As I get closer to turning 33, I have driven for over half my life. I still remember slowly counting down the days until I hit the magical age of 16 and could drive.
Those first few months were amazing! Little things, for example, going to the grocery store became a giant adventure. All the aspects of driving were enjoyable from blasting the radio to shifting gears (I drove a standard) to backing into a parking spot (you know because only cool people do that).
Since then I have continued to enjoy driving, and one of my traditions is that I have driven a Jeep Wrangler for almost 16-years consecutively. Not the same Jeep, I have owned 3 over the years and love the feel of the car, the agility, the turning radius, and of course the "Jeep Wave," if you don't know what that is then I have said too much.
However, there is a major downside with a Jeep, it has a horrendous blind spot. About 45 degrees backward on both sides no matter how you adjust your mirrors. When I was younger, I remember checking my mirrors, clicking the turn signal, and just as was about to merge lanes a loud and angry driver would be honking their horn. They were in my blind spot.
I needed to adapt. Now, if you were to see me drive, I easily look back 45 degrees when I make turns or switch lanes. It has become second nature to check my blind spots. Best of all, when I drive another car with smaller blind spots, I feel as though I am a better driver because I still look for those elusive places where a car might be lurking.
Our professional lives are similar, in order to improve and become our ideal selves we must acknowledge our blind spots and adjust accordingly. Below is a quick way to examine your blind spots and how to fix them.
"Even A******* Win"
“Your potential, the absolute best you’re capable of—that’s the metric to measure yourself against. Your standards are. Winning is not enough. People can get lucky and win. People can be a******* and win. Anyone can win. But not everyone is the best possible version of themselves.” ~ Ryan Holiday
Checking your blind spots allows you to become "the best possible version" of yourself. Let's be real, you can keep doing what you are doing and be fine. You might have a decent job, make good money, and be on your way to a promotion.
Yet, you might not be on the path of constant improvement. Looking at your blind spots is the practice of asking where am I weak, where can I develop, and how can I grow?
These are not necessarily easy questions so let's break them down. Imagine your current job or the job you desperately want. For that job, what skills would make you world-class?
I will use me as an example, I am a marketing consultant. Some of the ideal characteristics of a marketing professional are:
- Knowledge of web development
- Ability to use Adobe's creative platforms
- Skilled in sales from individuals to the masses
- Capable in various online communication platforms
The above questions are just a sample, but valuable. As I look over the list, internally, I know one is a glaring blind spot, individual sales.
It is one thing to create mass marketing campaigns, and another to be skilled in selling on an individual basis. Yet, the ideal marketing professional would be a master salesperson.
I have never been great at sales. When I was a personal trainer, selling was rather easy as I would show people before and after transformations of my clients. I could secure a new client with just that one technique. However, those sales happened instantly as they did not require a huge monetary investment. Now, when I am in a position to make a sale, the stakes are higher and there are usually months of meetings before a final decision is made.
I need to work on sales.
As for you, when you think of your profession or the industry where you want to be. What are the most important required skills? Is it something technical like coding, more soft-skill based, or the ability to quickly come up with financial valuations?
We all know who the best individuals and companies are in our industry. Look at them and pick out what they do better than others. Those are the skills you need. Once you have identified the skills, list them out on a piece of paper.
Take some time and really get detailed, list out everything you can think of that is a necessary skill. Now go back through and be honest.
- For the areas where you are strong, cross them out.
- For the areas where you are adequate, leave them on the list.
- For the areas where you are weak, circle them, these are your blind spots.
You will want to improve everywhere, but your blind spots demand immediate action. Those are the areas where you should focus and since they are a weakness you will improve quickly.
Think about it logically, if you are an amazing cook, it takes a lot of time and effort to become just a little better. Yet, if you burn cereal, learning a few recipes will dramatically change your cooking abilities.
Once you have your blind spots. Choose the one which is the most important for your career enhancement and begin a regime to make it a strength.
Learn From Experts
Now that you know where to improve, what do you do? Fortunately, we live in an age where information is always just a few clicks away.
Determine how you learn best, is it from one-on-one coaching, podcasts, books, structured courses, or something else? Any of those can be found with a Google search.
I am partial to books, I have always been a reader and will take notes, come back to read a book multiple times, and try out techniques I learn. Over the past 6-months, I have been reading books on sales. My three favorite so far are:
- Never Split the Difference: Negotiating as if your Life Depended on it by Chris Voss. Written by a former FBI negotiator, this is the best book I have ever read on sales and changed my approach overnight. Side note: it is one of the most exciting books I have read as Voss details past hostage negotiations, he is a real-life action hero.
- Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Dr. Robert B. Cialdini. This is almost a textbook as it is filled with decades of research. A must read for sales because of the analysis of why people make decisions.
- Contagious: Why Things Catch On by Jonah Berger. Another book with extensive research. This one explains why certain marketing campaigns work and others don't, yet it is perfectly crafted for a sales professional.
As I have read these books I have actually tried the ideas explained in them. It's amazing how a small book has the ability to completely transform our lives. Investments in books, 1-on-1 coaching, and online/in-person courses can dramatically make a life-long difference in who we become.
Whatever your learning style is, do something to improve those blind spots.
Keep Checking Your Blind Spots
Have you already thought about your blind spots while reading this? The largest should be obvious. You know the big areas where you need to improve. Use your preferred learning style and start improving immediately.
It will be the smaller blind spots which require constant attention. I didn't mention another blind spot Jeeps have. About 80 degrees forward and to the left, or 11 o'clock, is a small blind spot. In some instances, a car can be hiding there and I will only see it when it is extremely close.
Similarly, we all have smaller blind spots, these are skills where we are decent. That does not mean they are a strength, mediocrity does not equate to expert. Once you have worked on your major blind spots, continue to improve.
Start to look at the small areas and always remember to check your blind spots.