Over the past several years I’ve immersed myself into a deep state of learning more than I ever had before in my life. I’ve been trying to figure out, how do I get better and better each and every day? And not just “better” because that can be anything, but how do I acquire more knowledge, how do I do research on topics that are important to me, how do I push myself past that comfort zone that I lived a lot of my life in and ultimately improve at a very high rate of return.
Let me take a quick step back and kind of give some context behind it. In my teens and in my 20s there were periods where I had a really good work ethic like having a paper route when I was 11 years old and doing that for six years. I would wake up every single day between 5-6 AM, and I’m from upstate New York, so maybe a foot of snow sometimes. That taught me a lot of work ethic. And I remember even practicing golf, which was very important in my life, for hours on end in high school and college. I actually worked for the Registrar, which is the department in college that handles all classes and records and those types of things. I actually was able to schedule all of my classes when I wanted before anyone else and so I scheduled them literally the first couple classes in the morning every day so I’d be done before lunch. That allowed me to basically hit golf balls for three, four, or five hours and play golf every afternoon. I would just pound golf balls. That taught me work ethic.
The work ethic was there in periods. But I also noticed that sometimes I would have some lapses in that, whether it was in my job, maybe not go full effort, or from a fitness standpoint, I’d have ups and downs. I look back at those moments and I realized I left a lot on the table. There was a lot of stuff that I could have done differently or better or improved upon. Maybe I would be further ahead now than if I didn’t do that but I also am a “glass half full” guy and realize that it happened and I can now learn from it for the future and maybe help other people that haven’t been through that yet and give some guidance and insight into something that I stumbled with that could be important.
One of the lessons I uncovered I call the Toolbox of Knowledge. If you think about it, we acquire various knowledge through our own experiences all the time whether it’s through school, a job, relationships, etc. These situations are exactly where my metaphoric “toolbox” comes in handy.
As an example, imagine hiring someone because something’s wrong in your house. They say they can fix and promptly come over but there’s only one problem, they only arrive with one tool in hand. Now, they could certainly get that job done, potentially. But if they don’t really know what the problem is, or didn’t expect it to exactly as they found it, one tool may not be enough and therefore they can’t possibly handle the task or it might end up being extremely challenging and corners might be cut.
Now imagine that same person showing up and having one or two or three big toolboxes, all different tools, all sizes, and different materials to help out in whatever challenge they approached. I’d bet money they can get the job done.
That’s how I want everyone to think about their life. Since we can’t change the past, let’s not focus on it. What’s happened has happened. So, I really want everyone to focus on going forward. Whether it’s your day job you have, whether it’s some side hustle, it could be something with your family, it could be your fitness and nutrition.
What are you going to do to fill up that next toolbox or the next one after that?
Think about your job today. Are you maximizing every once of the opportunity to learn? If you’re in sales, for instance, do you seek out advice from the top reps in the company to learn, have you sat with other managers to gain perspective on how they run their teams or are you talking with customer success teams to learn more about the customer’s needs. These are small examples but they are the kind of things that can be done to help you gain additional knowledge and leverage that experience for your future.
The real question when you look in your “accountability mirror” is are you maximizing your opportunities to learn information that could be very useful for you many years down the road.
I take it from a fitness standpoint, right? You can certainly putter around each day; maybe you go for a walk. But maybe you don’t eat well, right? Maybe you’ve put on some weight; maybe your fitness is not there.
Are you acquiring the proper knowledge to help you get healthier and improve? Are you doing research to figure out if there is a better way that’s going to improve my longevity, my sleep, or my energy? Or are you just using the information you’ve gathered from the past and assuming it’s still correct?
That’s really what I want to challenge everyone that’s reading this to think about. What could your “toolbox” be next week, next month, or next year? Could you just fill it up a little bit more or could you fill up three toolboxes full?
When you’re carrying it into that next job, or that new gym you signed up, or maybe a new relationship you have to ask yourself what you are bringing to the table starting out and how are you going to grow to be a better person going forward. How are you going to try and taste new things and new experiences to build up that toolbox.
Try one thing next week. That’s it, one thing, and see what happens. Reach out to a co-worker in a different department that works with your department from time to time. Ask them questions to learn about their day-to-day and be curious to know what things they know that could be valuable for your role, and vice versa. If you feel you’ve gained weight, go search online for an hour about healthy foods and ways to structure your eating such as Intermittent Fasting. There are so many simple ways to gain more knowledge and learn from new experiences.
The hard part is to slip out of the warm comfortable bath and into an uncomfortable cold shower. However, I’ve learned if you do it in small doses you start to form the proper habits and harden your mind to do these things more often.
I want everyone to have that mindset. It’s a glass half full mindset, you’ve got to be positive in order to have the courage to shed the insecurities and seek out unknown places and conversations because those are the situations that make you a better human being both inside and out and allow you to carry that toolbox around and tackle any job in your path.
If you’d like to hear the full audio version of this article on my Just Get Started Podcast click here to go to Apple Podcasts-> The Toolbox of Knowledge One Mic Session or you can listen on any major Podcasting platform. This episode originally aired on September 12th, 2019.