The past two weeks I had been talking to you on how to survive tough times in business. We established that almost every business goes through tough phases. The most important thing is not only to survive but come out of these experiences stronger. This week I will take you to another important strategy for survival during tough times.
#9. Invest in yourself: Sharpen yourself
One of the surest way to survive tough times is to invest in yourself. Things do not get better, you have to get better. The better you become at any area, the better you become at solving problems in that particular area. These times are a ripe opportunity for you to invest in your business and in yourself.
You are paid for the solutions that you bring to life’s problems. If you going to effectively solve problems, you need to constantly revise your skills. Skills can be sharpened, and can become more effective. The challenge we have is that we have relegated reading to being merely a hobby instead of a value adding exercise. When was the last time you bought or opened and read a book on any area that sharpened your skills? Many people have neglected reading books ever since they finished university or their college education. With social networking which has advanced through instant communication, many people only read messages, and send replies. Exception is also of course in instances of water bills, telephone bills, and inquiring balances from the phone lest they be cut off from enjoying the benefits due to the default. Great people are great learners, they are alert to the fact that they need to always be in possession of apt and up to date knowledge.
Story of the woodcutter
Perhaps this story will illustrate the point that I want to make. A story is often told about a very strong woodcutter who asked for a job in a timber merchant and he got it. The pay was really good and so was the work condition. For those reasons, the woodcutter was determined to do his best. His boss gave him an axe and showed him the area where he was supposed to work. The first day, the woodcutter brought 18 trees. “Congratulations,” the boss said. “Go on that way!” Very motivated by the boss words, the woodcutter tried harder the next day, but he could only bring 15 trees. The third day he tried even harder, but he could only bring 10 trees. Day after day he was bringing less and less trees. “I must be losing my strength”, the woodcutter thought. He went to the boss and apologised, saying that he could not understand what was going on. “When was the last time you sharpened your axe?” the boss asked. “Sharpen? I had no time to sharpen my axe. I have been very busy trying to cut trees…”
Sharpen your axe
What the woodcutter was doing is what many of us have been doing. You can aptly execute and solve problems if you are armed with sharp and relevant skills. New problems are arising every day and a call for innovative solutions always beckons. When was the last time you read an article that speaks to your field, when was the last time you attended a conference that added value to you? What movies are you watching? What value are they adding to your skills? Focus on value addition. If you do not add value to yourself, no one will add value to you. When I discovered my passion as a speaker, I made a decision to sharpen my skills daily. I read at least one new motivational quote every day. I introduce new ideas to my mind and by doing so I have information on my fingertips. As an attorney I made decision, and I challenge colleagues in my field to read at least one Court judgment daily, and add to your legal jurisprudence. What is your field? What are you doing to stretch yourself daily or weekly?
Flee from stale information
Experience is sometimes the greatest impediment to our success. We become so satisfied with the information that we obtained some years ago in college, and probably implemented soon after for the past years. Unguided experience always leads to error. Why don’t you review your experiences so far and the value that you have added to yourself and probably to your customers? Tradition kills, and stands in the way of development. Step out of tradition and open up your mind to learning that enhanced your call and your purpose in life. If you do not want to learn, you will be a liability not only to the people around you, but to yourself as well. It is not surprising that there some people in offices who rely on the Personal Assistants to go online or even do basic typing because they have not bothered to educate themselves in that area. Delegation is good, but you can only and must delegate areas that you are competent in.
You are not paid for ignorance
No one is ever rewarded for exhibiting ignorance. You are paid for the quality of solutions that you bring to problems. The quality of problems you solve determines the quality of reward you get. Enhance your capacity to solve problems by enhancing your intellectual capacity. People who do not want to add value to themselves, will always compensate people who were never resisted adding value to themselves.
Come to think of it, we are paying for ignorance at various levels. If you do not know the law, you have to pay a lawyer to explain the law for you, if you do not know how to balance your books; you have to pay an accountant to do that for you, the same with dentistry or any other industry. It is not enough to just have knowledge in any area of life, have knowledge that you can convert into value. Be so good at what you do, such that when an assignment arises, they can only but think of your services. Be valuable, be rare!
Story of the king’s steamship
Once upon a time a certain king had a steamship which he loved so much. It developed a fault. He looked for technicians who could help him within his kingdom. To his dismay, no one could match up the task. After all the dismay one small man passed through after getting wind of the grief. He came and said, “I can fix your steam ship. I want $300.00 for my services.” The payment was made, and the little man asked for a small spanner, and turned one bolt. The steam engine was resurrected. The king looked in utter dismay, and wondered why he had been charged $300.00 for just turning a bolt. The gentlemen’s reply was profound, “I charged you $20.00 for turning the bolt, and $280.00 for knowing which bolt to turn.”
What are you being paid to do? What innovative solutions are you bringing to your community, to your workplace, to your family, and to people that are around you.
Learning is a choice
- You can never be forced to learn. You choose to learn. I want to challenge you this week to continue learning. Here are some of the things that can help sharpen your skills;
- Buy a new book, or even borrow from a friend, and read once a week, or a month.
- Subscribe to websites for updates that add value to you.
- Watch healthy videos on YouTube, or any other video sharing platforms on the internet.
- Make the internet useful for you, and let it add and stretch you to reach your full potential. I have managed to do a lot of research online and wrote over 15 books.
- Choose people who add value to you, and sharpen your skills in various areas. It is always good to associate with people who know better than you.
- Invest in television channels that inspire your curiosity and drive you to more learning. Do not just watch movies, watch documentaries as well, and business news channels.
- Learn from them, and inquire how best you can stretch yourself.
- Attend seminars that can improve you. No offence to the entertainment world, but it has taken a lot of attention from learning. People are willing to part with thousands to be entertained than to be educated. Even if you are entertainer, be an enlightened entertainer. Learn how best to add value to yourself, and manage your talent as a business.
Nothing happens unless you do. To do this you need to invest time and money. Take action this week, and you will start seeing positive change in your life.
TO BE CONTINUED…