My bad hair and 5 ways to get better at whatever you do

5 years. That’s how long I have been teaching at Crash. I gave my first talk on Sunday, June 4, 2006. The series was called “Who Would Jesus Bomb?”, a conversation about just war, the history of the church, the teachings of Jesus and our response. I was asked to cover 500-1500 A.D. I think I talked for nearly an hour. My handout was an 8 1/2 x 11 sheet of paper, double sided, 12 point font, single-spaced. A lot has changed since then… including my horrible hair cut.

From the last five years, I have learned a lot and grown a ton…as a leader and as a communicator. There are five things that I have done that have helped me make great strides since that first Crash talk I gave in June 2006. These can apply to whatever you do, whatever you want to excel at.

1. Admit the following words to yourself and others… “I haven’t arrived.” Repeat that, regularly. Never stop repeating it. Along the way, success can become our enemy because we think we are something special. We think we have made it. And we need to remember that we NEVER “arrive”. We always need growth, learning, coaching and improvement.

2. Seek out people you trust and ask them to “Watch and Listen for me”. You can’t see hear, or know it all. You don’t know how others perceive you. You won’t always comprehend how you are being heard. You can get a vibe from others. But you need eyes and ears. Ask somebody to watch you do what you do. Ask them to observe their reactions and responses of others. Ask them to listen and tell you what they heard you say, or how they received what you did. On a regular basis, I have people at Crash give me feedback on my messages, both formally and informally.

3. Follow up with that person by asking, “What did you see, hear, watch me do?” I do this each week with three people at Crash. I get feedback on every message. We did this last night with the series we just wrapped up. We asked three questions, gave people cards, and we process the responses. When you ask this question, actually listen. Take notes. Ask follow-up questions to learn more and dig deeper.

4. Filter and apply what you heard. You will discover along the way that the insights of other people are not equally valuable. Some people listen and observe better than others. Some people’s perspective, when filtered, leaves very little useful material. Other people are gold mines of insight. The most important thing is application. What are you going to do with what they shared? My friend, Rob Payne, has been a gold mine for me. He has helped me overcome verbal and physical ticks when I speak. He challenged me to condense my messages because he saw people losing focus physcially at a certain point in time. The application of his insights has been invaluable to me.

5. Repeat, with more people. You have to do the four steps over and over again. With new people. In different seasons. In different areas. This process, when executed well, never gets old or stale. When you are growing, and you have quality people engaging you, you can continue to grow and improve throughout your life. Just like you must remember “I haven’t arrived”, you must also remember, “I can always use more feedback.”

The secret to getting better is listening when people tell you that spiking your hair with massive amounts of glue is not a good look for you…and then cutting your hair and finding new product. :-)

Ask, listen, filter and apply. It’s the secret to becoming great.