You don’t have to come into a situation knowing it all. But you do have to come in wanting to learn.
Gathering useful knowledge from many sources is one of the most underrated qualities of a leader. Good leaders constantly seek it, collect it, and store it into their brains, computers, or trusted administrative assistants.
One CEO told me, “I am always in the mode to learn something every day. I ask myself, ‘What’s here that would be beneficial to understand?’ I read everything I can and tap into everything I can.”
Without lots of information, you don’t have a chance of being a leader. You can’t argue your point or even discuss it unless you have tons of facts and material. You can’t be a change agent, be globally aware, be innovative and creative, be really good at your job, be decisive, manage your career well, or develop people.
No investment is guaranteed in life except the investment you make in yourself. Continuously learning is to invest in you.
Learning is one thing; getting better from it is another. Conscious, incrementally improved repetition is the key to improved performance.
Steps to repeat over and over include:
- Pick something you want to get better at.
- Set a goal around it.
- Pick apart what’s necessary to reach the goal.
- Part by part, piece by piece, deliberately drill the parts. (Well-done parts make for a well-done whole.)
- On each part, get feedback.
- Seek causes and remedies to problem areas.
- Take that feedback, make changes accordingly, and concentrate on improving at least a little.
- Take the slightly improved, and repeat the effort, feedback, and slight improvement. Social scientists find that you have to repeat an action 28 times before it becomes a habit. I don’t care whether you do it 8, 28, or 228 times, just be sure that each time you are practicing a little bit better execution than the last.
Every task you do, from the most menial to the most significant, can be improved with this conscious preparation: voice-mail messages, report writing, cocktail-party small talk, public speaking, selling, negotiating, and so forth.
Every time you step onto the court, you have to do better. It’s like the Olympics.
The best in their field have an attitude of lifelong learning. Warren Buffett says that if you end your day without knowing more than you started, you’re not doing something right. Tiger Woods says that he wakes up every day knowing that he can be a better golfer. The artist Goya at age 82 wrote in a corner of one of his paintings, “I am still learning.”
When you see yourself improving, it becomes interesting. Big changes don’t happen overnight, but change can happen from this minute of practice to the next minute, from this day to the next.
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