“I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.” - Bruce Lee
If you want to be the best at anything you have to put in the work. But it has to be the right type of work. You have to master the fundamentals for every repetition to count.
The goal of this article is to share with you some actionable information that will allow you to create a professional development plan to take your career to the next level.
The first step would be to have the right mindset towards professional development. If you would like to do so you can read this article. Now let’s go over the plan.
Legendary college basketball coach John Wooden was famous for his way of starting practice. The very first day of every season, while he has a NCAA coach (he won 10 championships in 12 years), would start by teaching the players how to tie their shoes.
This would probably seem odd to most players. By this time they were very good at what they did, they would probably think they knew the fundamentals. Yet, coach Wooden explained you had to tie your shoes properly because if not you would get blisters. If you got blisters you wouldn’t be able to train at your max. If you didn’t train at your max then you wouldn’t reach your full potential.
It all starts with mastering the fundamentals. The first step then, in a professional development plan, would be to have an understanding of the fundamentals and what it takes to master them.
In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell talks about the “10,000-hour rule”. But doing something for 10,000-hours is not enough, you have to be doing it the right way.
Any skill that you want to improve has probably been improved by someone else before. We must remember that, as Picasso said, “Good artists copy. Great artists steal.”
Why reinvent the wheel?
In any field, there is always a book considered “the Bible” of that field. Or a couple of thought leaders considered the best ones. What we have to do then is start by following the path that others have taken, until we reach the point where we can create our own.
At BizLatte our goal is to facilitate this process of finding the best sources of information, and sharing it with you in an actionable way so you can advance your career. Stay connected if you would like to receive these resources.
Now let’s take a look on how you can create a professional development plan.
Master the Fundamentals
Alejandro alluded to the idea of doing the fundamentals, and he is correct. Professional development is simply the progression of doing the right things daily. These positive actions have a compound effect which over time lead to achieving your goal. It’s really that simple, but people mess up for two core reasons.
1) We are lazy. When I taught at the University of Houston, one of the professors in my department would joke about his “law of laziness.” Basically, humans are wired to be lazy. It’s actually important. We actively conserve our caloric output (save energy) for long-term survival. When we were foragers this was a great thing as there might be a few days where food was scarce. During these lean times, it was vital to not expend too much energy. The problem is we are no longer foragers and food is abundant. There is no reason to be lazy but our brain has not evolved to contemporary life (biological evolution takes much longer than cultural evolution).
2) We haven’t been taught properly. Again, going back to my teaching days, my academic research was on education reform. One of the main ideas I uncovered was school curriculum doesn’t prepare students for the modern world. Most schools don’t teach the fundamentals of a successful life, i.e. budgeting, how to learn (not what to learn), professional development, and more. Schools are stuck in teaching patterns which date back a century and have been slow to adapt.
In sum, there are two main reasons people are terrible at achieving their goals, 1) they are lazy, and 2) they have not been taught properly.
Counteracting laziness is difficult and requires discipline. Counteracting not knowing what to do is easy, it only requires consuming valuable content. Consumption can occur by reading books, blogs, articles, and industry reports. You can listen to audiobooks and podcasts. Or you can be visual and watch YouTube of TED Talks, 99U, the 9to5 MisFits, or other valuable channels.
I passed over laziness as it is more challenging to defeat. My recommendation is to, of course, read best practices on discipline. Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy Seals Lead and Win by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin is essential. Read or listen to the book and develop a more disciplined life.
Remember, our goal for this article is to provide the fundamentals and an action plan for professional development. We could discuss networking, learning new skills, and more. Yet, the basics are to be disciplined and consume valuable content.
The first step to a professional development plan is to set a goal. It is key you are working on developing the skills that will help you get to the next level.
Fortunately, there is a lot of research and data on the topic. Matt and I were part of an independent research study called Giving Power to Bauer. We started with the discovery phase and part of that was reading the GMAC Corporate Recruiters Survey (here you can find the latest).
Thanks to that, we were able to identity the top 5 skills employers are looking for are:
- Oral Communication,
- Listening Skills,
- Written Communication,
- Presentation Skills, and
At this point, it was clear the skills we needed to practice and improve to take our careers to the next level. Now we needed to identify what were the fundamentals of those skills.
By conducting some informational interviews, with professionals that were at the top of their fields, I was able to identify the sources I needed to check to understand the fundamentals.
I got a list of books that I had to read to improve those 5 skills:
- How to Win Friends and Influence People
- The Wall Street Book of Chief Executive Style
- Power: Why Some People Have it and Others Don’t
- Never Eat Alone
- Swim With the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive
- Networking is Not Working
- Tools of Titans
These are just a few of the books that I have read to understand the fundamentals of improving my communication skills. At this point, I was ready to practice and set the goals and activities that I was going to do to get better at it.
I decided I would volunteer to do any oral presentation needed for my MBA projects, I joined the Bauer MBA Ambassadors, where I would be part of student panels, and took a couple of leadership positions where I would have to do presentations too.
Also, I set a goal of attending at least 3 networking events per week, either 1-on-1 coffee chats/lunches, conferences, or mixers.
What are the skills you need to improve to advance your career? Do you know the sources that will help you identify the fundamentals of those skills that you need to improve?
As Matt mentioned, we are lazy. Most people don’t read more than 1 book a year.
That is exactly why I write these articles. Given that I enjoy reading, my goal is to share the most valuable information, and fundamentals, that I get from these books in a simple and actionable way. That way you can make the most out of your time and take your career to the next level.
Don't Move Fast, Just Focus
Maybe you have read a few of our blogs and get tired of hearing us talk about action. But there is nothing else to talk about when it comes to the fundamentals of professional development.
It all starts with you. Will you focus on the basics? Think back to the beginning of this article and John Wooden explaining to his players how to tie their shoes. Maybe your basketball knowledge is non-existent, let's just say Wooden was the Jeff Bezos of his time. Wooden was a genius, winner, and built leaders. Yet, it all started with learning to tie shoes correctly.
Once you know what to do, see all our advice above, then it's time to focus and take action. There really is no other choice. You can sit and read this, toss away the advice, and continue to do what you are doing. Then what happens in 2-years, 5-years, a decade? What if you are still sitting in the same place wondering where the time went. Don't do that to yourself, your loved ones, and the world. Focus on the fundamentals and begin your professional development plan.
Over time, the compound effect of disciplined action will lead toward your goals.
For more insights and how to reach your professional goals, stay connected with us for free monthly resources.
Alejandro I. Sanoja and Matt Avery