Covey in Seven Habits of Highly Effective People speaks of the need to “Sharpen the Saw”, to regularly take time to renew, develop and grow ourselves. It is all too easy, once formal schooling ends, to allow our talents and brains to coast, even atrophy. Staying sharp, keeping current, getting better, becoming your best self, requires continuous learning and deliberate practice. To state the obvious, it does not just “happen”.

I was interviewing someone for a senior leadership position at a significant six figure compensation. I asked how they stayed sharp. Reply: “Well, I attend conferences and I talk to people.” I was underwhelmed by that answer; that’s like going fishing and hoping the fish jump into your boat!

For maximum effectiveness, sharping the saw requires specific, well-defined goals to improving existing skills and build new ones. It takes place outside the comfort zone and entails effort, dedication, and commitment. That may sound like work to some but it is really an exciting form of self-love, even if occasionally tough love.

My personal pledge is to read the equivalent of a non-fiction, growth relevant book (250 to 300 pages) every two weeks. I say equivalent because I’m a bit Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity and it’s rare for me to read a book cover to cover; I often open the Table of Contents and look for interesting topics. However, because I tend to read several books simultaneously, I usually exceed my goal of reading 300 pages, 2x a month.

Baby Steps can become Seven League Boots: I’m not saying that I’m always in the mood but I’ve made the promise to myself to read a minimum of 3 pages a day; some days that’s it but usually I get engaged and pulled in and chapters flow by.

Closing Quotes:

“Wisdom is not the product of schooling but of the lifelong attempt to acquire it.” – Albert Einstein, 1879-1955

“When you sharpen the saw, you preserve and enhance the greatest asset you have – yourself.” – Stephen R. Covey, 1932-2012

“The illiterate of the 21st Century are not those who cannot read and write but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.” – Alvin Toffler, Powershift: Knowledge, Wealth, and Power at the Edge of the 21st Century

As always, I share what I most want and need to learn. – Nathan S. Collier