Your chances for greater career success increase dramatically as you build skills, knowledge, and experience.
That is why you feel the urge to advance in your current job. Because that sort of progress will inevitably lead to a better future for you.
As you become a super star at work, you become more valuable to the company you work for now. But you also become more valuable to the marketplace in the future.
Your success gives you a better story to tell. As a bonus, continually working toward greater success is a happier way to work for most people. It is human nature to find motivation in growth.
What’s holding you back
The problem, of course, is that much of your success in your current job is in the hands of others. Your current situation may be stifling you in frustrating ways.
Your boss, your coworkers, and even top leadership of the company can impede you in lots of different ways.
They can mess up priorities. They can block funding. They can play all sorts of political games.
And, as if all that weren’t enough, you might also be mixed in with colleagues that are uninspired, burnt out, or even to some degree incompetent.
Unfortunately, this laundry list of obstacles to success are a reality for many people. Maybe they are for you too.
But what if you could find a way to build your skills, knowledge, and experience despite all those obstacles?
How to break free
Imagine if you could find a way to overcome even these seemingly insurmountable challenges. Might you become even more successful than simply succeeding in an obstacle-free environment?
I would argue that learning to succeed in the face of more obstacles will lead you to even greater success in work and life. Because the skills, knowledge, and experience you build by succeeding in an obstacle-ridden environment will be much greater in the end.
Here is the truth of the situation.
Once you break things down and take a good hard look at what might actually be possible, most of the common obstacles workers face today are nothing more than convenient excuses. Because if you are truly determined to succeed, you can often find a way around them.
The way out of this situation is to be a bit more creative in your approach. And that is a direct function of believing that you can work through obstacles and then becoming more curious about how to do so.
Humans are great problem solvers. If you focus on moving forward despite the many things that appear to be holding you back, you will find a way to succeed.
If you can start to ponder more often just exactly how all this stuff happening around you fits together, you will start to learn tremendous amounts of valuable information and insights.
You will begin to see the bigger picture. You will begin to see more nuance in the details. You will begin to connect more dots.
And those dots are going to lead you toward success.
At each step of the way, as you learn more, you will develop more insights. You will also get better at observing, learning, and analyzing.
Perhaps the most wonderful thing about all of this is that you don’t need anybody’s permission. You don’t even need more time.
All you need to do is to start using idle brain cycles for this type of observation and contemplation while you work.
With this one simple move, you can shift your inner dialogue to a more productive mode instantly.
“If you are not willing to learn, no one can help you. If you are determined to learn, no one can stop you.”
― Zig Ziglar
Why curiosity matters so much in the workplace
The best performers at work are learners. They ask the big questions. They want to know the details too.
Their ability to grasp priorities and perspectives, to ponder possibilities, and to find creative solutions leads directly to better results.
This is why employers need curious workers.
Today’s workplace is increasingly complex. It is demanding in new ways.
This is why Harvard Business Review declared that curiosity as important as intelligence.
Intelligence is important, of course. But, as you probably already agree, it is limited on its own.
Lots of intelligence without the ability to work well with others won’t get you very far. That’s why emotional intelligence is so crucial.
Your awareness and ability to manage your own emotions as well as those of others is a big factor in how effective you can be as an employee.
So is curiosity.
Because workers who are more tolerant of ambiguity and more willing to make intellectual investments are stronger contributors. They are more likely to creatively solve problems.
They make fewer decision-making errors, are more innovative, and help foster more open communication and better group performance.
Great companies want more curious people on the team. Particularly for the most important jobs.
How to be more curious at work
What this all comes down to is asking a lot of questions. As you ponder the who, what, where, why, and how of things big and small, you will make many discoveries.
You can apply this to your own day:
- What is the most important task I have today?
- Why is that the most important task?
- Who will be unhappy if this doesn’t get done?
- Where do I need to go the extra mile on this task?
- How can I accomplish this faster/more effectively/more efficiently?
You can apply this to your team work:
- Who needs help and how can I help them?
- What is causing these team meetings to go off track?
- Where do we do a really great job as a team?
- Why is person x assigned / not assigned to this the team?
- How can we improve our process for making decisions?
You can apply this to your interactions with your boss:
- Why does she always seem to avoid topic x?
- Where does she get her information?
- Who influences her decision making?
- How does she get customer feedback?
- What is the most important thing to her?
You can apply this to big picture thinking at your organization:
- Where do we fit in the marketplace?
- Who buys our mid-range products?
- Where could we expand?
- How do our competitors view us?
- What suppliers are most important to our success?
The point is to ponder. And to let that pondering lead you to asking more questions. To searching for answers. To doing the research to get you those answers.
Then, to let those answers lead to more questions.
As you work through all of this, you will have a lot of jumping off points for researching your industry, sparking conversations with colleagues, and seeking mentorship from your boss and others.
You will begin to build a more complete view of your world of work, how you fit in it, how others fit in it, and what can be done to make improvements.
You will find a lot of problems. And also a lot of opportunities.
Many of those opportunities will lead to ways you can help contribute more and also to grow professionally.
Curiosity leads to success
Curious people invest in themselves. They don’t just ponder, they take action.
Questions are raised and then they go out and seek the answers. They read books, talk to people, and scour the internet to find answers.
Along the way, they uncover lots of ideas, they gather lots of perspectives, and they process lots of information.
All of that makes you a more valuable employee because all of that makes you better at your job. Because you will have a clearer understanding of the big picture, the details, and how everything fits together.
More importantly, you will be doing lots of critical thinking. And that’s what’s needed today more than ever.
We all have too much to do and not enough resources. Cultivating your curiosity, and then satisfying it over and over again will lead to better critical thinking which will lead to better judgement and decision making.
That’s what can make you a superstar. And you can start right now.
All you have to do is ask… and keep asking!