Learning is great. Being inspired by someone you admire is pretty cool too. There is nothing wrong with wanting to become better. I love to learn and enjoy being mentored by those who have skills that I admire. I’ve read my share of productivity books, inspirational books, and leadership books. And it never fails as I’m reading or as I finish a book I have so many “should” and “musts” in my mind. It can be overwhelming. Especially as I see how short I fall of these newly discovered standards.
What I’ve learned and am still learning is that Rome was not built in a day and neither are we. I need to remind myself when I see a great skill in a mentor that they have, usually, been at their craft for a long time. The traits and skills that we admire have been built in the furnace of life. It seems obvious. Yet time after time I’ve felt discourage that after learning a principle, it still isn’t part of the way I act or am. I mean it’s been a week since I read it and understood it right?
I remember a story a mentor once told. He told the story in response to the question, “How are you able to manage this large organization? Aren’t you overwhelmed?” His answer was “I’ve grown with it”. Then he told the story. One day there was a man sitting on a bench in the country. He was enjoying the view when on the road he saw a man walking up the hill carrying a large mule on his back. The man was amazed that the man carrying the mule appeared at ease as he carried this young animal on his back up the hill. As the man approached him he couldn’t resist and asked in awe, “How can you carry that large of an animal with such ease?” The man stopped, smiled, and responded: “I’ve been carrying him daily since he was a little foal. As he has grown larger, I’ve grown stronger.”
The point my mentor was making was that we saw him leading this great organization and it appeared so easy. But he started this organization and has been carrying it since it was just a little foal. As it grew larger, he has grown stronger. And that is the same for us. As the challenges grow larger, we grow stronger.
Be patient with yourself. Don’t stop learning. Don’t raise your hands in surrender. Instead, every day find ways to apply what you have learned. Make gains every day. Let those things become a habit over time. When you look back over a longer period of consistently redirecting yourself to apply something you will see that in the end you do morph. You do apply what you learn. It just takes time.
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle
How has this been true for you? In what ways have you grown over time?