Learn something new every six months, that’s what I discovered. Every job you will ever have needs two sets of skills. The technical skills that get the job done. And the soft skills that you use to get along with the people around you. When I decided I needed to get ahead in my career I realised that my soft skills needed a big boost. So I read and read and read everything I could get my hands on; books, articles, blogs, YouTube, etc. I read so much that my brain could process the information fast enough. Then after about six months I couldn’t do it anymore. I had read so much about leadership that I was about to explode. I needed to spend more time using what I had learned. I was reading beyond my needs.
That’s when I decided to change gears and started reading about team management, motivation and influencing people. Then I read tonnes on self-awareness, emotional intelligence, empathy, etc. And all this spun around a central theme of people management. Being able to sit still and listen. Ask the right questions. Mentor and coach my direct reports. And eventually, manage my own manager.
After a few months, I couldn’t read anything on soft skills anymore. I was ready to toss my cookies at the mere mention of it. I know there’s a lot more to learn, but my mind can only process and use so much information. I need to practice what I’ve learned and also internalise it until it becomes part of me.
I think that’s the single best piece of advice: constantly think about how you could be doing things better, and questioning yourself.
For now, I’ve changed gears once again and reading up on technology. Java specifically and easy to use frameworks and libraries for my startup project. And also reading a bit on how startups work. Elon Musk has really gotten my attention at this point. How he got started, but mostly about his amazing drive. How did he come up with all these innovative ideas? Sure electric cars, solar panels and rockets are nothing new. But spinning these ideas into something new and having the raw drive to push it forward is amazing.
Having said that I’m more in a discovery mode at this point until I find something else to settle on. I’m getting concerned that my reading has been a bit too focused and I need to expand my horizons. Artificial Intelligence and machine learning seem to be the next big thing. Neural networks, big data and data sciences are all the future. But having a vision, to use it in innovative ways is the challenge.
So my goal is to take it six months at a time. Dive in head first and don’t come up for air until you’ve exhausted your learning. The reason I suggest six months, it’s enough time that you can become adept at something new. But not so long that you forget that there are other things that need to be learnt.