Career Development Skills

Don’t Panic! Slow Growth Is The Key To Long Term Success

“Build a 6-figure business in 60 days with my obvious framework that I copy and pasted from the other 100 people posting the same thing for too much money here!” – is what I’m greeted with on doom-scrolling trips on LinkedIn in particular over the last year.

I’m not here to moan about the ethics of such posts (I hope that’s obvious), but rather about the meaning behind the words. 

These posts are part of a wider movement trying to suggest we can all create huge wealth and knowledge in x days by doing x obvious things which those who spent 40 years building a successful career didn’t know. 

Hmm, really?

I don’t like the vibe of that. It’s too black and white thinking in a world that isn’t (what world is?). Outliers exist in life but come on, let’s leave the matrix for a few minutes.

I’ve talked about not everyone needing or wanting to ditch the path of traditional “9-5” careers before.

And I think this connects with the whole movement of messages like I shared above and other narratives like “escape the rat race” and “do what you love and you’ll never work a day”.

It’s clickbaity.

When I see those clickbaity posts and headlines

A lot of content promotes urgency, speed and so much hyperbole about an impending apocalypse if you don’t achieve something in the next x days that you’re left on a heap of mental failure.

(Phew! I’m getting nervous just reading that back).

In the real world, everything takes time. That’s the kicker. The one thing we can never replenish is the exact thing we need to invest more in. 

Whether it’s money, careers or our families – they need time.

Yes, I know we want everything right now, but it’s a fantasy we try to tell ourselves while doing the hard work. The good thing is a lot of success is found in the slow game.

Slow growth is highly underrated

When I first heard the term Slow Growth, I thought it was crazy. 

I learnt about this from the aptly named Slow Growth Academy which focuses on the power of slow growth (obvs!). I instantly fell in love with the concept, especially with its connection to careers, skill-building and amassing experience.

In a world of instant gratification, people want results in 5 minutes, not 5 years. That’s not how life works, sadly.

Things take time to build.

You plant seeds, nurture them and harvest the rewards in the future.

Deciding whether or not to invest in something for 5 years matters not because those 5 years are going to come and go whether you do or you don’t.

We all look for hacks or secrets when in reality there isn’t one. Do the work, embrace slow growth and you’ll be better in the next 5yrs than you’re now.

That’s the non-obvious ‘secret’.

I share this as I believe it’s of value not just to my fellow L&D and Marketing friends, but to anyone. We’ve had this strange movement of productivity gurus peddling the “hustle” culture of quick results with low-quality outputs.

If you research some of the most successful businesses and people in traditional careers, you’ll find their growth was slow.

Mary Barra, the CEO of General Motors, has spent her entire career at the company, starting as an engineer and working her way up to CEO over 43 years.

Satya Nadella, the CEO of Microsoft, has worked at the company for over 25 years, starting as a member of the technical staff and working his way up to CEO.

Ginni Rometty, the former CEO of IBM, worked at the company for over 30 years, starting as a systems engineer and eventually becoming CEO.

These people are products of slow growth.

They consistently show up, do the work and acquire new experiences. They don’t preach any secret hacks to achieve this.

Patience, I find, is the most underrated thing with growth. We’re playing an infinite game, not a finite one.

I look at slow growth like a board game. There are times when you’re on a roll and accelerate, and others when you’ve hit a blocker and get pushed back 3 places (I’m looking at you Monopoly).

We’ll all get there eventually. We just have to play our game.

Slow growth in action

Let’s be clear, I’m not against the “move fast and break things” movement at the micro level. As long as we learn from those experiences.

But applying that to the macro level with an overarching strategy is dangerous.

An example of slow growth in action is Apple.

They’re mainstream now, yet we’re once the outliers of their industry. It’s hard to imagine, but Apple was not the industry’s de-faction leader; only a hardcore set of consumers purchased their products.

Apple blew up once the iPhone landed.

However, a lot of people only think about them from that time in 2007. In reality, they’ve been around since the 70s – scaling, falling and scaling again.

They grew slowly and now own the market.

Apple’s growth has been a 40-year-plus journey. It’s 30 years if we were to stop at the launch of the first iPhone. Think about it, they’ve been working 3 decades to have their best decade ever!

We just assume it’s always been that way. So, why do we think that we need to get there any quicker?

The concept of slow growth does not apply to just the working world. It applies to all areas. It strikes a chord with me as an L&D nerd. Learning to be a better human is the ultimate example of slow growth.

