The biggest impediment to being successful may be something you find surprising. No matter what field you’re in, or what you consider success to be, achievement of any kind comes, to some extent, through learning. Those at the top of their game have learned what they need to know to do it well. Whether they learned formally or informally, through life experience or in a classroom, they have learned, and they have put what they learned into practice.
But success does not last. The successful person today can be a failure tomorrow, or at least not as successful. To remain at the top of your game, your knowledge must retain its relevance to changing circumstances—and everything changes. If we don’t change with it, we will fade into irrelevance.
Take fiction writing for instance: The modern approach to fiction writing is, to some extent, a response to the excitement level of the novels’ big competitors—movies, TV, video games and social media. It’s harder to hold readers today than it was a couple of decades ago—ask any long serving high school teacher—and some of what mainstream publishers published last century wouldn’t make the cut today. The number of books making submissions or being self-published is greater, and the competition is harder than it was even five years ago. Authors cannot rest on the laurels of a mainstream publishing deal gained last century. What worked then, may not work as well now.
A refresher course may be needed.
Some will scoff. Perhaps they have a degree in their field and consider that they have all the knowledge required. They may even consider that anyone who disagrees with their highly qualified assessment must be wrong. They may hold to their old ways even though they fail them, and not realise that if they earned that degree last century, some of it may no longer be relevant, or perhaps new information has come to light. Their learning happened in a snapshot of time, but time has moved on. Situations change, and to be successful, we must change too.
What is the current thinking in your field? Do you know? Have you studied it? Or do you merely have a vague perception of what it’s all about? The biggest impediment to success is an unwillingness to learn, and the biggest impediment to learning is to think you already know everything.
No one knows everything, and if you think you do, then you most certainly don’t.
There’s an old Japanese story that puts this well:
An English professor goes to visit a Japanese meditation master with the intention of learning more about meditation, and the master offers him tea, which he accepts. While the Englishman talks about everything he knows, the meditation master pours tea into the Englishman’s cup and continues to pour even when the cup is full. Eventually, the Englishman notices that tea is pouring all over the table.
“My cup is full,” he says.
“Exactly,” says the master. “How can the tea go in when the cup is already full?”
I trust that you get the analogy.