There is a natural human tendency to always be looking over the horizon at faraway fields forever green. When you’re faced with the day-to-day chaos of running a small business or pursuing the entrepreneurial path, it’s very tempting to retreat into a search for magic bullets rather than concentrating on lessons already learned.
This is particularly true when it comes to ongoing learning. Make no mistake, continuing your business education is an essential part of long-term success, but there is a real onus on you to keep that knowledge expansion as firmly rooted in the real world as possible.
Let’s not mince words, 90% of so-called “business books” are little more than staggeringly obvious platitudes you could fit on a single page, padded out to book length with a mixture of spurious anecdotes and wishful positive thinking dressed up as thought leadership.
If you’ve been in business for any reasonable length of time, there is an excellent chance that you’ve already learned most of what you need to know.
You might not have absorbed it yet, you might not be putting tough lessons learned into daily practice, but you’ve almost certainly picked up enough real-world experience to base future decisions on by now.
The question is – are you actually putting that hard-won knowledge to use?
The next time you’re tempted to sign up to a fancy new management methodology, or about to shell out on yet another expensive task management app, take a moment to reflect on what you already know rather than putting your faith in an as yet untested system.
A little honest self-appraisal and willingness to reflect on past failures in a calm manner can unlock a huge amount of latent learning and act as a powerful engine for focused future productivity.
Begin by reflecting on your last working week or month. Carve out some time to honestly appraise your successes and failures over a time period you can both vividly remember and accurately assess.
Without beating yourself up or unnecessarily blowing your own trumpet, write down the main plus and minus points that come to mind and really reflect on what obvious lessons they carry for future projects. You will be amazed at the clarity this seemingly simple step can bring.
Once you’ve satisfied yourself as to the efficacy of this approach, commit to doing doing things:
- Take a wider step back and apply the same technique to a wider time span. Start reflecting on the various paths that have taken you to where you are – for good or bad – broken out by yearly or five yearly increments. Again, honestly assess, reflect, and note down obvious, practical lessons you can usefully carry forward.
- Commit to making this type of review a weekly, monthly, and quarterly process. Turning this into a regular routine will crystallise the lessons you’re being exposed to regardless, and convert them into a highly personalised, powerful transformational tool you can use to drive future success.
Lifelong learning is one of the key factors that drives success over the course of a career, but it’s all too easy to retreat into imagined perfect textbook futures rather than leveraging the lessons you’ve already learned.
By committing to our suggested technique above, you open the door to real action based on hard-won personal knowledge, rather than bouncing unproductively from one management guru to the next.