By Paul Moya, Sanborn & Associates, Inc.
In a relative world, you either get better or you get worse. Period. While my time at Harvard taught me countless lessons–including how to provide more value as a leader and create disruptive innovation in the market–this is one of the most important. The fact is that even if you stay the same, those around you are getting better and, thus,compared to your competition, you are getting worse. There is no “I made it this far so now I just have to maintain” or “It has always worked this way” mentality that will keep you successful.
In order to combat the mythical status quo, I have developed a three-part equation to help you stay ahead in life and business:
(Learn, Grow, Give)
There are few things in the world more powerful and important than designing a personal learning plan. Working 8-5 daily provides an environment conducive for learning new strategies and techniques, but that is not enough. If you want to reach the levels that no one else will reach, you have to be willing to do the work that no one else will do. In other words, you must be committed to learning inside and outside of your career path if you want to stay competitive.
People often complain for lack of time, but I find that usually it is a lack of priorities. Skip your 30-minute sitcom and instead read important news articles or an interesting novel each night. Or–even better–enroll in a course from EdX and learn from world-renowned professors from Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and countless others–all for free! Do whatever works for you, but just make sure you do something to learn each day.
I still remember attending my first leadership conference as a kid in my local 4-H club. The leader stood in front of the room and told us something like “If you don’t know where you are going then any road will get you there.” While I cringe each time I hear this cliche, I have to admit that the underlying principle here is valid–without goals you will never reach your target.
Inspired by a mentor of mine, Tom Mendoza, I have started what I call my “90 Gs.” Every 90 days I set 3 personal and 3 professional goals in the areas that matter most to me. Then at the end of the 90 days, I evaluate the goals on my own, seek feedback from others, and rate myself from 1-10 (10 is best). This approach has impacted my ability to continuously grow, and I am confident that it will do the same for you.
Over the last several years working alongside corporate executives, student leaders, educators and business owners, I have seen a multitude of people burn out faster than tires at a Nascar race. These people are smart, talented, ambitious and often very successful (at least at first). So do they burn out because their organizations are falling apart or because they stopped learning? No, and often the exact opposite is true. They are the leaders who take the first two principles to heart and forget about finding any way to give to others and to their community. Just imagine if the Amazon River took in water from many other smaller rivers but never released that water into other rivers downstream; the walls would break and the communities around would soon be flooded. It would be a disaster! And the same is true of leaders who take in but never give out.
So do you find a younger person in your company to mentor, or do you volunteer with your loved ones at a local food bank, or do you donate to organizations like Heifer International? Yes; the answer is yes. Do all of these, or a combination of these, or something else that you are equally passionate about. Without some way to share what you take in, it will only be a short matter of time before the walls burst and disaster strikes.
Paul’s Plan of Action:
#1- Develop a learning plan and start at 20-30 minutes daily.
#2- Write down 3 personal and 3 professional goals to work toward over the next 90 days.
#3- Pick one thing you will do to better the world around you and commit to doing it at least once per week.
Now that you have the tools, go out and put them into practice. Follow the plan of action each day and make sure you are the one ahead of the pack instead of the one being passed by the pack.