What is your plan for a better version of yourself?

Change happens incrementally, slowly, almost imperceptibly. Change requires a lot of things to make it happen. As we end this financial year, it’s time to review our personal success, and it’s time to ask ourselves some questions.

Everyone wants to be successful, but success is built upon 1,000 small improvements every day. You can’t practice winning a tennis match, but you can practice your backhand cross-court shots, you can practice your volleys, and you can introduce a new shot – topspin lops. You can add new features to your game that you would have never used in a previous match. You can watch what others do. Study them, analyse their games, see how they are superior to you, and then graft their ideas into your game.

  • What things you’re not happy about and you would like to improve?
  • What things you’re doing that you want to stop doing?
  • What skills and techniques do you want to improve on?
  • How have you gone backward during the year?
  • What are the good things you used to do but have slipped away?
  • What technique and approaches do you want to try?

Be honest.

Honest assessment is so important. During the next year, inevitably, we will lose some team members as they fall behind their goals and assessments. No one wants that. Those who don’t improve and fall behind will eventually be left behind. Change is hard. Sometimes, we look at those naturally gifted among us and say, “Wow, it’s so easy for them.” But, in my opinion, it’s 50/50. You need natural ability and application.

When I started university studies, I had the lowest entrance score in my cohort. Sitting in my first Calculus class, we all asked each other what Tertiary Entrance Score we were allocated. We boys were setting the pecking order of the class, who was whom – where did I rank in comparison to others? Men do it a lot, like rutting. Everyone wants to know where we sat in the student hierarchy.

For a variety of reasons, my entrance was a lowly 865 (the lowest possible for the course was 850), and theirs were all 950 or 990 which was the maximum possible score. No one in my whole class had a score less than 900. I was truly the runt of the litter. I managed to stumble through the first year of studies with very average grades, but in the second year of University, I learned something. That, although the other students were clearly, more naturally gifted at mathematics than I was, I discovered a simple fact, that I could still outwork them.

I was determined to even up the balance of natural ability and work, but just outworking them. I studied like a trojan, pre-reading every lecture to give myself more context and get better value from the lectures, working 2 weeks ahead of every assignment, finishing the semester with no rush, and 3 weeks to revise everything – every page, every assignment, for every subject. I did and revised every exercise and every practice session. “Student labor is cheap,” I told myself.

I changed the way I studied and the way I approached university and problem-solving. I was going to brute force my learning.

Eventually, of course, with all those practices and work, my skills started to improve. I made up for my poor first year and more. My knowledge expanded, and the once difficult problems became easier. My memory improved. It’s a compounding effect. The more you work on your improvements, the faster your improvement becomes. I started getting +90% scores.

At the end of the 3-year university course, overall, even given my poor first year, I finished 2nd in my class and went on to complete another 4 university degrees, all empowered by this newly learned, learning ability.

So, I encourage you all. Take 30 minutes, review your year. Talk to your Team Leader and Manager, ask them for an honest assessment. Agree on what areas you want to improve or even to stop declining. Set a plan on how you will improve and then get to work. Don’t expect instant success. Plan to come back in a year’s time, proud of the changes you made, and proud of the person you have become.