You're one of those people looking to get ahead. To make an increased impact. Otherwise, you wouldn't be here.
But if you're looking for tricks, hacks, and advice on HOW to get ahead, to cheat the system, to find the shortcut as your sole means of making an impact ... you'll be sorely disappointed.
To get ahead, it's not only what you DO but what you BELIEVE.
As a senior manager who has directly and indirectly been involved in identifying and promoting talent, attitude truly is the best indicator of long-term success. Talent and hard work are needed, of course, but those are table stakes. The people who do best over the long haul are those that have a GROWTH mindset.
Don't equate growth with a happy-go-lucky, rose-colored glasses positive attitude. I know many who are more nuanced and pragmatic that are still growth-oriented. I've even worked with a few that are downright negative, belittling themselves at every corner. In their case, the growth mindset is more of a needle in their brain pushing them forward out of fear of failure.
So what is a growth mindset? Put simply, it means you believe IQ is elastic. It means that we can learn, practice, and grow to be smarter, faster, better than before. Seems obvious, right? It's not. So many people (a surprising number, despite the overwhelming research against) believe that we're born with smarts or not, that we're good at certain things or not, and let that drive every decision about our lives. "I'm just not good at technology," I'm not polished or good looking, I can't be in management," "I'm not creative."
We assume that because of poor experiences or a lack of innate talent, we cannot excel in a particular field. So we limit our choices and limit ourselves.
But, the people that press forward, that succeed, aren't usually any better or smarter than the rest of us. They just discovered a system of continuous, incremental growth and improvement that compounds over years to big gains. It's like investing: the more you put in and the earlier, the better your returns.
"Ok, great. So I believe I can grow. Now what?" I hear you say. After all, I'm all about action. Here's what you can do to put theory into practice.
Learn, learn, learn
Sorry, folks, no escaping this one. To grow, we must learn. To learn, we must consume information. Lots of it. For most people, books are the best starting point. They contain a lot of information, are easy to consume in pieces, and are cost effective. If you hated reading growing up, give it another try (you know, growth mindset and all that). I find most people do enjoy reading, IF they can find the right style, genre, and topic to keep their interest. Ask for recommendations from other like-minded friends and colleagues.
If books really aren't your cup of tea, other vehicles of learning exist. Check out free videos on YouTube, courses on sites like Udemy, or paid courses from experts on topics you enjoy. While some sessions may be on the expensive side, consider it an investment with boundless ROI.
Practice what you learn
Learning is great, but it can only take you so far. To truly internalize and grow, you need to convert that knowledge into tangible practice, which means real-world exercises to test your learning. This can be as formal as a set of materials that guide you through a new skill to informal coaching and guidance from a trusted friend or colleague.
I admit this is an area I could do better. I read a lot, and love what I'm absorbing, but I'm not as effective a learner as I could be because I often stop at the end of the book. Get out there and test what you read, and you'll be amazed how quickly you grow.
Having a trusted friend, colleague, mentor, coach, etc. that can provide real-time, candid feedback about your performance is critical. For those who have had a mentor or participated in sports, you already know the value is immeasurable. We as humans aren't particularly great at self assessment. We're biased, usually either overly positive or overly critical, and we often miss blind spots or poor form that are obvious to others.
Enlist the help of a trusted circle of advisers, and seek their feedback often. I'm sure they're busy too, so be respectful of their time, demonstrate your passion and growth (so they see their investment of time paying off), and help them as you can. Most people are willing to help if it's a two-way street. Just don't be a leech and a time-suck, and you'll be fine.
Make growing a habit
Learning, practicing, feedback, growing. These shouldn't be reserved to the few times in your life when you need to pick up a new skill, or when your manager asks for the umpteenth time if you've finished your annual professional development goal. Make all of this a habit, a system that you repeat as often as you can. Set goals: 2 books a month, 1 new skill a quarter, etc., and get an accountability partner to keep you honest and on track.
Growth takes time and hard work, but the payoff will be enormous. Trust me. This is the one factor that can separate you from 99% of the world.
The Four-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss
Principles: Life and Work by Ray Dalio
Leading Change by John Kotter
I've distilled over 20 years of lessons into bite-sized actionable articles for you.