As an athlete there is a certain amount of preparation that goes into being selected to be on a team, competing for a starting role and then being competitive with the opponent. For tennis players to be competitive and go to the finals in Wimbledon, it takes hours and hours of training, practice, and discipline to eat well before ever stepping on the court in a tournament. To make a basketball team, takes hours of practice by yourself on a basketball court and competing with others and your team mates. To make the starting line up takes hard work, outside of game day. A certain hunger and desire to grow and be more than you currently are is important as an athlete.
In his retirement speech in 1993, Michael Jordan had this to say, “When I lose the sense of motivation and the sense to prove something as a basketball player, it’s time for me to move away from the game of basketball…. I went through all the stages of getting myself prepared for the next year, and the desire wasn’t there.”
Tom Brady is arguably the best quarterback of all time. He has accomplished more than basically every other quarterback, but he’s still hungry for more accomplishments and he still wants to do the necessary work that makes it possible to compete at his best.
If a successful athlete stops training outside of game day, their game eventually begins to slip. You can’t perform at a high level on the tennis court, basketball court, football field, ice rink, etc. , if you aren’t putting in the preparation time outside of game day.
So, what does this has to do with you as an IT worker? You can no more perform well on “game day” at your job without adequate and continuous preparation, than great athletes can play well if they stop doing the hard work of game prep.
Take a Personal Assessment
Let me ask you some questions.
- Are you still hungry to learn technology?
- Are you putting in the work necessary in order to be the best technologist you can be ?
- When was the last time you spent time during the week to learn something new?
- Are you regularly talking about how you’re not good at certain things, but then also not putting in effort to improve?
- Do tasks regularly take you extra time at work compared to others in your same role?
If your answers to the above questions indicate that you might not be putting in the work necessary to stay current in your area of technology, then maybe you need to ask yourself why. Maybe, you’re coasting and you have been for awhile. Why? Maybe you’ve had a very rough time since the beginning of 2020 because of the pandemic. Ok. I completely get it. What are some things getting in the way of building a training plan that you can execute?
Burn Out will stop “Game Day Prep”
Maybe you’re burned out and need to recharge. That is very common. The last 18 months or so have been especially hard on most people. I usually see at least 5-7 tweets a week about this topic. I have a post about this as related to myself. Burnout is real and it’s hard to go through and hard to recover from. It takes time to deal with burnout and may likely involve finding others who will support you. Also, realize that no one should expect you to be 100% on your game every day, all the time. That’s just not reality.
Athletes have a lot of people around them to help make them successful. They have coaches, trainers, medical personnel , executives, family members and teammates to help keep them going. There is no reason to think that you also don’t need a support network. Possibly find yourself a therapist to talk to and find people to encourage you and help you. Try switching up your routine so you can take care of yourself better physically and mentally. Right the ship, so to speak. Then, get back to prepping for “game day.”
Long Term Coasting Will Stop “Game Day Prep”
Perhaps you’ve recently been in a period of extra after hours learning because an important project required new skills. Maybe you were gearing up to pass a certification. Good for you. After that you took a break. Ok. That’s reasonable. Be cautious though about your “little break” from game day prep turning into long term coasting where you don’t put in additional effort to learn and grow. If 3, 6, 9 months or more goes by and you’re still coasting, ask your self why and what, you might want to do about that.
Other Priorities Will Stop “Game Day Prep”
Everyone has priorities, whether we are aware of them or not. We all make choices and those choices prioritize our time. If you’re spending endless hours in front of the TV, the XBox or the PS3, then you’re prioritizing that activity over others. Perhaps you like to host social events with friends and family over good barbecue and a game of Frisbee in the back yard. Possibly you’re taking care of a sick family member. Certainly no one will fault you for a little down time via entertaining yourself with games or a movie. I certainly hope you are making time for friends and honoring your commitment to your family. I would just encourage you to take stock of whether other, unfruitful priorities are keeping you from being the technologist you could be.
6 Steps to Build a Training Plan and Execute On It
- Open up your favorite text editor and make a list of the top 3 things you want or need to learn in the next 6 months. You likely know what they are.
- Do an internet search for links that explain those 3 topics and add those links to their corresponding topics in the text editor. Be sure to have at least 3 links per topic you want to learn.
- Save the file to your desktop so you see it every day as a reminder to work on your skills.
- If you have a whiteboard, write your plan on the whiteboard so you see it every day.
- Work your personal training plan by reading one article a day from your training plan.
- Now, rinse and repeat. Start the process over with those same three topics.
As a bonus, hopefully at least some of those articles have demos. Do the demos yourself on your own local install of SQL Server. Don’t just read the demos. After you’ve done these things, you will have read and worked through the content of 6 articles for each of your three topics that you wanted to learn. That’s a great start!
Next Steps to Take
- If you want to chat about any of this, hit me up on Twitter or post a comment here. I’m happy to discuss.
- Build a training plan using the steps above.
- If you’re struggling to find good resources, check out my post about how to find reliable resources for learning.
- Leave me a comment on this post to share your training plan, or message me on Twitter with your plan. Sharing your plan with others reinforces your commitment to the plan.