How To Avoid The Personal Development Plateau was written by Ross Hudgens, author of Authentic Marketing.
What’s your specialty? How long have you been doing it?
When you started learning this specialty, your growth cycle was dramatic. Every article you read brought on new insights. When you practiced, implementation ingrained the information quickly in your head. Repetition allowed you to find new ways to improve the process, and eventually, somewhere along that cycle, you hit the 90% completion rate of absolute expertise.
Then, the path to 100% learning slowed. You burrowed in and spent tireless hours, but most of the time you spent working brought little improvement. Whether or not you were internally aware of this is irrelevant – it nonetheless happened.
Immediate, quick growth is a reaction for any new field, but similarly, a plateau of improvement is always reached. At this point, you’ll have to put in hundreds of hours to squeak out the next improvement up the percentage scale, and even if you do, the time invested may not be worth the improvement gained.
This happens everywhere, but similarly, most people never act on it. If you’re in a job working the same position for 3 years, there’s a good chance your learning has all but halted. You have to get out. Your growth depends on it.
Why You Should Come Up Short
How about those people who spend tireless hours in the gym? You can improve your body, sure, but to what point? If you’re not a bodybuilder, the return on 2 hours in the gym every day hits a ceiling. When you’re around your “perfect body”, your time should be shifted down to maintain, because your body has little room left for improvement, and the time spent to reach that improvement isn’t worth the investment back in.
Technology has changed things. Before, your career might have called for a single investment towards the 100% goal. However, as more and more career fields become commoditized and there’s increased room for “linchpins”, those who can expend emotional labor, solve problems, and do what can’t be measured, every business needs a “90%er”.
In small companies, it’s intensely important to be able to wear multiple hats. Instead of wasting countless hours researching your field after you’ve hit that 90%, pivot. Your time invested will be much better spent, and your company and business will love you for it.
How do I know when I’ve reached 90%?
Now that you’ve put a name on it, you’ll be aware of it. I especially respect Seth Godin for this – he puts names on the things that didn’t have them, and that allows us to face them and conquer. This may be enough for the less OCD-enabled, but for those who want to realize the moment to enable a pivot, real tools exist.
- Track your productivity. – Rescue Time is a great program to track time measurement online. You can associate productivity variables to various tasks, and from there, you have a real gauge on how you’re improving within each undertaking, at least from a speed point of view.
- Jump back. – Return to your past work. Look at the stuff you did six months ago. How does it compare to now? Four months? Last month? If the improvement hit a plateau at some point, you have strong evidence to support a development shift.
- Measure. – If you start measuring what you’re doing, you can start comparing. If you can put a number on it, you have the gauge to quickly establish a plateau. Buy a notebook. Write everything down. Be consistent. Be careful in areas like weight lifting, though, as plateaus often occur in the natural growth cycle, and can quickly be burst through.
Climb at Least One Hill
There’s a need to be a 100%er in one area, at least initially. It’s a marketing pull. People buy specialties. Jobs want experience. Much of it, though, is just time commitment on the resume. If you’re running a small web-based business for instance, do your job, get the experience that requires “doing”, but out of the office, stop worrying about the caveats of accounting vernacular or what 1% improvement you can make to your SEO technique.
Your time would be much better spent developing programming knowledge, web design or marketing ability to create traffic (and accounting leads) in multiple ways. There’s real value, now, in being a jack of all trades. In this internet world, where accessibility is easier than ever, it’s the best way to improve your value, both in the workplace and as a person.
Ross Hudgens is a marketer. His primary responsibility involves driving traffic to some of the biggest websites on the Internet. His secondary responsibility is writing about all of it on his blog Authentic Marketing. For additional information like this, subscribe to his feed or follow him on Twitter here.