“Go to bed smarter than when you woke up.”
Throughout my career I have hit ceilings where I have struggled to continue developing as a professional. It may have been waiting for that promotion, the boss to put me on a particular project or working out that next idea or strategy to be put into execution. The majority of us spend our days working in one job/career and performing in one core facet whether that is selling, consulting, administration or supporting etc. Yes, our jobs have variety yet they have boundaries which we cannot seem to cross. Having the chance to develop new skills, to experiment and to try new things out is harder than ever. My mantra of being in permanent beta (i.e. always learning) is tough however I have found an approach that has worked for me over the years; doing something on the side.
Since I started my career in the late 90s I have had something going on the side; an side project so to speak. In that time, I have been a member of Toastmasters, an electronic music DJ, I have volunteered with several non-profits, taught group fitness classes in Australia, China, USA and the UK and continue to blog on the Internet. This has allowed me to enhance my communication/presentation skills, grow my network and get exposure to new areas and skills. It has been as easy as looking at what I am strong at, what I enjoy and what challenges me and then asking the question on how I could do more. Sometimes I get paid for what I do on the side, however, the benefits such as learning and growing far outweigh the money that I have earned thus far. Bottom line, the skills that I have honed and grown have allowed me to perform better in my core career.
My latest project is with Iris Reading who teach speed reading, memory and mind mapping courses to college students and professional organisations around the world. I enrolled in a course late last year to learn to be a faster reader given all the material I want to consume. I posed the question to the founder on whether I could teach some of their courses and the rest is history. I am now a Speed Reading, Memory and Mind Mapping instructor. I am part of their organisation helping to teach these webinars and workshops on weekends. As the saying goes, you never really learn something until you teach it.
Two of the biggest challenges of my life are time and the constant changing of the world. The only way for me to rise up to these challenges is to make the most of what I do every day and ensure that I continue to learn and grow. Projects on the side do take effort and require time management and support from your spouse/partner/family; however the benefits continue to outweigh the cost. Give it a try!