Continual development in an ever-changing world never ends. No one just gets the answers one day or figures it all out. It comes in time and with experience.

So, don’t panic if you don’t know everything, don’t have the skills or your business is not in the exact place you want it to be right now.

The power of career compounding 

People want everything now. But, the overnight success story is BS.

The smart ones focus on decades not days. We often look at the end product, not the long journey that paved the way for the current success.

Compounding small changes over time leads to HUGE results.

This is true for many aspects of life. Most certainly for our skills and careers. I tell people to invest in their career currency as much as they can in the early phase of their careers.

Your career currency is made up of your knowledge and credibility in a subject. And guess what that needs? Yes, you know it – time.

This is a slow game too. None of us can cheat time.

I’m pretty sure James Clear would like slow growth

Before you go… 👋

If you like my writing and think “Hey, I’d like to hear more of what this guy has to say” then you’re in luck.

You can join me every Tuesday morning for more tools, templates and insights for the modern L&D pro in my weekly newsletter.

Career Development Skills

Why Your Relationships Will Make Or Break Your Success (And How To Invest In The Right Ones)

There’s an old saying that we are the sum of the five people we hang around with the most.

The idea is that those in our inner circle have the ability to shape and influence our thoughts, thinking and behaviours. Which makes sense, right?

Daily Thoughts

10 Quotes For Better humans

I love quotes, who doesn’t?

Personally, I like the deep, dark and philosophical kind that gets me thinking about the possibilities and pitfalls of life.

Daily Thoughts

How To Solve The Content Choice Problem

Too much choice can sometimes be the major problem with creating the best user experience.

Let’s take my space of learning design as an example ⬇️

L&D Tools Skills

The 5 Essential Skills, Habits and Behaviours for Career Success and How To Develop Them

We’re all looking for that silver bullet, right?

The thing or things that’ll let us accelerate past everyone else to reach our aspirations in record time.

Sadly, life doesn’t work that way, but we can recognise the key habits, behaviours and skills that’ll enable career success in the long term.

Especially with lifelong employability.

That’s not a phrase which is used often in the careers game. But, it’s what we’re all aiming for when you think about it.

We’re all just trying to build the talent stack (my term for all your skills, experience, habits and behaviours rolled into one) that’ll give us that code which enables us to keep being employed.

This is not about staying in one career or being with one employer.

This is about building the talent stack which allows each of us to adapt to the ever-changing world, thus enabling us to be employable. You don’t want to be stuck and stale when it comes to career success.

This is something I preached in detail in the How to win in the Careerverse playbook.

As a learning and performance consultant, I spend (probably) too much time reading research on high-performing people, places and how this translates into the modern workplace.

Something that I’ve been obsessing over the last year is the 3-5 skills, habits and behaviours that modern organisations need from their people.

And, how each of us can build these to navigate the careers landscape today and tomorrow.

5 essential skills, habits and behaviours

Ok, let’s talk about the components you should focus on to build your talent stack for lifelong employability.

1/ Resilience

The team at EveryDay Health define resilience as:

The ability to withstand adversity and bounce back from difficult life events. Being resilient does not mean a person doesn’t experience stress, emotional upheaval, and suffering. Resilience involves the ability to work through emotional pain and suffering.

Obviously, none of us wants to suffer.

Yet, we can learn valuable lessons during these times to take forward into the future. Dealing with sudden change is something that happens often in the working world.

This could be through a reorganisation or perhaps taking on a new role. No matter what it is, deploying your own resilience will greatly help you.

One does not just ‘build resilience’ though.

It is learnt through experiences over time. So, no, I can’t give you a course or perfect resource to help you. However, the folks at EveryDay Health have curated some great insight to help us all with this.

2/ Adaptability

I describe this as the ability to navigate new landscapes and deal with ambiguity. Which, in my opinion, is basically the ride of life.

The capability to adapt to new environments, new times or when presented with new data is key.

Classic examples of this include when Spotify disrupted the music industry with streaming, and when Apple released the iPhone, introducing the first smartphone and apps into our lives.

Recognising and understanding the need to adapt to a changing world is essential.

CEO of Vayner X, Gary Vee is a classic example of this.

Gary inherited a bricks-and-mortar wine business from his father. It was a small-scale operation with a few local stores.

This was in 1998 and Gary soon realised that the times were changing. He stumbled across an emerging, and little know at the time, video sharing platform called YouTube.

Gary felt this new piece of technology could help scale his business.

