Who Else Wants to be a Leader?
“Criticism is something you can easily avoid by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.”
How do you become a leader? Put your brain on steroids and put it to work.
Before getting into that, let me share with you an interesting idea I read in an article by Scott Dinsmore from Live Your Legend on the importance of spending your time creating instead of consuming. He proposes that we are inclined to consume more than create. He gives the example of when he started his business, he was consuming books and blog posts (spending plenty of money and time) and had little to show for in output. We tend to go towards learning (e.g. going back to school) because it is safer than creating something. He argues that when you create, what you learn is more valuable and unique. So if you want to become (and be perceived as) an expert, you should be creating instead of learning everything possible about the subject.
Scott makes a good point, especially for a knowledge junkie like me who is often guilty of spending too much time consuming knowledge. However, I think we would get into another problem if we just swing the other way by switching to creating at the expense of consumption. Looking at things just as consuming vs. creating is limited.
The way I see it, there are three types of people:
1- Eternal Student: They study, read, and consume knowledge in large quantities. They are a wealth of knowledge who make good advisors. However, other than getting plenty of degrees, certificates, and neck problems, they don’t produce much.
2- Shoot From The Hip people: who dig right into things. They jump into the pool before checking if there is water. They get the ball moving, but they tend to be inefficient because they do a lot of trial & error and seem to get themselves into trouble often.
… and then there are the…
3- Enlightened Leaders: who just break away from the pack. They seem to be a few steps ahead of everyone. They reach the peak of their domain and end up setting the standards. They seem to float above the crowd.
So how can you become a leader?
If you define being a leader as being the best at what you do, there are three steps to follow:
1- Learn (i.e. consume): understand how things work and get up to speed on the topic. You can learn in different ways (talk to experts, read blogs & magazines, take courses, get certification, read books, etc). People have different preferences for how to learn, but reading books is the most effective way to quickly acquire knowledge that took others years to learn. It helps you get into more depth on a topic than other learning methods. Its like putting your brain on steroids.
2- Do (i.e. create): Once you get up to speed on the topic, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and start creating. The initial knowledge (step 1) helps you hit the ground running, but creating something accelerates your learning and gives you a better grasp of the topic. You get the most out of the brain steroids by working out (i.e. creating).
3- Improve: The first two steps can take you to the limit of what is known on a topic. Leaders go a step further and start to improve on that knowledge. They push the envelope and advance the knowledge on the subject. They experiment and iterate to take things further. They reach the edge and become experts.
Paul Graham proposes to spend a year in the domain to get to the edge of knowledge in a domain. The next steps can take a lifetime… and you will love it.
If you do step 1 without the rest, you will be the one who talks about what you want to do but have little to show for it. Do step 2 without the rest and you will create something, but will hit a plateau in the valley of mediocrity.
So if you take a professional athlete as an example. S/he must start by learning the basic techniques or the sport. S/he then needs to practice and compete in the sport. The next step is to refine his/her ability by adjusting the technique, diet, mindset, etc. The best athletes in the world reach the peak of their sport by following the learn – do – improve steps (i.e. consume – create – refine).
What about you? Are you falling short on one of the steps to become a leader? Do you know someone who is falling short on a step? Go ahead and share the article with him/her.