As we look at the tools we use to find success; maybe we should first look at how we define success.
Recently a friend of mine was worried that he was not going to meet critical project requirements for his job. I helped him break down major tasks and had him define how much time each task needed. Our discussion took less than ten minutes. Afterward, he was relieved that accomplishing the project on time seemed very achievable.
Then I suggested that he add the defined tasks to his schedule so he could make sure he allocated the time needed. Because for many people there is a gap between knowing what to do, and taking the time to do it. He responded, “I don’t use a calendar to schedule my day! It takes too much time. I need to be flexible to work on whatever is most important at the moment.” It became evident why this important project with a fixed deadline caused my friend anxiety.
Last week, I was ill. I had caught a summer cold that took me out of commission for a couple of days. I needed to revise my work calendar. But because I had a plan, I knew what actions could be delayed and what needed to be done as scheduled. When a deadline can’t be moved, I like the necessary steps to be in my schedule. I find it interesting that some people view a schedule as being too restrictive, and other people view a schedule as necessary to enable flexibility. The plan is not the difference; it is how we use it.
Isn’t this true of all tools? A tool is only as good as our ability to use it! So how can we use these tools when it comes to reaching our goals? What does it take to succeed? There isn’t a single characteristic that defines success, but we should consider expertise and character. Some people find success through their expertise. Others find success by utilizing great character and relying on others for expertise. Which do you utilize best? One skill that you should consider honing is communication. Jack Klemeyer talked about how important communicating skillfully is as a tool.
Because the ability to communicate in depth with other humans is one of our most distinguished privileges, we should never take that ability for granted. Instead, we should do all we can to increase our ability to have good conversation with the people around us. Think about all of the opportunities you have each day to engage another human being in conversation. You can talk to rocks, trees, or your favorite stuffed animal for as long as you want and you will never get a response. Saying something as simple as “hello” to another person can elicit a response.
This is obviously not a right or wrong question. We need both character and expertise to succeed. You alone can’t be successful. It requires the help of other people. Even when it feels like you are working on a project by yourself, you are probably getting advice from sources such as books, videos, research data, or online searches. Many times we forget to be thankful for all that help.
Our work is impacted by our character. Our character is embedded in what we do. It exists in the results of the work, and also in how the results influence others. The things we value will be visible in our output and our actions. When we take time to reflect on our successes or our challenges, the scale between expertise and character can give us new insight. What would improve your results over the next week? Should you invest more time in your character or your expertise?