You can say what you want about Elon Musk, but two things are undeniable. He has a habit of making bold bets, and he isn't shy about sharing equally bold advice/lessons, on everything from accountability to explaining why you've stopped learning at work. (I'm waiting for his press release announcing that we'll able to travel to the center of the earth in a self-aware Tesla)
That's why it surprised me when I found one piece of advice in particular from Musk while doing research for an article on Richard Branson's favorite inspirational quotes.
Encapsulated in one of Musk's quotes was what the Tesla founder called "the single best piece of advice." It doesn't ring of the usual Musk flair--it's just really smart counsel:
Constantly think about how you could be doing things better and questioning yourself.
It's deceivingly wise advice because as I've seen first hand in my one-on-one coaching business, committing to self-improvement yields a wealth of "add-on" benefits like greater confidence, resilience, motivation, and sense of direction.
But the pressures of everyday life can make self-improvement efforts seem like a luxury. We either don't have the time to stop and think about how to improve, or we don't have the time to actually work on what needs improving. Not to mention such self-examination can be painful.
So rather than just offer a platitude, I'll give help in plentitude. Here are five powerful prompts to help you jump start the self-questioning/self-improvement process.
1. Enroll a self-improvement coach.
The TED Talk below is worth watching. In sum, surgeon Atul Gawande says: "I think it's not just how good you are now--it's how good you're going to be that really matters".
Gawande realized that he'd stopped improving as a surgeon. And so he embarks on a self-improvement journey, one that sees him paying other surgeons to come in, watch him operate, and then critique him afterward.
This, despite the fact he used to believe that expertise means not needing to be coached, that it's not pleasant to be watched and evaluated, and that it's hard work.
But he learned that "coaches provide a more accurate picture of your reality," on big things and small. Improvements Gawande made from bringing in a coach literally saved lives.
2. Seek conscious growth (becoming who you are) versus growth for the sake of it.
Research shows if we don't have a clear, important objective for learning, we're far less likely to invest the time it takes to learn and grow. Growth for the sake of growth just doesn't make the cut sometimes.
But purposeful growth is far more compelling. View the process of pursuing growth as a critical step in the journey of becoming who you really are and what you were meant to be.
We'd all like time to learn stuff that makes us a little better at our job or that feeds something we're interested in. But we all simply must make time for becoming the best possible version of ourselves.
So raise the stakes.
3. Dread obsolescence.
Pioneers of learning organizations say the rate of change in many industries is now so great that the only competitive advantage left may be the very rate at which its constituents learn, grow, and change.
So, futureproof yourself.
Recognize that the need to do things better and question yourself is central to maintaining your livelihood and to feeling like you're contributing your best effort.
4. Let your values vault you forward.
The values we hold sacred can deeply motivate us. Frame your learning and growing as an opportunity to better serve your values.
For example, perhaps a core value of yours is servitude. What can you learn and improve about yourself to better serve? Or perhaps you hold dear the value of kindness. What might you observe about your behavior that would help you more consistently show up as kind and caring?
Value-incentivized learning is some of the most powerful learning we can muster. Try it.
5. Work on your life versus in your life.
What if I told you that committing to self-observation, learning, and growth could feed a sense of greater control in your life?
When you do so, it gives you a sense you're working on a better life for yourself and are escaping the hamster wheel of daily life.
Some of the best employees I've ever had 1) picked up my dry cleaning, and 2) worked on the systems they labored in (to make them better), versus just in them--it's no different for us with our own lives. We can work on our best lives by self-questioning and improving in increments both big and small.
Contrast this to looking back one day and realizing we've merely been living in our life as it was happening to us.
Pick even a few of these prompts and you're guaranteed to get growing going.