“I was completely convinced that online video was going to be a big thing. I knew it was a medium that was going to matter”

Gary Vaynerchuk

The old guard at the time didn’t see the changes in the world through the power of the internet and more new digital technologies. Or, perhaps, they didn’t want to face them.

Gary was told countless times that he was ‘crazy’ and going to ‘destroy his father’s business’. Instead, that little old Wine Library TV show Gary shared on YouTube blew up.

It blew up so much that Gary pivoted his career into the world of social marketing and broader entrepreneurship.

YouTube is now a daily must-use app and Gary sits atop multiple successful companies. And why so? Simple, he built the capability to adapt to the world around him, not try to make the world adapt to him.

You’ll never win with the latter.

3/ Digital Intelligence

This really has nothing to do with intelligence and everything to do with awareness.

If one thing is apparent across many generations of people I’ve worked with, it’s the lack of knowledge when it comes to using and understanding how basic digital technologies work.

A classic example of this can be found in workplace technology.

The average company provides employees with over 88 different apps to use in their workflow. That’s a lot of choices, right?

This often leads to trying to use too many tools and only utilising them to less than 10% of their capabilities. Bad for your skills and your work.

It’s important in an ever-growing digital world, where the lines between physical and digital are blurring almost daily, that we get better with understanding how tech can support us.

Those who are tech-savvy will have more career opportunities available in the long term.

This is not about learning how to code or architect a system. It’s far simpler than that. This is about knowing about popular and useful tech, and how you can use it to support your skills and career.

Consider how people use YouTube as a learning resource and the features of LinkedIn to build a professional brand and learn new skills.

Digital intelligence is about knowing how to use technology to support you.

4/ Emotional Intelligence

If there was one thing I wish they would teach us all at school, it’s emotional intelligence.

It’s weird that as emotional beings that we don’t recognise we have them and often try to suppress them. Especially in the workplace.

Emotions drive our behaviours, mood and actions. They are the data we use to interpret the world around us. The sooner we learn this, the easier life can be to navigate.

And, guess what? Emotions matter in the workplace too.

Healthy emotional cultures where people recognise and understand the impact of their and others’ emotions are instrumental in enabling us to do our best work.

The team at Verywell Mind define emotional intelligence as:

The ability to perceive, interpret, demonstrate, control, evaluate, and use emotions to communicate with and relate to others effectively and constructively.

Verywell Mind

Here’s a few tips on improving your own emotional intelligence:

  1. Be aware of your emotions.
    The first step to improving your emotional intelligence is to be aware of your own emotions. Pay attention to how you feel in different situations and what triggers those emotions. Once you are aware of your emotions, you can start to manage them more effectively.
  2. Be aware of other people’s emotions.
    In order to be emotionally intelligent, you also need to be aware of other people’s emotions. Pay attention to the nonverbal cues that people use to communicate their feelings. This can help you better understand how they are feeling and respond in a way that is helpful to them.
  3. Practice empathy.
    Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another person. When you are able to empathise with someone, you are better able to understand their perspective and provide support when they need it. To practice empathy, try putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and imagining how they might feel in a given situation

5/ Future-Fit

This is not a skill nor a behaviour, it’s more of a habit or, perhaps, a state of mind.

I define being Future-Fit as understanding the skills you need to be world-class and navigate the current world, and have the curiosity to develop what’s needed for tomorrow’s world.

We’re blessed and cursed as a species with the ability to remember what has been but have the foresight to look ahead to what may come.

Now doing either can be problematic but with the right intent and context, they can be useful. We can’t predict the future, but we can do our best to plan for it with the data we have today.

When I think about being Future-Fit, I think about having the right skills in place to keep navigating the world and to do all of the above points.

It’s quite fitting that this last point rolls everything we’ve discussed so far into a kinda neat completion.

One of the ways I find useful to keep myself ready for what tomorrow might bring is conducting quarterly health checks for my skills.

It might sound like a cringey tagline. But skills pay the bills, so it makes sense to assess them often, right?

If we can keep building the right skills to navigate life and the career game, we can take some control of building opportunities and charting our own course.

Invest in yourself

That’s a wrap on this folks.

Of course, this list will evolve over time. Yet, I sense some of these will always be what enables each of us to design a rewarding career on our own terms.

Before you go… 👋

If you like my writing and think “Hey, I’d like to hear more of what this guy has to say” then you’re in luck.

You can join me every Tuesday morning for more tools, templates and insights for the modern L&D pro in my weekly newsletter.

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