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How To Build A Life of Excellence (Part 2)

Part 1 in this series introduced five core questions that can steer you towards high performance and self-management:

  1. What Are My Strengths?
  2. How Do I Work?
  3. What Are My Values?
  4. Where Do I Belong?
  5. What Can I Contribute?

Learning your answers to these question will help you build a life of excellence.

Part 1 focused on the question, “What are my strengths?” Now we are going to focus on question 2.

Build A Life of Excellence

How Do I Work?

Amazingly few people know how they get things done. Indeed, most of us do not even know that different people work and perform differently.

Most people just fall forwards, never taking the time to understand how they perform. They don’t bother to optimize their work, or take the time to understand how to do it better. Often they just bang their head against the problem until they’ve got it figured out.

There isn’t anything wrong with that approach – if you’ve got unlimited time or resources. But if you want to be effective and efficient in your approach to work, you need to understand how you best learn and work.

Am I a reader or a listener?

Lyndon Johnson destroyed his presidency, in large measure, by not knowing that he was a listener. His predecessor, John Kennedy, was a reader who had assembled a brilliant group of writers as his assistants, making sure that they wrote to him before discussing their memos in person. Johnson kept these people on staff – and they kept writing. Johnson never, apparently, understood one word of what they wrote. Yet as a senator, Johnson had been superb; for parliamentarians have to be, above all, listeners.

Most of us are either readers or listeners, not both. This means you either process information well upon hearing it, or you process information well upon reading it. It’s imperative that you know which you are.

I’m a voracious reader. I read thousands of words every morning – for leisure and information – before I ever get to work. But if I have to listen to people explain something me in a classroom setting, I quickly grow bored and start to look towards my phone…so I can read something. If I need to get up to speed on something, I read about it.

How do I learn?

Schools everywhere are organized on the assumption that there is only one right way to learn and that it is the same way for everybody. But to be forced to learn the way a school teaches is sheer hell for students who learn differently. 

Beyond being a reader or listener, there are dozen of other learning strategies. In addition to reading, I learn best by writing. Take the time to analyze, study, and explain topics in my own words helps me integrate new information so that it goes into long-term storage in my brain.

But other people might learn best in a group setting. Interacting with other people and working towards a common goal. Do you learn better in a structured, predictable environment of do you thrive well under stress? Do learn by doing a thing with your hands and body, or saying it outloud?

If you’re not sure, you can take a VARK (Visual, Audio, Read/Write. Kinesthetic) test to determine what type of learner you are. It can help you learn how you learn. Here’s another one.

Do not try to change yourself – you are unlikely to succeed. But work hard to improve the way you perform.

Taking the time to understand how you best learn and work will have a huge impact on your performance. It will enable you to work smarter, faster, and better. It will set you up to be able to improve the way you learn and work because you will be able to focus on the ways in which you learn best, instead of struggling through something that is difficult for you.

Continue to Part 3 and to learn how to address “What Are My Values?” 

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