As I talk to successful professionals I admire, I am often struck by one commonality: They are committed to always studying their craft. To me, it’s lifelong learning separates those who will continue to rise in their fields from those who are content to just float along.
No matter what stage of your career, having that thirst to keep learning – looking for more inspiration, more knowledge, more mastery – will be pivotal in your success. Here are three suggestions.
PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT
World-class athletes don’t ever, ever rest. They are always pushing – punishing practice regimens coupled with new strategies and different coaches. There was a time when yoga was a fringe “hippie” activity; now it’s common for professional football teams to get their sun salutation on.
But practice isn’t relegated to athletes. The brilliant comic Louis C.K. obsessively rehearses – for instance, before an SNL appearance he’ll go to a comedy club and try out his material. He regularly records his performances to listen to later and see which lines are garnering the best laughs.
STUDY FROM THE MASTERS
Successful CEOs know they have to keep learning to stay fresh, whether it’s a new management technique or an industry pivot. That’s why leaders attend conferences where business luminaries are presenting and learn from experts at TED Talks. I recently read that Andy Cohen watches old Johnny Carson and Jack Paar clips online to improve his talk show hosting skills.
As for me, I’m constantly watching videos and going to see other speakers to learn what works for them and how I can incorporate their best practices in my presentations.
It’s why younger actors are honored to be on a set with veteran stars. It’s why presidents read biographies of other presidents. By studying the best in your field, you can up your game, too.
WIDEN YOUR PERSPECTIVE
It’s easy to surround ourselves with people who are just like us. But to grow, you have to challenge yourself by considering other perspectives and other ways of doing things.
Think of traditional banking firms, which are increasingly adopting the workplace norms of tech firms, or consider how managers of all industries adopt sports metaphors and coaching techniques. Trying a new hobby, reading about a completely different industry or joining a networking group with people of different ages can help boost your creativity and bring fresh ideas.
There’s a concept in Zen Buddhism called shoshin, or “beginner’s mind,” which means being open to learning more, no matter what level of success you have achieved. It allows you to approach your work with fresh enthusiasm and vigor, realizing there is always something new to learn.
Sometimes when we are involved in the day-to-day efforts of our own busy work life, it can be daunting to think about adding “education” to the list. But when you’re passionate about what you do, learning new techniques and applying new strategies will start to feel like play, rather than work.