How Am I Sabotaging My Future? (Part 11)

Successful people learn and grow before they have to.  A baseball player doesn’t just submit a resume and interview for the World Series.  He learns the game, works out, practices the fundamentals and gains experience at many levels.  People in all walks of life earn the privilege of playing in their industry’s “World Series” only when they prepare and “pay their dues.”

While most folks are willing to prepare once they see an opportunity, a whole new level of success comes to those who consistently, intentionally and strategically prepare for opportunities that don’t yet exist. Are you up to the challenge?

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
— Benjamin Franklin, American Founding Father

“The will to succeed is important, but what’s more important is the will to prepare.”
— Bobby Knight, College Basketball Coach

Preparation is a simple process: enlightenment, engagement, empowerment, repeat.  Although simple, it is not always easy.  Preparation is part intellectual, part experience, part emotional, part belief, part conditioning, and part repetition.  Here are the three stages of growth.

Enlightenment

It’s true for you, me and everyone else — we don’t know what we don’t now.  Enlightenment, the first stage of growth, is the passing from ignorance to awareness and from awareness to understanding. Sounds simple, right?  It can be for those with curiosity.  Curiosity is the inspiration that causes us to ask “How?” and “Why?”  It’s the energy of learning.  Growth begins with a healthy measure of curiosity.

“Curiosity killed the cat, but where human beings are concerned,
the only thing a healthy curiosity can kill is ignorance.”
— Harry Lorayne, Memory-training specialist, magician

“Curiosity is the wick in the candle of learning.”
— William Arthur Ward, Author

Engagement

So, you learned something new.  Now what?  The next stage begins with a choice.  You can reject the knowledge or you can file it away for the future.  There’s a third radical option you can apply it!  The value of knowledge grows with application and your understanding along with it. While sorting the useful stuff from the rest, take a few whacks and see what happens.  Be creative.  Look for interesting ways to use your new knowledge and practice your new skills.  You might be surprised.

“The strongest principle of growth lies in the human choice.”
— George Eliot, Novelist

“You don’t know how much artists go through to make it look so easy.
It’s all in the practice.”

Lauryn Hill, Singer, actress

Empowerment

There’s value in the first two stages.  But, the greatest value is not in having knowledge and experience.  It’s the empowered person you become during the process.  This new and improved person gains confidence and a preference favoring the newfound knowledge and capabilities over the old.  As the growth process continues, preference transforms into conviction.  That’s real growth — that’s empowerment!

“Between stimulus and response there is a space.
In that space is our power to choose our response.
In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
— Viktor E. Frankl, Holocaust survivor, psychiatrist

“Strength and growth come only through continuous effort and struggle.”
— Napoleon Hill, Author

In a rapidly-changing world, success comes to those who have a hunger to grow even when there is no apparent urgency.  People who learn only when they have to are sabotaging their futures.

How Am I Sabotaging My Future? (Part 5)

Curious George was always getting into trouble.  I guess the little monkey didn’t know or didn’t care that “curiosity killed the cat.”  Comedian Steven Wright cares.  He once said, “Curiosity killed the cat, but for a while I was a suspect.”  These perspectives suggest that curiosity is risky business.  And maybe it’s true.  But, without a healthy measure of curiosity, where would creativity come from?  Curiosity is the seed of creativity.  Maybe a candle metaphor is more appropriate.

“Curiosity is the wick in the candle of learning.” — William Arthur Ward

Where would we be, individually and collectively, without creativity? Creativity is not a special emotion reserved for the fine arts and the field of entertainment.  It is woven into life itself, at least any life worth living.  Without  creativity, human life would be a robotic sort of pre-programmed existence — mediocre, monotonous and perhaps impossible.

“People die when curiosity goes.” — Graham Swift

In thinking of the challenges we face each day at work, creativity is without a doubt, a career requirement.  Every new problem calls out for creative solutions.  Without it, people would not be able to think outside the box and struggle seeing the options inside the box.  What value do employees have who can’t bring creativity to bear on problems?

The language of our times suggests that we’ve become lazy with our curiosity.  “Been there, done that” and “whatever” have replaced the exuberance of “Wow!” and “Cool!”  I’m suspicious that fear of curiosity may be causing creativity to go into hibernation.  Are you afraid to ask “Why?” or “What if?” questions.  Whether its laziness or fear, when curiosity is absent, creativity and the ability to solve problems are right behind.  Without realizing it, you have sabotaged your future.

Stimulating creativity is not difficult.  Just break a few patterns.  Try taking a different way to work or changing radio stations.  Eat dinner at a different time or order something different from the menu.  Talk to someone on an elevator.  Read a book.  Get up 30 minutes earlier.  Learn a new word and use it in conversation.  Attend a workshop.  Call a friend you haven’t seen recently.  Do something that’s hard.  Add something to this list that your friends would think is strange.  (Then, do it!)

When people are intentional about breaking patterns, curiosity returns and creativity grows again.  When curiosity and creativity replace lazy habits and fear, people are able to see new opportunities and new solutions.

“One of the secrets of life is to keep our intellectual curiosity acute.”
— William Lyon Phelps

Well, I wouldn’t say it’s a secret, just a forgotten truth.  All that’s needed is a reminder in a blog and a role model like Curious George to whip those creativity muscles back into shape.

— CC