but not to the point where you completely ignore your weaknesses.
Have you ever wondered why you plateau when you seem to be doing really well? Things are rising quickly, all of your projects are coming along nicely, money is flowing in with regular increase, and all of a sudden everything seems to stall. It is the strangest feeling. Suddenly it’s as if the world has decided this is as far as you go on the path to success.
Life is trying to tell you something: what got you to this level will not take you to the next level. New skills are needed to go further.
We often don’t want to hear this message. We get used to growing at a rapid rate. Things have gotten rather easy for us. When we started, there were a lot of challenges and things we needed to learn, but now we’ve kinda gotten the hang of everything. We can run on something close to auto-pilot.
When this happens, we are on the way down and don’t realize it yet. When things become easy and you let your guard down, you are opening up the way for a lack of discipline and to be blindsided because you were not paying enough attention.
Before I left for Afghanistan, one of the officers training my unit said something very wise that most of us forgot after a few months. He told us that every single death caused by the enemy to our troops was the fault of our own troops. Some of you will feel a little angry at that remark, but bear with me and I will explain what he meant. He continued through the shocked expressions by saying that we have superior numbers, more resources, better technology, and a much larger support from the local population. We literally had every tactical advantage in Afghanistan. The only thing they had that our troops lacked was focus. After months of staying alert constantly with nothing happening, U.S. soldiers would usually begin to grow lax in their discipline. When walking perimeters the soldiers would carry their weapon casually. Standing guard at the entrance of buildings, soldiers would chat with each other and not pay attention to their environment. Soldiers would walk around without looking at where they were stepping. This lack of focus and constant vigilance had allowed a smaller, less equipped force to harm a superior military. The one advantage our enemy had was focus.
I will admit, after six months I lost some of my focus and discipline. I didn’t clean my rifle very often. I stopped watching where I stepped in “safe” zones. I would get lost in thought while standing guard at night. I did all of this until a Humvee ran over an IED(Improvised Explosive Device) less than 50 feet from the front gate of our base. One soldier was killed and two more were critically injured. The driver had been trained over and over to avoid anything on the road because it could be a marker to locals that there was a bomb there. Even so, he ran over a Coke can and lost his life.
In our lives, losing focus is rarely such a matter of instant life or death. We can start to let our minds wander down paths of imagination and lose sight of what got us to where we are. We can rest on the skills we have already developed and not learn any more and for a while maintain our success. Still, the law of the harvest is always working, and we will reap what we sow. That plateau in your life is God’s warning shot that you need to develop more.
At this point, we have two choices: we can continue to work on our field of expertise or we can develop a complimentary skill to grow ourselves. Usually, the better answer is to grow ourselves.
I’m dealing with this right now. I’ve learned a lot of things in my life. I have mastered dozens of sales styles and have excelled in that arena. Writing comes very easy to me and I’m often told that my style is enjoyable to read. I can build rapport and develop an easy friendship with almost anyone I meet. These are all skills I have developed over the years and they have brought me to this point in my life.
On their own, they can bring me no further. I need to add skills to myself in order to advance. I am not an online marketer. I have never really understood marketing and often times chose to ignore marketers, considering my sales skills to be the “real” reason my clients bought. That was an arrogant viewpoint that cost me more than I will ever know. Now, I am working to develop the skills of a marketer. It is not easy. I often find myself confused and frustrated. Yet, when I have developed this skill, I will be able to rise to new heights of success.
One final note on developing skills; acquire a strong knowledge and ability about one skill before moving on to the next. The “jack of all trades, master of none” is not who you want to be. Master one skill as far as you can, then move on to the next. When you reach a level of proficiency in a skill that is needed to progress, then you can move on to the next one. As you use the newly acquired skill, you will naturally develop your ability in that area over time.
Work on yourself in a new and unfamiliar area. You will find that old spark you felt when you began working on your current skills, all those months and years ago. When we begin to learn and grow again, passion is flooded back into our lives.
So, what are the skills you have been resting on? What has gotten you where you are today? And finally, what is the next skill you need to develop to advance? I’d love to hear your thoughts.