How to Get Better at the Things You Care About

Version 2Nothing that matters comes easily. 

This is true both personally and professionally. Students in school, executives in business, newlyweds starting out, parents raising kids, folks trying to make ends meet, and everyone trying to make the world a better place knows it takes wisdom and skill to navigate the waters.

For those of you working hard and not getting results, I have good news:

You Can Get Better at the Things You Care About

To begin at the beginning: What do you care about? Who do you love? What makes you get up in the morning? What’s your compelling why?

Here’s what’s motivating me in 2017:

  • Work: I want to connect using more humor and story in my sermons.
  • Love & Intimacy: I want to take my wife on two trips to see the world (and her boys)
  • Personal Finance: I want to stay debt free and cash-flow those trips.
  • Friends & Family: I want to celebrate my son’s college graduation.
  • Health & Self-Care: I want to work out four times a week.
  • Personal & Spiritual Growth: I want to add 1200 words to my Spanish Vocabulary.
  • Fun & Recreation: I want to learn 12 songs on my guitar.
  • Physical Environment: I want to turn my man cave into a simple recording studio.

I have more goals and they are more specific. Why? I want to align my life with what matters most.

“I want to live an awesome and intentional life.”

Don’t you?

Recently, I watched a Ted Talk called, “How to Get Better at the Things You Care About,” by Eduardo Briceño, who says we need to live in two important zones to do so.

The Learning Zone

Human beings have very little going for them coming out of the womb. We must learn everything — how to walk, talk, feed ourselves, read, write, follow rules, make friends, and find our way to independence. In childhood and youth, we’re in the Learning Zone. It’s a space in which to be nurtured, to be taught, and to make mistakes. Only after 18 or more years in the Learning Zone are we ready to take on adult responsibilities. The Learning Zone is a wonderful place to be.

The Performance Zone

In adulthood, learning continues, but it’s different. There, I find that it’s not all about me any longer — at least it shouldn’t be. I now have to think about others. Not only spouse, family, and friends, but a boss, customers, co-workers, and so on. I now need to be productive, to give back, to earn my way, and to perform.

To be clear: The Performance Zone is awesome. It can be thrilling to make things happen, to make the world a better place, and to get paid to do it.

But the pressure is on because people are counting on us to fulfill responsibilities, some of critical importance. In the Performance Zone, we have to execute, we can’t make mistakes. So we can hit a plateau, doing the same things over and over again, because they are safe.

The Answer: Find Your Low-Stakes Islands

So here’s the big idea: You need to bounce back and forth between the Learning Zone and the Performance Zone. When the whistle blows and it’s game time, lock in and do your best to execute. But then, find your way to learning opportunities where you can gain fresh knowledge, develop new skills, and put them into practice.

We’ll call these “Low Stakes Islands” because you can afford to make mistakes here. You’re not expected to know all the answers or to be the expert. In fact, that’s why you’ve signed-up. Once again, it’s safe to be on the receiving end of new information, skill-formation, to sharpen the saw, and to learn.

Ready to Get Better at What You Care About?

Your “Low-Stakes Islands” are unique to you and only you can determine what might work for you. Here’s what I recommend:

  1. Work hard at what matters most, including marriage, family, friendship, work and hobbies.
  2. Read books and blogs by experts in the skills you need and want to learn.
  3. Watch & Listen to podcasts, audio books, seminars, classes, or webinars. Many are free.
  4. Listen to wise and experienced people, such as mentors and seasoned co-workers. And don’t forget your parents (the longer you live, the smarter they get!)
  5. Watch Eduardo’s Ted Talk: How to Get Better at the Things You Care About

Don’t get stuck. Don’t get frustrated. Get busy and get back to the Learning Zone.

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