One day I discussed with a colleague of mine the articles that I publish as well as the inspirational & personal development material available in general on the internet, and the following dialogue took place between us:
Him: ‘’ You know Mohamed, I find your articles and videos interesting and I am also glad for the ‘’takeaway’s’’ that you are always trying to give at any of your articles, such as referring to a course, a website, another video, or even another speaker. And I started watching inspirational speeches for great speakers around the world to know more about how to live my dreams and how to reach my goals…etc. But you know what the problem is? All of those speeches on the internet are not effective from my point of view. They do not offer the people the ‘’bottom line’’ about how to change our lives or reach our goals. I always felt that they are missing something.’’
Me: ‘’ so you are already watching videos of great speakers about personal development and that’s a great start in general. How frequently do you watch those video’s?’’
Him: ‘’ About once per week.’’
Me: ‘’Have you ever tried to learn more about the things that they said, or to use some of the advice or tips mentioned in those speeches, no matter how obvious or simple they seem?’’
Then silence took over the place for some seconds, and then I followed up by saying:
Me: ‘’ That’s exactly the problem, my dear colleague. Let me explain to you the first mistake that you are doing: you open a video or an article of a great writer or a speaker. You enjoy watching or reading it, and you get inspired for some time, then after this, you close the video or article and forget about it. You do not ‘’apply’’ what you hear or read. And by the way, this is normal as I see it happening in front of me most of the time. So let me give you an obvious example which almost happens each day: how many times did you saw a friend or colleague of you attending training, and when he returned he applied directly some of the tips that he learned? For me, I rarely saw someone around me attending a work-related training, or even personal training and then I saw this person using the lessons learned directly in his personal life or work.’’
Him:’’ I hardly remember anyone that I know who did that. In fact, almost all the people I know rarely apply something when they are back from training. Even though a lot of times they were impressed and gave positive feedback about the training and the quality of information which was shared from the instructor or the speaker.’’
Me: ‘’So let’s dig more into details and build on your answer and ask ourselves: ’then why? Why is it that if a person watched, read or attended something which can add value to him, is not applying what he learned?’
From my point of view, it’s mainly because one of two reasons: a) either because of laziness and resistance to change your old ways, or b) because you see the tips as very simple and apparent tips, to the extent that you think that you know them very well and that they will never work for you because of their simplicity.’’
Me: ‘’I admit that, as human beings, we sometimes need to see something complicated to believe in it and to feel that it may work for us, right? And this leads me to the second mistake that you are doing; which is underestimating the information that you read or hear because it seems obvious, and you already think that you know it and that you are already applying it in your daily life. And the real problem with this is that usually when you underestimate something and see it simple and obvious, you stop learning about it in real life, and if you have the choice, you will not use it.’’
Me: ‘’Let me give you an example about simple words that you hear a lot around you in the work environment, while they are always under-utilized because the employees do not have enough knowledge about them but they ‘’think’’ they do.’’
Me: ‘’If I told you the words ’’Vision’’ or ‘’KPI (Key performance indicator)’’, or ‘’Power-Point Presentation’’ which pictures are painted in your mind automatically? Those keywords seem obvious in the corporate life, and if you ask almost any employee, I bet he will tell you that he can simply set a vision, KPI, or create a power point presentation. But is this employee capable of doing it correctly while utilizing the power of those words or tools? Does he know the fundamentals of creating a real effective KPI, presentation or a vision? How long did he spend learning to know more about those words for the sake of using them effectively?‘’
Me: ‘’When a new employee or a fresh graduate joins a specific department at a company, he looks automatically to the experienced people around him to learn from them and to guide him. And if he is asked- let’s say- to create a powerpoint presentation in order to present it to the management, he does not invest time to learn about how to make an effective powerpoint presentation. Instead, he turns to one of his experienced colleagues and asks him to send him a presentation that he used it in the past so that he can use it as a reference. After checking the presentation of the experienced colleague, this new employee will most probably copy the same style, content and format of his experienced colleague- no matter if it was right or wrong- because simply this was the kind of presentations which ‘’worked’’ in this department in the past, and also in order to save time and effort. Several years later, this fresh graduate will become an experienced professional in the company, and another new fresh graduate will join the company and look up to him for guidance. What do you think will happen? And the loop keeps repeating itself again and again.’’
Me: ‘’ After all that I explained now and laying the foundation, let me answer your original question directly. Those speakers- that you are watching their videos and articles- will not tell you anything that you do not know already. In fact, most of the things that those great speakers say are common sense and obvious. Things that we see but we cannot see at the same time. Things that we knew previously but we never invested time to learn more about them to utilize them effectively or focused too much on them in order to apply them in our daily lives.”
Me: ‘’On the other hand, of course I cannot deny also that sometimes it will happen that you will find articles with no value added or speeches which are not so good, but it all depends on the speaker that you are watching and the quality of his information.’’
Me: ‘’so the main keys will be to ‘’learn’’- no matter how the things you learn about seem obvious- then to ‘’apply’’ what you learned and not to just read or watch. And trust me, if it’s only about watching, then all football fans should have been as skilled as Messi by just ‘’watching’’ football games, right?’’
Me:’’ You know, Knowledge and application complete each other. In fact, knowledge without application is nothing. You can have all the knowledge and information in the world, but without applying what you learned, you will never even move one step forward or explore the world of possibilities around you. And when you start applying, you will discover that your actions and applications took you another far place than the majority of the people around you and separated you from the norm. So if you want to achieve great things in your life and be different than the others, then you have to do today what others will not do, to achieve in your future what other will not achieve.’’
Me: ‘’I want to help you as a colleague. So here is my proposal to you, tell me what your target is or what you want to achieve. And then let us put a plan together and meet one time per week to discuss the progress and exchange knowledge. And all that I need from you is to focus on ‘’learning’’ and ‘’applying’’ the tips and the things that we will agree upon in our weekly meetings for only the next six months, and I promise you that you will start witnessing a difference in your life. Let’s move this extra mile together as a team. Deal?’’
After this discussion, we worked together closely to organize his thoughts and to find answers to some questions such as:
- What his goals are?
- How to turn these goals into a vision which matches his values?
- How to reach his goals and what are the strategies that we can use?
- How to break these goals down into clusters and sub-goals, and translate them into actions that he can take daily?
- Which good behavior and habits- which are supporting these goals- should he form, and which should he drop?
- Psychological aspects- how to keep his momentum through the year and sustain his progress?
After few months of learning, applying and adjusting loops, his life started changing dramatically, and he began explaining to me his new feelings, and he said:
Him: ‘’I do not know why, but I feel energetic as well as different. Different in everything. Even different from the people around me. Even the way I see the things changed. Thank you’’
Me: ‘’ You do not have to thank me as I did nothing. It’s all because of you, your hard work and dedication, and because you insisted on taking actions to change your life. You know, one time I watched a motivational video where Les Brown said: ’you do not have to be great to get started, but you need to get started to be great.’ So remember my dear, you just started now. And now you know your new road and direction. The challenge for you is to keep it running no matter what you pass through and no matter what will happen later. And by the way, sooner or later there will be times when you will be de-motivated, and the challenge for you will be to keep working and moving forward. I am just telling you so that you are prepared mentally and not expecting that life will always be moving in one direction.’’
Him:’’ Thanks for this tip Mohamed. Coming back to the quote that you just mentioned, I also know a similar quote which almost gives the same meaning. Einstein once said: ‘life is like riding a bicycle, to keep your balance you have to keep moving forward.’’
Me:’’ Exactly. So keep this quote in mind and never stop moving forward my friend.’’