instead has embraced our culture as a living organism that evolves with new people and the world.
Still, we haven’t been immune from rituals, processes and more rigid structures within our walls. This last year especially, we’ve listened and evolved in many ways. Amidst conversations about racism within our company and beyond, our leadership had a choice: we could defend the company many of us helped build, or we could embrace the gift of learning and evolution to push us to be a more equitable and inclusive company.
I’m grateful to be surrounded by so many amazing people who have taught us and pushed us forward, who have shown grace and patience as we continue to learn. As a white female from a position of privilege, I realize I still have a lot of learning and evolution to do. And as a company, 72andSunny is definitely still on this journey — but we won’t stop learning and applying what we learn to be better.
I wish society could embrace learning on a more meta scale. Whether it’s the pandemic, systemic racism or other challenges creating divides within government, society, friendships, families and self – what if we all just agreed to learn from each other? So much of this division is rooted in refusing to open the aperture of what we can learn and from who.
I’m committed to continuing to surround myself with people who bring knowledge and new perspectives that can help me continue to grow as a human and a leader. I’m inspired each day by the words of Maya Angelou: “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”
Evin Shutt is CEO of 72andsunny