This past August, I took some time off to read and reflect. I especially focused my reading on some self-growth books that had been lying on my shelf for a while. August is my birthday month and it’s around this time I take time off work to travel or spend time with my loved ones. It is also during this month that I have done some very helpful reflections and made some of the most important decisions in my life; both on a personal level and professionally, and this time they are informed by lessons from reading.
As I read along, there were a few consistent messages that stood out from these books. These messages were probably prominent since they answered some of the questions that had been in my mind for a while.
Below, I discuss each of the questions and lessons learned under each.
Am I back up the right tree?
I felt that I needed to know if I was on the right career line before I progressed into the next year. For most of us, knowing what we want to do with our lives is the biggest hurdle to building a successful career. Some lucky few know it early enough, while for others, it takes years and a lot of trials and errors. We skip from one career to the other before finally settling into the one that feels right for us.
For individuals with many talents, for example, it is difficult to pick one item and stick to it knowing that they could excel in something else as well. One may end up becoming a jack of all trades and a master of none. Many renown researchers and authors such as Malcolm Gladwell in Outliers, Napoleon Hill in Think and Grow Rich, Angela Duckworth in Grit and John Maxwell in Today Matters emphasize that it is by working on a skill constantly that we excel at it.
I learned that it is important that I spend my life doing something that makes me want to get out of bed every morning. It’s crucial that I love what I do such that no matter how mundane it may feel sometimes, I am willing to do it over and over, a million times until I become great at it. As a writer and a trainer therefore, I agree that the more I do these things, the better I become at them. Sometimes I don’t feel inspired to write at all, but when I ask myself what else I’d rather be doing, I simply pick up my laptop and type away.
How gritty am I?
Psychologist Angela Duckworth in her book Grit, explains that grit is made up of passion and perseverance. Some of us are not as successful as we would like to be in our lines of work probably because we are not passionate enough and lack perseverance. A lot of times we give up on something because it didn’t work for us and jump onto the next thing. Before we know it, we have jumped into different things without staying in one long enough for our persistence to pay back.
The funny thing is, we hear about passion and perseverance all the time. You are probably rolling your eyes at this article before jumping onto the next one to look for something more motivating. Before you do that, ask yourself; have you ever really put grit into your work long enough for it to yield the fruits you desire? If you haven’t, why not give it a chance? Why not actually decide if you are working on your passion, and then grind through it without faltering? Action is what will get things done, which takes me to my next lesson.
Am I taking enough action to accelerate my growth?
Our problem is not ignorance, it is inaction- Dale Carnegie.
Many of us say; ‘I am an author’, ‘I am a poet’, I am this and that and if asked if they have something to show for it, they don’t. It is possible that you have the career of your dreams in theory, yet you have taken no action to put it to practice. Whether it is a book draft you have stashed in some forgotten folder in your laptop, or a draft proposal you are yet to finish and send, there is some form of action pending to put your theory into practice.
Why not publish that book, it may succeed, it may not, but if a publisher ever comes your way and you happen to mention that you are an author, you will actually have something to show for it. In his iconic book Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill discusses how Dr. Seuss was walking home with his manuscript of children’s books, having been rejected by numerous publishers. He met an old acquaintance who happened to be starting a job in publishing and that is why we have the legendary Dr. Seuss today.
I learned that I have to be constantly taking actionable steps and knocking on more doors in order to accelerate by growth. Maybe a year from now, I will be a milestone from where I am. If not, my lesson about grit is that I will persevere and put in a little more effort, making me better than I was yesterday.
“80% of success is showing up” Woody Allen