Become a teacher

You’ve  spent years developing your craft and you’ve seen firsthand that development is a series of gradually increasing plateaus punctuated by short bursts of growth. As time goes by major spikes in growth are harder and harder to come by. How do you push through sticking points? Try teaching what you know.

There’s no better way to learn about yourself than by teaching others - sharing all that accumulated knowledge that's banging around in your head, all the techniques you take for granted, all that amazing stuff you can do blindfolded with your hands tied behind your back.

What's second nature to you may be a complete mystery to others. And unless you take the time to articulate why do the things you do, your process might be a mystery to yourself. Sometimes the key to unlocking your next growth spurt isn't about what you make, but how you make it. Take some time to get to know yourself. 

Train to trust your instincts

You’ve spent years honing your skills and, sooner or later, you’ll need to test them in the real world. Very few people see themselves clearly so sharing your work with others will help you learn what it is that you do, and don’t do, well. Asking for and accepting feedback isn’t easy but you’ll learn a great deal if you pay attention to what others have to say and how it makes you feel.

Not every feedback interaction needs to be combative but let’s use martial arts as an example: in some schools a student trains and studies technique until they’re eventually tested by fighting another person. Confrontation is what exposes strengths and weaknesses. If they’re dedicated they’ll go back to training with this knowledge. They’ll build on their strengths and fill in the gaps where they are weakest.

Train, test, train, test, train, test. This is where instincts come from and the only way you’ll learn which instincts serve you best.

Don't let pain distract you

Intentions follow thoughts. If you’re focused on obstacles you risk losing site of your goal. Pain can be physical, mental, emotional and range from the merely distracting to all-consuming. No matter what it’s shape or form you need find a way to move forward. The amount of work you can get done may be influenced by the discomfort but there is almost always a way to maintain momentum. You are defined by where you place your energy - if you focus on discomfort your life will be about obstacles. Focus on solutions and your life will be about solving problems.

What kind of pain is currently distracting you? A physical injury? Discomfort because you’re learning something new and out of your element? Maybe you’re just overwhelmed by the volume of your responsibilities. Break down your goals and prioritize them. Now break down your discomfort and make a plan for dealing with it. Focus on what you can do, not on what you can’t do.

Stay Relaxed

Whether you’re facing oncoming opponent, a difficult meeting or a big project you’ll be stronger, more nimble and better able to improvise strategies if you're relaxed. Breathe, trust your training and preparation, and accept that there is no situation you can control 100%. Be prepared to take some hits but don’t hold onto those bruises emotionally. Acknowledge them and move on. You'll have time later to review where you went wrong.

Before your next meeting pause to take a few long, slow breaths. Slow yourself down and review what you know in your head. If you’re prepared and relaxed your ideas will come more quickly. We’ve all been in situations where we’re underprepared and out of breath. It sucks. If someone surprises you with an unexpected, stressful, conversation, take control - tell them to give you a few minutes or take a deep breath before diving in. Either way, it’s up to you to set the tone and pace of conversation.