I’m constantly seeking out new learning to take my leadership and development teaching to a higher level. Don’t get me wrong. I get pretty good feedback about my masterminds. The participants who are in them consistently rank their quality as high, and they mention how much they’ve learned and grown through them. I’m not saying this to brag, boast, or show off. Instead, I want to illustrate how important it is to keep learning, growing, and getting better.
With all the good and positive feedback I’ve received, it would be easy for me to declare I’ve “mastered” teaching. It would be easy to stop focusing on my skills as a teacher and coach, because my students are satisfied. But, as a personal development teacher, I know that the moment I do is the moment I stop being effective in my role.
“There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.” – Nelson Mandela
If you think for a quick minute, you can probably name all sorts of businesses that get by on “good enough.” I have a lot of meetings at coffee houses and restaurants. One particular diner chain comes to mind immediately when I think of this. Their food hasn’t really changed or improved in quality in over a decade. But they get plenty of business because their price is reasonable for the quality, and because people are familiar with them. In other words, they have settled for a mediocre product, charge a mediocre price, and provide mediocre service. It seems to work for everyone involved, so they have little incentive or outward pressure to change.
You probably have areas in your life that fall victim to this same mentality. For example, my skills at repairing things that break is pitifully mediocre. I once went to flush the toilet, only to have the handle wiggle back and forth to no effect. When I lifted the lid off the tank, I discovered the chain that connects the handle to the flushing mechanism pooled at the bottom. I called out to my wife and told her (and I quote exactly), “the toilet’s broken; we need to get a new one.”
The “he can’t be serious” thought you’re having right now is exactly the thought my wife had when I called out to her. She asked if I had checked the tank. I told her I had. She came in, looked at the problem, looked at me with complete exasperation, sighed, reached down, picked up the chain, and clipped it back to the handle.
“Success depends upon previous preparation.” – Confucius
I don’t have a lot of reason to get better at mechanical skills. I rely on the skills of my wife to fix things that break. There is little incentive or outward pressure to change. And yet, I’ve been caught in situations where I had none but my own guile and cunning to solve a looming mechanical disaster. So far, duct tape and old socks have done the job until a more qualified mechanic arrives. But I sometimes imagine how nice it would be to be self-reliant in fixing things.
When we don’t have incentives or pressure, we have to create our own. It comes down to this: never settle. Always ask yourself “what’s the next step I can take to improve my life in this area.” For my masterminds, I know that striving to constantly improve will lead to greater success and the ability to make a bigger impact on my students. But, in the moment of growing, I don’t experience that reward. The reward comes later, sometimes much later. But your drive to improve must be now. When the opportunity comes to succeed, it’s too late to prepare (like the toilet).