10 ways to create a breakthrough in your working life (and in the rest of it too).
Here—in no particular order (except as I thought of them)—are 10 simple ways to tranform your working life. Try them.
Refuse to accept conventional answers or comforting assumptions. If you want to develop, you need to be skeptical of anything that seems to offer a panacea or an easy way to get somewhere with no effort. It’s like all those “get rich quick” schemes: if something seems too good to be true, it is. Conventions, quick-fixes, past assumptions, and comforting platitudes are barriers in your way. Jump over them or break them down.
Avoid anything that will fence you in. Always suspect the superficial. Deliberately keeping it simple makes people act stupid. The universe is a complex and surprising place. Great ideas can’t be reduced to soundbites and slogans. The deeper you go, the more likely that you will discover something of value.
Snake-oil salesmen and con-artists have always offered really simple, easy ways to achieve things others know are tough and complicated. Why do people still buy? Laziness and greed, mostly. Wanting something for nothing. In breakthrough, as just about everywhere else, there are no free lunches.
Conventional ways of seeing the world and all kinds of dogma are there to control people; to stop them from “making trouble” by having fresh, creative ideas. People who think they already know all the answers are oddly threatened by those who are sure they don’t. They often go to considerable trouble to try to force everyone else to think and act as they do. Your job is to jump those fences to find new fields to play in.
Take risks all the time. No one ever made a breakthrough without taking some pretty big risks. What’s the worst that can happen? You fail. That’s not such a big deal. Everyone fails sometime. Failure is a sure sign you’re doing the right things to discover new ways forward. As the song goes, pick yourself up, dust yourself off and start all over again.
Forget looking for answers. Questions are so much more useful. Questions lure you on, poking and prodding you to discover more. Questions are like bits of grit in a bed: they stop you from resting comfortably with what you think you already know. Answers are a dead end. If you know the answer, there’s nowhere else to go.
Become a specialist in asking stupid questions. They’re the very best ones. Worry about the answer, not the question. Lots of people never get beyond an initial state of confusion because they’re afraid to ask what seems to be a foolish question. Innocent people with a true desire to learn have the greatest chance of spectacular success. Who learns best and fastest? Little children. Your target must be to go through life learning at the same rate as an infant.
Keep a wide open mind. Real change and growth often happen well away from where you look for them. You never know when an idea will hit you, or you’ll meet someone, completely by chance, who will have a profound and wonderful impact on your life. Don’t create your own artificial boundaries by deciding in advance what you will learn from and what you will ignore. Life doesn’t come in neat packages, clearly labeled “learning opportunity.”
Be who you are, whoever and whatever that is. Your potential is unique. Only fools try to make something of themselves by slavishly copying what others are doing and saying. You won’t stand out by fitting in. Learn from others, sure. But never try to be anyone but the best possible version of yourself.
Make mistakes joyfully. The person who’s afraid to make a mistake is afraid to make anything. You won’t get it right first time. You probably still won’t get it right the third, fifth or tenth time. But if you keep trying—joyfully making those mistakes and learning more each time—you will get it right in the end.
Dare to let go. To grow and develop it’s essential to let go of wherever you are now. Let the future through. Allow the universe to change you. Don’t try to force it into channels you think are safe or acceptable. Breakthrough cannot come until you deliberately walk away from the comfortable and the predictable. If you lack the courage to let go, you’ll never make a breakthrough. We all have a tendency to hang on to success and go on repeating it as long as we can. Resist it. Say “thanks” and move on. Don’t cling to your achievements. Let them go to make way for more failures and new ideas. The achievements we cling to and repeat are the ones that will soon come to be the greatest failures of all; plus we’ll have spoiled the recollection of them for all time.
Shut down the critic inside your head. Ignore it. Tell it to go pester someone else. Allow yourself to wander aimlessly. Explore ideas and possibilities that your inner critic tells you are useless. Constant judgment and criticism are deadly enemies of breakthrough. Listening to your inner critic will convince you every idea you have, every opportunity to consider, everything you do and say, are worthless. The truly worthless element is that nagging inner voice. Sometimes the best way to deal with it is just to laugh.
Next week I’ll give you 10 more routes to a personal and work breakthrough.
Adrian Savage is a writer, an Englishman, and a retired business executive, in that order. He lives in Tucson, Arizona. You can read his other articles at Slow Leadership, the site for everyone who wants to build a civilized place to work and bring back the taste, zest and satisfaction to leadership and working life. His latest book, Slow Leadership: Civilizing The Organization