“The stock of competencies, knowledge, social and personality attributes, including creativity, embodied in the ability to perform labor so as to produce economic value.”
If Bill Gates suddenly became homeless he could walk into the headquarters of any major company on the planet, offer his services as a consultant and start making 6+ figures a year. Focusing on building your human capital is a lot more productive than worrying about “job security.”
Wouldn’t it be amazing to have so much human capital that you never had to worry about unemployment again? Let’s look at a few ways to invest in your most valuable asset – yourself.
Here’s the deal: I’ve listed 10 self-improvement challenges for you to take on. Leave a comment each time you start or complete one of them.
Ready, set, go!
1. Discover your Strengths
What are you doing when you are at your best?
This question is deceptively simple but incredibly powerful. The most successful people in the world have discovered the things they are best at and build their working lives around those strengths.
If you do nothing else today, buy a copy of the book StrengthsFinder 2.0 and take the test. The Gallup Organization surveyed 1.7 million professionals and identified 30 personal “themes” that describe how people think and act. The StrengthsFinder test will identify your top 5 themes and provide suggestions for utilizing them to the utmost.
I took the StrengthsFinder test and was blown away by how much it helped me understand myself. I have since purchased copies of the book for the entire team at Viibrant, my startup. This book is an amazing resource – don’t pass it up!
2. Do a time diary
How do you (really) spend your time?
For one day, write down what you want to accomplish and then use an online tool called Time Tracker to keep a record of everything you do. At the end of the day compare your goals with what actually happened.
This is an amazingly revealing exercise because it shows you how much time you waste on random, useless activities. How much time do you spend checking email? How much time on Facebook? How much time endlessly browsing the news, feeling productive but not actually accomplishing anything?
As an exercise, see if you can identify the 20% of your time that produced 80% of your results. What can you do to have more highly productive time like this?
3. Set WeeklThis week, fight back against the chaos by setting one main goal that you want to have accomplished in seven days. You can also pick two secondary goals if you’re feeling ambitions, but no more than that.
Look back on how you did at the end of the week. Did setting goals help you work more purposefully and effectively? If you had done nothing but work on your three main goals, what would have happened?
4. Get a Mentor
This is a harder challenge, but the benefits are worth it.
Make a list of everyone you know who has a lot of experience in your line of business. If you don’t know anyone who meets this criterion, broaden the search to people you know who were very successful in another field or with whom you particularly resonate.
Then, rank order your list of potential mentors by preference and start contacting them! Try to set up a regular meeting time and overarching goals for the relationship when you first get together. I’d also recommend establishing a task to work on in between each of your meetings, so you can get feedback and support from your mentor.
Mentoring relationships are a powerful source of knowledge, inspiration and connections – don’t miss out!
5. Read a Great Book
Great books are like prepackaged boxes of ideas, painstakingly put together by a brilliant author for you to assimilate. Why not take advantage of this amazing resource?
6. Start a Habit
What is one thing you wish you did every day?
Here are some ideas:
Write a blog post
Reach out to an influencer
Either take one of the above ideas or come up with your own. You’re about to make the chosen activity into a habit that you perform each and every day, using one simple truth.
You can do anything for 21 days.
A smart website fittingly entitled 21habit has leveraged this great truth to help you make a productive, new habit. Simply make an account, enter your goal and record your success or failure each day for the next three weeks. If you really want to get serious, you can deposit $21 and earn back a dollar each day you complete your goal (if you fail the dollar is donated to charity).
I’ve begun this challenge myself, and I hope you’ll join me. My goal: write a blog post every day.
7. Build Your Personal Brand
What does your online presence look like? What happens when someone Google’s your name?
The topic of personal branding is too big to cover right here, so I’ll limit myself to one actionable suggestion.
Challenge: Create an “Infographic Resume.”
An infographic resume is a small, visually appealing webpage that provides your bio, contact information, accomplishments and skills.
The good news is that completing this challenge is incredibly simple: just go to re.vu, kinzaa or visualize.me and create your page.
Next time you apply for a job or need to introduce yourself to someone online, just direct them to your resume page (that wasn’t so hard!).
8. Be Thankful
Being thankful is surprisingly powerful.
As Shawn Achor explains in his TED talk, taking five minutes each day to list three things you’re thankful for trains your mind to look for the positive. Amazingly, maintaining a positive mindset makes you more productive and effective in your work (as well as happier in general!).
As an aside, I started doing this a few months ago. Within a week of adopting this habit, I had a string of absolutely incredible brainstorming sessions that gave me a vision for Viibrant’s development over the next year.
That week was one of the most productive and creative periods in my life…and I wonder if it had anything to do with my new “thankfulness” habit. It may have just been a coincidence, but we’ll never know for sure.