“Growth is never by mere chance; it is the result of forces working together.”
– James Cash Penney
Our theme for the year is “Growth.” As I’ve spent the past few months thinking about our theme and what it means to me, another word has co-existed with these thoughts—potential.
Think about that word for a moment. How does it make you feel? If you’re like me, you find it exciting; your list of what’s possible expands; it brings a sense of optimism.
Growth is about closing the gap between where you are today and what you envision when you close your eyes and think of your potential.
I’m not one to focus on the negative, but I've also spent time thinking about the other side of that growth coin—unrecognized potential. That thought is even more depressing than the idea that recognized potential is uplifting.
I read a story that painted the picture of unrecognized potential in the most eye-opening way. The author said her father had spent his entire life wanting to be a musician. However, he never acted on that dream or pursued his musical potential. The author wrote, "My dad died with the music still inside him."
We all must commit to growth to ensure we let our “music” escape.
Growth must be intentional and non-optional
We are an accidental industry. Most of us never intended insurance and benefits as a career, but when we get here, we love it.
We can continue down an accidental path and be reasonably satisfied with the journey. However, if we ever stop to think about the potential this industry offers by forging a more intentional path, we will realize how much music we’re leaving inside.
If you don’t work to create the future you want, you must settle for the future you get.
Growth must be an intentional, non-optional, and urgent commitment. We can come up with countless excuses and rationalizations for not making it a higher priority, like:
- “I’ll grow simply by showing up.”
- “I’m a bit busy right now; just keeping up.”
- “I’m not exactly sure what to do, but I will do so as soon as I figure it out.”
Don’t confuse intentional goals with intentional growth. When you focus on goals, it’s possible that growth MAY happen. However, if you focus on intentional growth, you will almost always hit the goals as well.
Growth starts with an understanding of who you are
You must be clear about where you are today to put yourself on a path that leads to your potential.
Start with an honest assessment of your habits, skill sets, knowledge, etc. However, the most important thing to know about yourself is whether you will do the hard work and pay the price necessary to drive growth.
Regardless of where you’re starting from, you must believe that YOU are worth the effort and price necessary to drive growth. The degree to which you believe in yourself is the limiting factor to closing your growth gap and reaching your potential.
It isn’t what you are that holds you back; it’s what you believe you aren’t.
Most of our limitations aren’t based on lack of ability but on lack of belief.
Sustainable growth starts small
The book Atomic Habits explains that growth results from small, incremental improvements.
The author, James Clear, shared the story of the British cycling team and how their story changed in 2003. At that time, the team had endured 100 years of mediocrity. They had won only a single Olympic gold medal, and no British cyclist had won the Tour de France. They were so bad that a top European bike manufacturer refused to sell them bikes for fear it would hurt sales to other professionals.
They brought in a new coach committed to “the aggregation of marginal gains.” This was a fancy way of saying to look for a tiny bit of improvement in everything. For the team, this meant analyzing and finding a 1% improvement in everything that goes into racing a bike. His theory was that these small changes, in the aggregate, would drive significant improvement.
- Redesigned the seats for more comfort.
- Rubbed alcohol on the tires for a better grip.
- Had the riders wear heated shorts to maintain ideal muscle temperature.
- Tested racing suits to find the lightest and most aerodynamic.
- Tested different massage gels to find the one for the fastest recovery.
- Hired a surgeon to teach the team how to wash their hands to avoid colds.
- Identified the best pillow and mattress for each rider to ensure the best night’s sleep.
Five years later, at the Olympic Games in Beijing, the British team won 60 percent of the gold medals. Four years after that, they set nine Olympic and seven world records.
Think about all the factors that go into your personal and professional performance. How much of your growth gap could you close by finding a “1%” improvement in the variables contributing to creating that gap?
Growth requires patience
Our industry is filled with quick starts; people quickly jump from one idea to another. While that tendency serves us well in many ways, it also limits growth.
We especially see it in our marketing division. Organizations new to marketing often lack the patience to wait for tangible evidence of their results. It’s a bit like planting crops from seeds. Early growth is happening, but it’s hidden from sight.
I’m not suggesting going on blind faith. I suggest we look more intentionally at what we’re doing and at ways to find and measure the sometimes-hidden results.
Take a moment to pause and think about what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, how you’re doing it, and when you’re doing it. If you find yourself doing the wrong thing, for the wrong reason, in the wrong way, and at the wrong time—recalibrate.
It sounds obvious when you say it out loud. And it is. Growth is way easier when we take time to reflect on our progress.
Nothing grows to its full potential if it isn’t in the right environment. It’s been said that you’re the same person today that you’ll be in five years except for two factors:
- The people with whom you spend time.
- The ideas you expose yourself to.
If non-growth people surround you, your growth will come nowhere close to your potential. The people in your life can be divided into thirds.
One-third is negative and sucks the life out of the room. The next third is happy enough when things are going well but quickly becomes a downer when adversity rears its ugly head. The final third is always positive, even when times get tough.
To clarify, when we talk about positive people, it doesn't mean they won't challenge you and hold you accountable; in fact, quite the opposite. Positive people see the potential in you even when your confidence is waning. We all need to surround ourselves with people willing to kick us in the ass when we’re not doing what we must to move forward.
Growth requires exposing yourself to new ideas
Only 33% of high school and 42% of college graduates read a book after school. How sad! You can’t reach your potential without exposing yourself to new ideas.
It’s amazing how often I recommend a book to someone, and they come back later, thanking me for the recommendation and feeling relieved that it came at the perfect moment. They mention they had multiple opportunities to share what they learned from the book the following week.
Those growth opportunities were there all along; they could not recognize them because they hadn’t exposed themselves to the right ideas.
Growth requires a well-designed system
Growth is the result of intentional activities performed repeatedly. Anything done repeatedly will benefit from designing a process and system.
Life is simple, keeping it that way isn’t.
The best systems are simple and designed to simplify your life and growth. As you look to drive your growth, ask yourself four questions:
What should I . . .
- Do more of?
- Do less of?
- Stop altogether?
Use the answers to identify the three or four priority areas you need to find success each week and make them the focus of your weekly planning commitments.
If something is a priority, it’s scheduled on your calendar. Set a recurring session on your calendar dedicated to your priority commitments, and your growth will be all but assured.
Growth doesn’t come without discomfort, pain, and sacrifice
Most of us will abandon our pursuit of growth when it requires sacrifice or becomes difficult and painful. We all must decide that not growing is even more difficult and painful.
Our previous success and what we delivered are one of our biggest barriers to additional growth. It is hard to give up our previous gains. However, the habits that delivered those gains are often the very obstacle to even bigger gains.
The financial reward for mediocrity in this industry has been excessively high. This is changing daily.
Change is the one constant; our environment is constantly changing. When we recognize that fact, we also recognize that we must change ourselves.
The things that brought you here won't be enough to take you further, and they won't keep you here either. When the world changes around you, but you aren’t, you fall a little further behind every day.
Be prepared to embrace change or irrelevance. One or the other is waiting with open arms.
Content provided by Q4intelligence
Photo by dariako