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10 ways to create a breakthrough in your working life (and in the rest of it too).

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.”
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.

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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

    , is now available at all good bookstores.
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    Last Updated on August 12, 2019

    How To Start a Conversation with Anyone

    How To Start a Conversation with Anyone

    The hardest part of socializing, for many people, is how to start a conversation. However, it is a big mistake to go about life not making the first move and waiting for someone else to do it [in conversation or anything].

    This isn’t to say you must always be the first in everything or initiate a conversation with everyone you see. What should be said, though, is once you get good at starting conversations, a lot of other things will progress in the way you want; such as networking and your love life.

    Benefits of Initiating a Conversation

    First thing is you should acknowledge why it is a good thing to be able to initiate conversations with strangers or people who you don’t know well:

    • You’re not a loner with nothing to do.
    • You look more approachable if you are comfortable approaching others.
    • Meeting new people means developing a network of friends or peers which leads to more knowledge and experiences.

    You can only learn so much alone, and I’m sure you’re aware of the benefits of learning from others. Being able to distinguish the ‘good from bad’ amongst a group of people will help in building a suitable network, or making a fun night.

    All people are good in their own way. Being able to have a good time with anybody is a worthy trait and something to discuss another time. However, if you have a specific purpose while in social situations, you may want to stick with people who are suitable.

    This means distinguishing between people who might suit you and your ‘purpose’ from those who probably won’t. This can require some people-judging, which I am generally very opposed to. However, this does make approaching people all the more easier.

    It helps to motivate the conversation if you really want to know this person. Also, you’ll find your circle of friends and peers grows to something you really like and enjoy.

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    The Rules

    I don’t have many rules in this life, for conversation or anything; but when it comes to approaching strangers, there are a few I’d like used.

    1. Be polite. Within context, don’t be a creepy, arrogant loudmouth or anything. Acknowledge that you are in the company of strangers and don’t make anyone feel uncomfortable. First impressions mean something.
    2. Keep it light. Don’t launch into a heartfelt rant or a story of tragedy. We’re out to have fun.
    3. Don’t be a prude. This just means relax. This isn’t a science and conversation isn’t a fine art. Talk to people like you’re already friends.
    4. Be honest. Be yourself. People can tell.

    Who To Talk To?

    I’m of the ilk that likes to talk to everyone and anyone. Everyone has a story and good personalities. Some are harder to get to than others, but if you’re on a people-finding excursion, like I usually am, then everyone is pretty much fair game.

    That said, if you’re out at a function and you want to build a network of people in your niche, you will want to distinguish those people from the others. Find the ‘leaders’ in a group of people or ask around for what you’re looking for.

    In a more general environment, like at a bar, you will want to do the same sort of thing. Acknowledge what you actually want and try to distinguish suitable people. Once you find someone, or a group of people, that you want to meet and talk to, hop to it.

    Think of a few things you might have in common. What did you notice about their dress sense?

    Building Confidence

    The most important part of initiating conversation is, arguably, having confidence. It should be obvious that without any amount of self-esteem you will struggle. Having confidence in yourself and who you are makes this job very easy.

    If you find yourself doubting your worth, or how interesting you are, make a few mental notes of why you are interesting and worth talking to. There is no question you are. You just have to realize that.

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    What do I do? What is interesting about it? What are my strong points and what are my weak ones? Confident people succeed because they play on their strengths.

    Across the Room Rapport

    This is rapport building without talking. It’s as simple as reciprocated eye contact and smiles etc. Acknowledging someone else’s presence before approaching them goes a long way to making introductions easier. You are instantly no longer just a random person.

    In my other article How Not To Suck At Socializing, there are things you can do to make yourself appear approachable. This doesn’t necessarily mean people are going to flock to you. You’ll still probably need to initiate conversations.

    People notice other people who are having a blast. If you’re that person, someone will acknowledge it and will make the ‘across the room rapport’ building a breeze. If you’re that person that is getting along great with their present company, others will want to talk to you. This will make your approach more comfortable for both parties.

    The Approach

    When it comes to being social, the less analytical and formulaic you are the better. Try not to map out your every move and plan too much. Although we are talking about how to initiate conversation, these are really only tips. When it comes to the approach, though, there are some things you should keep in mind.

    Different situations call for different approaches. Formal situations call for something more formal and relaxed ones should be relaxed.

    At a work function, for instance, be a little formal and introduce yourself. People will want to know who you are and what you do right away. This isn’t to say you should only talk about work, but an introduction and handshake is appropriate.

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    If you’re at a bar, then things are very different and you should be much more open to unstructured introductions. Personally, I don’t like the idea of walking directly to someone to talk to them. It’s too direct. I like the sense of randomness that comes with meeting new people.

    However, if there is rapport already established, go for it. If not, take a wander, buy a drink and be aware of where people are. If there is someone you would like to talk to, make yourself available and not sit all night etc.

    When someone is alone and looks bored, do them a favor and approach them. No matter how bad the conversation might get, they should at least appreciate the company and friendliness.

    Briefly, Approaching Groups

    When integrating with an established group conversation, there is really one thing to know. That is to establish the ‘leader’ and introduce yourself to them. I mentioned that before, but here is how and why.

    The why is the leader of a group conversation is probably the more social and outgoing. They will more readily accept your introduction and then introduce you to the rest of the group. This hierarchy in a group conversation is much more prevalent in formal situations where one person is leading the conversation.

    A group of friends out for the night is much more difficult to crack. This may even be another topic for discussion, but one thing I know that works is initiating conversation with a ‘stray’. It sounds predatorial, but it works.

    More often than not, this occurs without intention. But if you do really want to get into a group of friends, your best bet is approaching one of them while they are away from the group and being invited into the group.

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    It is possible, like everything, to approach a group outright and join them. However, this is almost an art and requires another specific post.

    Topics Of Conversation

    Other than confidence, the next thing people who have trouble initiating conversations lack is conversation! So here are a few tips to get the ball rolling:

    • Small talk sucks. It’s boring and a lot of people already begin to zone out when questions like, “What do you do?” or “What’s with this weather?” come up. Just skip it.
    • Everything is fair game. If you are in the company of someone and a thought strikes you, share it. “This drink is garbage! What are you drinking?” “Where did you get that outfit?”
    • Opinions matter. This is any easy way to hit the ground running in conversation. Everyone has one, and when you share yours, another will reveal itself. The great thing about this line of thought is that you are instantly learning about the other person and what they like, dislike etc.
    • Environment. The place you’re in is full of things to comment on. The DJ, band, fashions; start talking about what you see.
    • Current events. Unless it’s something accessible or light-hearted, forget it. Don’t launch into your opinion on the war or politics. If your town has recently hosted a festival, ask what they think about it.

    Exiting Conversation

    Although I’d like to write a full post on exiting strategies for conversations you don’t want to be in, here are some tips:

    • The first thing is don’t stay in a conversation you’re not interested in. It’ll show and will be no fun for anyone.
    • Be polite and excuse yourself. You’re probably out with friends, go back to them.  Or buy a drink. Most people will probably want to finish the conversation as much as you.

    Likewise, you could start another conversation.

    If you’d like to learn more tips about starting a conversation, this guide maybe useful for you: How to Talk to Strangers Without Feeling Awkward

    Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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