Gadgets and tools promise to make our lives better and easier, but the best upgrade we can make is to ourselves. It has very, very low cost, but tremendous bang for the buck.
What program do you use every single day? What do you spend your days living inside on your computer? Is it Microsoft Word or Excel? How about Photoshop and Illustrator? Do yo know how much more quickly you could process your email if you knew the shortcuts?
Start looking at those menus you keep moving your mouse up to every day: Learn Ctrl + X, Ctrl + C, Ctrl + V. Now you can cut, copy and paste like a champ. Next up, learn Ctrl + S—it saves your work. Saving your work should be second nature, instead of something you need to think about.
There’s a mountain of free or cheap resources out there to learn anything you’d like to learn. Are you interested in academic courses from computer programming to literature or history? Check out iTunes U through the software. MIT has a vast array of Open Courseware that is freely accessible.
Lynda.com has a huge library on classes from Accounting to Writing. (Sorry, there was nothing under Z.) For 7 days, you can get a free preview of the site and decide whether you’d like to sign up and learn more.
Never have there been so many resources so available to us. No matter what your interest is, there is a place online where you can learn more about it. Knowledge is available to nearly everyone who seeks it.
Pick a topic you enjoy or you feel is being underserved and become an expert at it. This is particularly helpful at work when you can pick a niche and shine: become the go-to person for that on your team or in your office. Becoming that expert will make you more valuable, and will give you something to focus on and enjoy about your work. Even if you don’t love what you do, you can really shine in something and that can lead to bigger and better things.
Practice your soft skills. What is a soft skill? It’s a skill that’s harder to quantify, such as communication, “people skills,” and customer service. The last on that list is one of the best soft skills you can improve, which will help you no matter what your profession is.
Customer service is the currency of the internet, so working with people and leaving them delighted is the best thing you can do for yourself and your company.
Think for a moment: what really annoys you every day? What small annoyance do you put up with on a daily basis? Look up a way to fix it and do so. Open your browser and pull up your favorite search engine. Type in your annoyance and look for someone who had a fix for it—there is always a fix. By fixing something that bothers you, you’ve made your life better and improved yourself.
Just as when you’re driving and you can’t see cars in certain places, every person has a blind spot as well. We all have our weaknesses: try finding your weakness so you can make it stronger. If you’re not sure what to work on, ask a friend or trusted colleague; they’ll tell you without being cruel. Once you find your weakness you can work to improve it. You don’t have to make it a strength, but you can make it less of a weakness, and that’s the secret to upgrading yourself: to make your weaknesses a little less weak. Make your strengths a little stronger.
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