Friday, December 31, 2010

Improve Yourself


Bill Gates once remarked that the key to succeed in business is to innovate and make yourself obsolete. If you don’t make yourself obsolete, your competitors will make you obsolete.

I agree completely. We live in a fast-changing world. What is current today may already be obsolete two years from now. For that reason, it’s important to know how to improve yourself. You need to make yourself obsolete. If you don’t, someone else will.

I once read that when a Sony team in one floor launched a product, another team at another floor was already working on a new version of the product. And yet another team was working on an even newer version of it. That’s a company that works hard to make itself obsolete.

The same principle, I believe, applies to individuals. You should improve yourself and make yourself obsolete. Here are some ways to apply it:

1. Upgrade your tools

Can you imagine the difference in productivity between those who use a typewriter and those who use a computer? This example is a bit extreme, but it illustrates the importance of upgrading your tools. If you don’t upgrade your tools, you risk being left behind by those who do. They will produce far more output with better quality than you.

But be careful, don’t spend too much time researching and experimenting with new tools at the expense of doing real work. Remember, your goal is getting things done. Set aside some time to experiment with new tools, but spend most of your time doing real work using the tools you are already comfortable with.

2. Upgrade your workflow

More than just upgrading your tools, you should upgrade your workflow. Find ways to improve your productivity system. Is there any leak in your system? Is there anything you can simplify? Do you take full advantage of your most productive hours? Tune your system to improve your ability to get things done with minimum overhead.

3. Upgrade your knowledge

Living in the Internet age is a great blessing because there are abundant sources of knowledge available. All you need to have is the desire to learn. That’s why curiosity is important. With knowledge being so readily available, the eagerness to learn makes the biggest difference between those who thrive and those who don’t. Curiosity makes it much easier for you to learn about pretty much anything.

4. Upgrade your skills

With the pace of the world we live in now, your skills would quickly become obsolete.I remember a few years ago I learned hard to earn a certification. Now, just a few years later, the certification is practically useless. That’s how fast the world is moving. If you don’t constantly upgrade yourself, you may soon find that the world has moved beyond you.

One important thing to remember is you shouldn’t just upgrade your current skills. What if your field of expertise became irrelevant in the near future? What if the world no longer needed it? So, instead of just improving your current skills, open your eyes for new skills to learn. Is there a skill that could be in high demand a few years from now? Is there a skill that becomes increasingly necessary? Don’t just be a specialist. Be a versatilist

5. Upgrade your mindset

This is perhaps the most difficult one to apply. People tend to always use the same lens to see the world through. They always see the world the way they are accustomed to. But you need to upgrade your mindset before it’s too late.

Here is an example of mindset change: instead of looking at yourself as an employee, look at yourself as an independent company. Your employer is actually just a client of yours. You should serve them well, of course, but you should also improve yourself and find other potential clients. Your progress is your responsibility. Can you see the difference this mindset has on your attitude?

To upgrade your mindset, you need to admit that the world changes. Don’t expect that the world you live in today works the same way as it did ten years ago. Nor should you expect that the world ten years from now will work the same way as it does today. Admitting this will make it easier for you to change your lens.

Improving yourself means that you should constantly move beyond your comfort zone. Stretch yourself. Challenge yourself.It’s easier said than done, but you will come out as a winner.

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