Sunday, November 18, 2012

Staying on the Cutting Edge Series

      As leaders we have the challenge to stay on top of the new changes in our industry.  That is easier said than done.  With today's hectic professional and personal schedule, it's pretty easy just to get into the routine of life and let the days pass by.  The unfortunate thing about a routine is soon days become weeks and weeks become months.  Months turn into a year and the next thing we know several years have gone by. Before we know it, we have done the same thing over and over again for years.  If the past few sentences are speaking to you, then bear with me for the rest of my blog.
     Staying on the cutting edge is all about making a choice.  One can either keep doing what they are doing or change what they are doing.  Sounds simple enough.  Why doesn't everyone make the change?  Through my experiences, I have come to understand why people don't pursue getting better.
     The first reason is that people give for not trying to improve: time.  Or the lack of it.   I have fallen into this trap and for that matter all of the traps I am about to cover.  Today people are living at a break neck pace.  If you take their professional duties and combine with their personal responsibilities, people are staying active for ten or twelve hours a day.  People that stay on the cutting edge do the same thing.  They work hard and take care of their responsibilities just like everyone else!  That's the issue with people that stay on the cutting edge.  They are not like everyone else.  They go to their jobs, they take care of their responsibilities, but somehow or by some way they find the time to stay on the cutting edge.
     Take Thomas Edison.  Before he become famous for perfecting the light bulb, he worked as a telegrapher for the Western Union Company.  His works days were generally anywhere from ten to twelve hours long.  You imagine that he was tried from the long hours and the constant tapping of the "brass pounder".  Just thinking about it makes me want to go in my basement and put my earplugs in!  The last thing I would have wanted to do is "moonlight" in my basement perfecting an invention.
     But Mr. Edison wasn't satisfied.  He could have easily gone home and said to himself, "I have worked a full hard day and I deserve to relax."  But he was different.  Internally he wasn't satisfied and better yet, he wasn't idle.  Though he was successful as a telegrapher, he wanted something more.  The light bulb had already been invented and was working but, he thought it could be better.
     How about you?  Are you satisfied with your current state?  You say to yourself, "Yes, I am doing just fine."   You rationalize it saying, "What I have been doing in my job has been working just fine for the past five, ten, and even maybe twenty years.  I have people tell me how good of job I am doing every year!"  You might even say, "My methods have with stood the test of time!  It's been working well for so long why would I want to change?"  Ask yourself this: Could it be better?  Then ask yourself this: Has the world of the people that I offer my service to changed?  
     If you have determined it’s time to improve, then what is stopping you?  Is it the lack of time?  Here are some suggestions to help you find more time.
  1. Turn off the TV.  It's a time sucking machine.  Yes, it has some enjoyable programs. Watch your favorite ones and then shut it off.  If you have too many favorites, reduce them.
  2. Evaluate what is important to you.  If you have spread yourself to thin, you’re not doing yourself, your family, and your profession any good.  If you feel an inch deep and a mile wide every week, evaluate your schedule and set your priorities.  
  3. Learn to say no.  Unless something aligns with your priorities, say no to it.  If you struggle with this, you are really struggling with letting people down.  Don't let guilt make decisions for you.  It should be convictions that guide your decisions.  Just politely tell people that you will have to decline. 
  4. Find someone in your field that is successful and ask them how they find time to improve.
  5. Start reflecting and writing in a journal on how you can improve your time.  Through your writing, good ideas will come to the top and help you improve.

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