Ok, so far in this list of career advice we have the following points:
- Plan your day on your way in to work
- Complete one thing every day
Who knows, I might end up with more points in this list than I first thought, but hey, let’s cross that bridge when we get there and for today concentrate on the next one, which actually is the most important one of them all, and which has been completely critical to my life and my career. I actually started this when I was 13 years old, and at the time it was mainly focused on guitar playing, but as the tip proved successful I quickly adopted the thinking to other things in life (Aikido, Chemistry, Far-East history, studying languages, programming etc), and needless to say, to my work when I got my first jobs. If you are going to do only one thing from this list, this is the one you should pick:
3. Learn (at least) one new thing every day
Again, this is all in relation to you and your knowledge, it is not about someone else and/or their knowledge, and it is all about mindset. What is new knowledge to you might be old knowledge to someone else. Your knowledge, of things that you do almost without thinking today, might be new knowledge bordering on magic to someone else.
Apart from the fact that learning new things is fun we have spent most of our lives learning things. In fact, we should be pretty good at it! Then BAM!, all of a sudden adulthood happens, which lead to professional careers, we sort of step out of learning mode and people too often find themselves thinking they should know it all, and to have all the answers, otherwise they wouldn’t be very good at their jobs, right?
“It is what we think we know that keeps us from learning.”
– Chester Barnard
To continuously learn and picking up new skills, amending old skills, asking questions when something is unclear, those are the signs of being professional more so than burping up something old and stale which was never understood or thought through properly the first time, let alone now. Learning, and wanting to learn, is a sign of health, professional pride and of being an insightful person.
To me, working with knowledge workers, the people who never stop learning make the best decisions, mainly because they have never stopped wanting to perfect what they do, whilst being open-minded and self-critical enough to go for the best solution, not only The Solution they know of from the past. They have done all the mistakes. They probably have a few successes in there too, and they might just have picked out the nuggets that make it work on a regular basis. They in any case definitely are the most likely people to land it near the target.
Ignorance is NOT bliss
I am pointing this out as people often are ashamed for what they don’t know. Stop trying to appear like you understand it all even if you don’t; ask those who know how and/or why, or just research it yourself (though asking people who actually know usually is the best research).
“I said that an expert was a fella who was afraid to learn anything new because then he wouldn’t be an expert any more.”
– Harry S. Truman
Agreed on his analysis, as that is all too common in how people see themselves, and their relation to what they do not know.
Here’s a News Flash for you: most people know a lot less than you think (some even know less than they think, but that is for another blog post I think). Just like you, most people are often confused, amused and some sometimes even scared by the fact they have gotten to where they are without some knowledge (which they don’t have, but have seen or heard about) they think is critical/vital. The work life in the world out there is full of people scared of being “found out”, and they think that showing/highlighting that you don’t know everything is a first step on a very slippery slope downwards.
You can do yourself a favour and do what you can to avoid becoming one of them.
If you instead embrace the fact that you don’t (yet) know everything, but that you are working on correcting this, it will actually make you stronger, both in the eyes of others and to yourself, especially in the near future when you notice a very tangible difference in where you were and where you are now.
Showing that you want to continuously learn usually lead to people being intrigued by what you in fact do know (perhaps the things you learnt on a previous day). It also opens up for people to feel quite important, if you ask them how they do something they normally do but that you do not understand and you ask them to explain (though this obviously involves actually, as in Actually, listening, a not too common skill these days…).
So how do you go about it?
Simple. Write, and keep, lists. Make them as secret as you want, but make sure you set aside some time to prioritize your list, and then start chipping things off that list. When I say prioritize it could be wise to let your position in the rest of the world dictate the order. I often prioritize things on my lists that I know will be of importance in this (or the next) project at work that I am (or will be) involved in.
For the synergy between these career tips, do yourself a favour and keep this daily task separated from the “Finish one thing every day”, as if you separate them you can end up with a double whammy for your career boost.
Also, when saying “set aside time”, that is quite literally what you should do, every single day, unless work has actually enabled you to learn your thing for that day by its own course. If you are closing in on your work day and you honestly can’t say to yourself that “Yep, today I learnt a new thing and can tick it off my list“, spend the last 30 min of your work day to sort it out. Failing that, make sure you do it when you get home (family/friends/pets permitting of course).
Some things take time to learn, so on my list (which has about 50 things on it at any point) there are no progress bars, but I have in fact figured out quite a lot about quite a few of them already, just not enough to be able to say I now know it. I think a lot about things, and I could probably make an educated guess where it will land, but me, being me, I need to prove it to myself. That is my rules for my learning though, and you should set your rules to suit you, your life and your learning.
“The more I learn, the more I realize I don’t know.”
I never regret things (as I believe I would actually repeat whatever mistake I have made again if I was re-winded to the exactly same spot back in time, and all the variables were the same, so regret would simply be a waste of my energy. Energy which I instead could use focusing ahead, not to waste it on regretting bad decisions from the past, which at the time appeared as the best out of the options given) but if there is one thing that comes close to regret for me, it is this: I never took a journal of the things I learnt over the years. It would have made for awesome/amusing reading today, at least for me.