22 rules for professional growth

January 02, 2017

Mark Cuban has his 12 rules for startups

David Ogilvy had his 20 rules for getting clients

I really enjoy reading these types of articles and I always get something out of them.

So I figured it would be a good exercise to start documenting some of the rules I live by, starting with my rules for professional growth.

I started on my entrepreneurial path when I was 22 and have consistently worked at improving myself every single day since then.

Here are 22 rules that capture how I approach my professional growth.  They’re a combination of education, execution, mindset and people.

Here goes…

1. Never say something is ‘not possible’ – unless something is against the laws of nature, don’t say something is not possible. Most things are possible – you just need to be resourceful enough.

2. Only take advice from people who have achieved what you want to achieve – you can take advice from whoever you want but there’s a big difference between getting advice from someone who has learnt the theory of how to achieve something and someone who has already achieved it.

3. You’re the most confident that you’re right when you’re just starting out – so be careful when you’re learning something new. The Dunning-Kruger effect sums this up best.

(image credit: digitalintelligencetoday.com)

4. Always be learning – your success will be determined by what you learn, how much you learn, and how well you execute on what you learn.

5. Execute fast and then adjust – learning is great but the key to professional growth is being able to execute quickly on what you learn, learn from the execution and then adjust.

6. Learn during ‘dead’ time – the more time you spend learning the more you’ll learn. So take advantage of ‘dead’ time (like driving a car or walking the dog) with audio education.

7. Learn from non-traditional sources – try to find a practitioner and learn directly from them. Podcasts, online courses and seminars are some of the best places to get the knowledge you need to get to the next stage.

8. Nothing beats experience – there’s a reason experience is so valuable. It’s because things rarely work exactly the way you learnt about them.

9. Be humble – you’re probably wrong at least 20% of the time, you just don’t know which 20%. So don’t be too confident that you’re right when there’s probably a better way of doing pretty much everything.

10. There’s always someone hungrier than you – so make sure that you’re always driving yourself to be better every single day.

11. Surround yourself with people who drive you to be better – the people you choose to surround yourself with have a bigger impact on your professional growth than anything else so make sure you’re surrounded by people that drive you to be better.

12. Your drive is your most precious resource – it’s what’s going to make you push yourself outside of your comfort zone, try new things and overcome obstacles. Be aware of where your drive comes from and figure out how to create an environment that stokes it.

13. There’s always a smarter and better way to do things – so always challenge yourself to figure it out. It could be to do the same thing with less effort, it could be to get more out of the same effort, or it might be to take a new approach entirely.

14. Speed is everything – and if you think it’s not, just think about how much faster you would grow if you could learn and execute twice as fast as anyone else.

15. Everything takes time – that’s why it’s so important to move fast. Because even if you move fast, it’s still going to take a seriously long time.

16. Teach others – if you really want to become the best at something, you should teach others. Because it’s one thing to do something well but it’s another to teach someone else how to do it.

17. Always ask the question – most people are afraid to ask for what they want. You would be surprised at how many people will say ‘yes’ if you just ask for it. Just don’t be rude.

18. Be ruthless with your time – how well you invest your time today will determine how good your tomorrow is. Every hour that passes is an hour you’ve invested, one way or the other. If you live to 75, you will have lived for 28,000 days or 657,000 hours. Think about it.

19. Remove all obstacles slowing you down – learn to touch type, learn how to be more productive, use software to make you better. Figure out what is slowing you down unnecessarily and focus on overcoming each obstacle, one by one.

20. Be careful thinking of yourself as an expert  – because it can make you complacent about pushing yourself to be even better.

21. You’re probably doing it longer, harder and slower than you should be – and if you’re in doubt, just compare yourself to Richard Branson, Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg.

22. There’s probably someone who can help you get there faster – you can do something yourself, or you can find someone who can help you get there faster. Once you know where you want to go, figure out who can help you get there faster.

This is the first time I’ve documented my rules for professional growth, so I’ll make sure to update this post as I identify more of them (or as they evolve).

Alex Cleanthous

Director of Strategy + Innovation | Co-Founder at Webprofits

I co-founded Webprofits in 2006 with the belief that there's always a smarter and better way to do things. We're now a digital growth consultancy with offices in Australia, Singapore, and the United States. I'm passionate about personal and professional growth, and I like to surround myself with people who are as well. I have substantial private board experience, and have successfully launched an IPO.

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