At one point or another, just about everyone is faced with a mountain he or she must climb. In most cases, it is a metaphorical mountain rather than an actual one. Entrepreneurs and professionals often have a huge obstacle they must surmount. Sometimes the challenge is to achieve something that hasn’t been done before. Sometimes the impediment is a family problem. And sometimes the hurdle is a personal health challenge. While some of those mountains are unavoidable, other peaks we scale by choice. The fact that it is a metaphorical challenge, brought by chance or choice, makes it no less arduous, depleting or risky. In that regard, it is a lot like actual mountain climbing. Real mountain climbing is not a sport for the faint of heart. It is exhausting, dangerous, and expensive. Yet so many people choose to climb mountains — despite the risks — much the way people choose to start businesses, deal with major obstacles or find solutions to serious problems. Why?
Why choose to climb a mountain, metaphorical or actual? What is, for example, the use of climbing Mount Everest? In 1923, a reporter asked British climber George Mallory this very question, and he replied, “It is no use. There is not the slightest prospect of any gain whatsoever.” Later, Mallory added (before he died in an attempt to summit Everest in 1924) that “If you cannot understand that there is something in man which responds to the challenge of this mountain and goes out to meet it, that the struggle is the struggle of life itself upward and forever upward, then you won’t see why we go.” There are many parallels and life lessons we can glean about how to tackle the biggest problems in business and life from real mountain climbers. Here are 10 tips from the pros. Continue reading
Today’s pace of change is relentless. Processes, procedures and technologies are evolving daily. The need to stay ‘in-the-know’ and update skills is an absolute necessity, not a nicety or option. Yet, most professionals have trouble just keeping up with the daily demands of work much less carving out time to learn something new. The average business exec struggles to find the time to learn new skills.
Indeed, acquiring new skills can be a daunting proposition because learning takes time. After all, it is widely touted that it takes 10,000 hours to become proficient in any skill. That is the number that author Malcolm Gladwell cited in his NY Times best-selling book, Outliers: The Story of Success. The problem is that 10,000 hours is equal to a full-time job for five years. Few people who already hold down a full-time job can take on the equivalent of ‘another job’ to master a new skill. That is the problem. There is a deep need to learn but learning takes more time than the average working professional can devote to the task. Does that mean everyone is doomed to obsolescence a few years after college? Thankfully, the answer is no. The solution is abbreviated mastery. Continue reading
Listening is a skill. We often think of listening as being the same as hearing, but it’s not. Hearing is one of the five senses that involves the ear. Whereas, listening is the conscious processing of all types of sounds and input – which could include speaking, music, noise, etc. — received by the ears during communication. We can hear something and not listen. Most any parent has experienced this firsthand when they give their child instructions, and the child clearly hears the instructions but cannot follow them because he was not listening.
Indeed, listening is one of the most underutilized and, in many people, underdeveloped skills. This is true of kids but it is also quite true of adults. Many people hear just fine and yet are terrible listeners. While it is never fun to deal with someone who is a bad listener, it is particularly challenging to deal with a weak listener at work. That is because at work, listening is the process by which a person – through direct interaction – gains an understanding of the needs, demands, and preferences of the boss, clients, coworkers, subordinates, and vendors. Poor listening results in a hazy understanding, which in turn leads to mediocre results. That said, if listening well so important, then why is it a skill deficient in so many? More importantly, what constitutes good listening and what kinds of things can a person do to become a better listener?