The Road To Improvement

Lesson number: 

The road one must travel to improve their skills can be a dark, bumpy and lonely road. That's probably why so few brave individuals dare to travel down this road very often. Most individuals will find it much easier living their lives in their established comfort zones of familiar activities and daily habits that pose no threats to their ego. They will remain in their comfort zones as long as the conditions for doing so are permitting.

As an example, many individuals will remain in the same job for decades, even though they might complain that the job doesn't pay enough or perhaps they dislike their boss or fellow workers. It's just too much trouble to leave this familiar place to start over somewhere else. By leaving that comfort zone they might also have to learn some new skills and be inconvenienced by changing their habits and routines. However, some individuals wake up one morning to find out that their job no longer exists. It's either been eliminated because it's not necessary any more or they have been replaced by a more efficient and enthusiastic worker.

In my consulting practice, I must challenge my clients to learn new skills and leave their comfort zones as they travel down the road to improvement. Some brave few who are more than willing to do so at the start, often find their initial enthusiasm wane in a short period of time. Others will resist any thought of change and will find every reason to keep the status quo. Only a chosen few will travel the road from start to finish. These few are the individuals who will reap the spoils of the future.

Let's take a quick look at why individual workers may resist to traveling down the road to improvement. First it's a dark road and people fear dark and unknown places. When you are unfamiliar with a new skill, tool or process, a normal reaction is to fear or resist it. No one wants to look bad by not catching on quickly. Thus, it's easier to find every excuse as to why you really didn't need this skill in the first place.

Then if you happen to overcome the fear of darkness, you must be ready for the bumps in the road. There's some struggle involved in learning. It's like walking through a dark and unfamiliar room. You are sure to bump your head and fall down several times along the way. Usually when you fall, there's no one watching and you can get up and get going again. But how about if someone is watching you as you struggle and fall? That can be most embarrassing and surely something you would want to avoid at all costs. Lucky are those who have a great boss, co-worker or coach that can help lift them up and get them moving down the road again after falling. Those bumpy roads are not much fun. However, those that are willing to struggle and learn will usually be rewarded.

Lastly, the road to improvement is lonely. Because too many others around you at work resist learning, they will want to make sure that no one learns and makes them look bad. So the learners have to swim upstream and fight the currents and attitudes of those who want to stay in their comfort zone. It takes real courage to resist peer pressure at any age. Those that want to improve their skills will need the resolve to resist this pressure.

Thus, the road to improvement can be a dark, bumpy and lonely road to travel down. However, today's world almost requires you to travel often down this road. Today's knowledge, skills and processes have time driven obsolescence built into them. We are competing with the entire world for good jobs and scarce resources. The future will belong to those who can execute their valuable skills and perform tasks most efficiently. If you have not traveled down the road to improvement lately, get your maps out and start planning right now. It might not be a joy ride, but it's a trip that definitely worth taking!