–by Kris Lindahl
There’s something that happens as we age. Medical technology will continue to improve, and it’s likely that the visible signs of aging will become more and more of an option and less and less inevitable. The medical breakthroughs that have come about recently, partially in response to COVID-19, may even help us with prolong the healthy function of our organs, and prevent diseases that are automatically associated with old age. We’re closer and closer to being able to combat Alzheimer’s disease. But even if medicine produces miracles in the next decade, there will be no cure for how we tend to think as we gain experience, as we advance in our careers, and yes, age.
When we are young, we are good at nothing. We have to gradually learn to walk, to eat solid foods, to talk, to develop our motor skills. Everything is new, and everything is a challenge. Change is normal, and we are comfortable and familiar with being uncomfortable. The tears happen when something is just quite out of reach, or learning a new skill is frustrating, but they’re also okay, and expected, as we slowly improve.
All through school, learning and an element of stress and discomfort go hand in hand. We learn to perform under pressure, we learn new activities that are increasingly complex. And then we eventually learn to become independent adults, and become fairly good at those skills that fall under the pop culture umbrella of adulting.
And then something interesting happens. We don’t have to learn new things all the time, and so a lot of us stop. I see it all the time, and I’ve faced the same temptations and fears. We all start to struggle with a fear of failure, and it’s easier to just not try something. And the more we do that, the more avoidant we become, and the more uncomfortable the thought of doing something new becomes. Because we know how to do so many things, it becomes easier and easier and easier to just stay there, where we are comfortable.
But if you’re an entrepreneur or a business leader, I promise you that’s a very dangerous place to be. If you find yourself uncomfortable with the thought of speaking in front of a group, or embracing new technology, or you catch yourself making excuses, like, “The way we’ve been operating has worked just fine,” then it might be time to do some reflection on your thought process and just how comfortable you’ve become operating in a rut.
I’m not telling anyone to beat themselves up. This is natural, and probably a universal experience. But as I hit middle age, I’m just aware of how very tempting it is to just do things I’m good at. By now, I hope you’ll forgive me for saying I’m proud of just how much I’ve learned, and I could easily rest there. But then my company wouldn’t continue to grow, and eventually we could be winnowed out by our competitors.
For the past few years, I’ve made a habit of doing things I haven’t mastered yet. It doesn’t all have to be business related. I’ll try my hand at learning a different type of fishing, for example. Just making a habit of always learning new skills, and practicing getting over my fear of failure has really helped me stay out of a rut, and has made it easier for me to embrace new and better ways of doing business.
I’d encourage anyone out there to make a habit of learning something new. I’m not talking about just sitting back and watching a documentary. I’m talking about putting yourself out there in a way where you could totally mess up. And then stick with it, and get better.
Sure, it’s uncomfortable, especially at first, and you’ll probably have to relearn to laugh at yourself. But there’s something amazing that happens when you get back into the rhythm of learning to do new things. I’ve found you start to get your younger self back, your younger brain back. And that’s a beautiful thing.
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