The Maestro Who Never Stopped Improving
Pablo Casals, thought to be the greatest cellist who ever lived, played for a who-is-who audience. From Queen Victoria to President John F. Kennedy, Casals, who was born in Spain, became famous for excellence in an instrument that is not as common as the piano or guitar. As great as Casals was, he maintained a strict daily practice regimen. Well into his nineties, he was known to still practice for three to four hours per day. Why would someone who had achieved so much still commit to daily practice as though he was just starting out? In his own words Casals answered the question to this commitment, “Because, I think I’m making progress.” To Casals, every day was day one.
It’s Always Day One
In a letter penned to shareholders, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos introduced the “Day 1” philosophy. According to Bezos, Day 2 is what he is trying to fend off every day at Amazon. Day 2 is stagnancy, irrelevance, and eventually death. How does Amazon fend off Day 2? By being customer-obsessed instead of competitor-driven. Customers keep businesses on their toes pushing them to get better and innovate. It’s what keeps the best at the top. In life, we should carry the same Day 1 mentality. We do this by being growth-obsessed every day.
These three statements will help you keep a Day 1 mindset through daily habits that will produce consistent growth.
Statement One: I Don’t Know Everything; I Plan on Learning Something
At times we find it hard to say, “I don’t know” when asked a question. We think that we ought to know everything and not knowing is a sign of weakness. Not knowing is not weakness, it is human. I have learned by experience that not knowing and accepting that fact is an essential component to learning. Pretending to know everything keeps me in the dark but acknowledging what I don’t opens the door to intentional growth. Healthy uncertainty is attractive. It breeds opportunity for change to occur. Arrogance on the other hand shuts the door to personal development. Make a daily decision that creates room to learn and growth will be your portion. Whether it is through reading, taking a course, listening to talks, or engaging in relationships, use what is around you to keep the learning curve moving upward each and every day.
Being growth-minded keeps your life from plateauing. But be warned that learning and not applying is the easiest way to plateau in life. Learning must be followed with an intentional action plan. Ask yourself, “How can I apply one thing that I have learned this week?” You can also plateau when what you are learning is below your growth curve. Similar to the importance of the nutritional value in what we eat, we must also know the content value of what we are learning otherwise our intake will start to counteract our health and growth like free radicals in the body. Writing down what you learn is one way to effectively determine if the content value is compatible with the quality of life you desire. Your capacity to learn is perhaps one of the greatest assets that you possess. Use it to ensure it continuously appreciates, not depreciates.
Statement Two: Today is the Most Important Day; I Will Make it Count
Our daily routines or habits play a major role in the quality of life we experience. Leadership expert John Maxwell says, “You will never change your life until you change something you do daily.” This second statement gives you a proactive instead of reactive posture to your day. Don’t drift through your today all the while hoping that tomorrow will be better. Develop a plan on how you are going to capitalize and maximize today by setting in place your priorities while making room for opportunities when they come.
I start my day with praying, reading, and exercise. This daily morning ritual is the rudder for my day. I am convinced that a daily ritual will keep you centered throughout the myriad of unknown distractions, disappointments, or discouragements on any given day. My daily ritual also allows me to set the temperature for my day instead of letting what happens to me determine it. Basically my daily ritual is my thermostat. On days when I don’t follow through on my daily ritual, I find myself more of a thermometer, reacting to the conditions of the day. On those days I am left wondering,“ Where did the day go?” Create a daily ritual that will set you up to make today count.
Statement Three: I Will Listen More than I Will Speak
We may have been born with the sense of hearing, but listening is an acquired skill that underpins the essence of relationships. Hearing deals with sounds while listening requires a concentrated and focused effort. People are drawn to those who listen. It is a magnetic skill that people gravitate towards. Listening is creating a mirror for the other person to see and feel what they are saying.
Listening brings empathy to a conversation. Empathy moves people to pour out their true feelings on a matter. When people know that you listen well, they become more transparent. One of the needs that we have as humans is to be heard. Not just heard, but to be felt. When people are not heard, whether in a home, marketplace, community, or country, frustration and rebellion is usually the outcome. Healthwise, attentive listening has been shown to lower blood pressure levels.
How can you become a better listener? First, don’t plan what you are going to say before the other person has finished speaking. In the process of thinking how to respond you might miss a vital piece of the conversation and end up misunderstanding the person based on partial information. Let the person finish speaking and take a pause (which is hard to do because silence has become so awkward these days) and even ask, “Is there more?” Second, as you listen be aware of nonverbal messages like tone, body posture, and use of hands. Your own body language communicates if you are listening or not. Maintain eye contact. Third, try to mirror their feelings by asking a question about what they said to you. This shows that you are paying attention and are genuinely interested. This makes you an authentic and attentive listener. In a world where everyone wants to accomplish their own agenda, listening is a refreshing way to turn off our agendas and give attention to others.
Final thought: Take time to track what you do daily. Find out if the above three statement are tied into your daily routine. Make the necessary adjustments to align your daily plan in a manner that will make you more growth-obsessed. Please answer in the comments section, “Which one of three statements has the greatest potential to change your life if you start applying it today?”
Keep on Keeping on!