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Sharpening The Sword
by On August 22, 2012

I just returned from a weekend in Bend, OR where I joined 21 other individuals for a Leadership Retreat led by Eric Plantenberg.  It was amazing for a multitude of reasons, but the biggest takeaway I got is the realization that sometimes the best thing you can do is just take some time to sharpen your blade.  I was definitely a huge advocate of continuous improvement and personal development on Thursday when I arrived.  By the time I left on Monday I was an evangelist.

We were there to dig a little deeper into the curriculum of the Abundant Living Retreat.  As a staff member for this event, one of my roles is helping facilitate some of the exercises that attendees take part in.  I would consider myself fairly competent at helping people with this, and I think this mindset gave me a false sense of confidence and was limiting my ability to be a great facilitator.  I say this because about halfway through the second day of the retreat, I TOTALLY picked up on many new ways to help people in their exercises.  These new skills will help make me a better facilitator, AND they have instilled a new level of confidence and competency in me.

All too often, individuals get in a groove with their profession.  I have seen it in dozens of industries.  Bike Dealers and Suppliers who rely on “what we’ve always done” to try and sell more product.  Accountants and Financial Services professionals who only focus on technical training for continuing ed.  Medical staff that only participate in procedures and routine checkups in order to “stay on top of things”.  Or here’s my favorite, “We’re just so busy and don’t want to add any more to the plate”.  Yeahhhhhh… I don’t think your plate is full.  I think you are trying to eat sloppy lasagne off of a cheap paper plate. Try doubling that thing up.  Or better yet, use a real plate.  By real plate I mean make yourself a better professional.  When was the last time you spent some time on YOU?

In order to DO your best work you need to BE the best you that you can.  Taking time to focus on you will lead to incredible success.  Here’s just a few tips for how to improve you:

1.  Practice Gratitude – Spend time regularly focusing on things you are grateful for.  This could be family, friends, food, laughter, tears, work successes or even just finding that penny on the ground or that $5 bill in your pocket.  The more you operate from a mindset of gratitude, the more you open yourself to being able to accept success when you find it (or it finds you).

2.   Read – Read regularly.  Read a lot.  I don’t disagree that technical training and know-how is absolutely crucial to success.  There is so much information out there, and so much of it is in books and on the Internet.  After all, you found this post, didn’t you? Use books and technology to hone your technical skills.  Here’s a great book to start with.  Once you finish it, then be sure to:

3.  Get Off the Reservation – At least once a year (and preferably 2-3 times), get away from everything you know and attend a workshop, seminar or retreat.  Preferably something that is NOT indigenous to your industry.  This is where the best learning happens.  It’s more than likely you will be there with other like-minded people on the same path.  Talk to them.  Learn from them.  Experience the curriculum with them, and then (and this is KEY!) keep in touch to hold each other accountable.  Now go re-read that last sentence.  I have seriously lost count of the number of people I have met that spend thousands of dollars on “training” only to forget the content a few days or weeks later simply because they didn’t take the time to review it and put it into practice.  Guess what.  This is the most expensive of the options I listed and it’s also the one with the biggest ROI.

These are just a few things that have worked for me.  What are you doing to keep your blade sharp?  Better yet, share a story on how much fun you had mowing down your business (or better yet, your competition) after the last time you sharpened your blade.

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