Everyone has a thing. A thing they love. A thing they are good at. A thing they could talk about all day, and a thing that makes them smile. Some people paint. Some people sing. Some people play sports. What’s yours? What is the one thing (or two or three) that makes your heart sing, time fly and that fills you with a deep sense of joy, excitement or satisfaction?
For me it’s learning. Learning and growth. They make my day. With childlike curiosity and a constant thirst for more I absorb books, videos and podcasts, and simply enjoy pondering and discussing new concepts and information.
The problem is, so I recently realised, I haven’t always been very good at it. Quite the contrary, in fact. For years, I was undermining my own growth with three strategies I wasn’t even aware of. Here they are.
Two Little, But Powerful Words
Ah! Who hasn’t said it? Sometimes as a throw-away line; sometimes to shut someone else up; and yet at other times because we honestly believe it’s the truth. Two little words. Two little, but powerful words: I know!
Most of the time these two words are uttered, they pretty much shut down the conversation straight away. Let me give you an example. One of my biggest weaknesses (yes, I called it a weakness!) is marketing, which – when you run a business – can be a bit of a problem. So, a good friend of mine did the kind thing, pulled me aside one day and said: “Maike, you either need to outsource it or sit down, learn it and do it yourself.” My answer? “I know!” But did I? Because if I did, then why didn’t I do anything about it? What do they say again? “To know and not to do is to not yet know”. And that’s the truth, isn’t it.
Yes, of course, I intellectually knew that my friend was right, but all my little ‘I know’ did was to shut down the conversation. I could have responded in a million different ways that – if learning and growth were really that important to me – could have led to a very different result. For instance: “Thanks for reminding me. I really do have to do something, don’t I. Do you know anyone by any chance who is good with social media marketing?”
Just an example. There are a million other responses I could have used. The key difference is that ‘I know’ tends to slam shut the door, whilst others open it to allow an opportunity for learning, growth and – in this example most importantly – progress.
So the next time you’re about to send out your little ‘I know’, just pause for a moment and ask yourself: do you really know or are you just trying to get out of the conversation?
As a student, I was part of a student leadership organisation. First in Germany and then in Australia, where I was completing my Master degree. Given that the majority of members were Bachelor students, I was up to seven years older than most of them. Of course, at the age of 25, I thought that this was an irreconcilable difference and that my age meant that I had tons more experience and wisdom up my sleeve. Consequently, I refused to learn from them: at meetings, at conference workshops or in any other way, shape or form. The sheer thought of an eighteen year old talking to me about leadership made me sneer.
It was only recently that I realised that, over the years, my refusal to learn from someone younger had turned into a trend. And this trend hadn’t been limited to people younger than me. I had made judgments on a lot of people: too young, too old, too educated, too uneducated,… you name it… to learn from.
So here is what happened to turn this around. A few months ago, I desperately needed some expert advice in an area of my life, in which I felt stuck. Thus I did my due diligence, engaged in research, talked to people and always came up with the same result: the person best suited for my needs was someone I knew from my student organisation times. Someone younger, someone who – back then – I could never take seriously and – quite honestly – hadn’t really cared for that much.
Ouch. My ego wasn’t happy. At all. So I did the natural thing: discarded him as a possibility to help me solve my problem and continued my search for someone else. Unfortunately, it wasn’t that simple, because all roads led back to him.
So one day, as I was grumbling along when yet another reference to him popped up, the penny suddenly dropped and I realised that my attitude was preventing me from the one thing I liked best: learning and growing. Once the realisation hit, I checked out his stuff and absolutely loved it. Best of all?! It solved my problem quickly.
I felt like a fool, but that was a good thing, because it was one of those aha-momentsthat a lot of people talk about. After this experience, I swore to be open to learning from everyone around me. In some cases, what people have to say will be useful, in others it won’t. And that’s okay.
So the learning here is: attitude alert! From time to time, it’s a great exercise to sit back and contemplate whether your attitude is getting you closer to your goal or is leading you away from it.
All Thinking, No Doing
The last one is a quick one. A lot of people attend seminars, read books, watch videos and think: “Wow, what great concepts. I must incorporate this into my life.” And then, after trialling that ‘new thing’ for a few days, they revert back to their old habits and ways of doing things; with the book and seminar handouts put into a dark corner of the study, soon to be forgotten.
Well, I know this because I used to be one of them. In fact, as a proper serial learner, I used to read books, summarise them, followed by sorting the summary printouts neatly into folders. And guess what happens next?! Exactly. Absolutely nothing. Never to be touched or opened again, the folders started collecting dust on my shelf before taking up space in containers. Most recently, they started their one-way journey to the bin.
In short, I was learning – A LOT – but I wasn’t using this knowledge for anything, least of all application in real life. In fact, I was all thinking, not doing. I was learning but not growing, because – let’s face it – in order to grow we must actually implement and do. So, nowadays, whilst I still love learning, my main emphasis is on growth. Instead of absorbing one book, webinar, video and blog after another – just like a junkie – I take one idea and implement it in my life.
Of course, sometimes the shoe doesn’t fit and in these cases, I abandon that idea and move on to the next. The key difference is that these days my focus is on small, actionable steps arising from the new learning as opposed to focusing on the learning itself. I am sure you recently (or not so recently) read a book, watched a video, or attended a seminar. So what is your small, actionable step from that?
Anyhow, that’s it from me: three bullet proof strategies to undermine your growth. Take it from someone who knows. I am off now – to read a book!