The 5 Uncomfortable Skills That Will Make You More Successful: Improvement Through Discomfort
Every career has dozens of blogs covering the skills requisite to that career — from how to be better at closing sales, to how doctors can better diagnose specialty conditions. I’m not here to do that today. Today, I want to talk about 5 skills that will absolutely make you a better loan officer, but have nothing to do with sales.
Getting on top of things usually requires stepping out of our comfort zone, and doing uncomfortable things. Not all the time, and not over the top, but regularly and with control. As sociologist W. E. B. Du Bois said: “Take the cold bath bravely.”
Talk to a stranger.
I’ve always found this puzzling — how do you talk to strangers? You stop them on the street? In the subway? Or during lunch?
But after more digging and personal practice, I’ve found this to be much less complicated than it seems. Have you seen someone new at the office and had no idea who they were? Go get an introduction. Is there a new waitress at your favorite lunch spot? Ask her how she likes her new job. See someone with a really sweet pair of shoes? Tell them.
You don’t need to be a crazy eccentric to talk to random people on the street. Whenever you see a chance to engage in a conversation with someone you don’t know, just grab it. Not only will you practice your small-talking skills, but you’ll also refine your social intelligence.
Practice public speaking.
Public speaking is tricky. While some people seem like they were born to talk in front of a crowd, others struggle with profuse sweating and sudden stutter attacks. If you belong to the latter group, you probably also know that practice makes perfect. A salesman who can’t pitch is a salesman who’s not worth much, and it doesn’t matter if it’s in front of an audience of five or five thousand people.
Take courses, read books, but most importantly, get out there and talk in front of people. Your friends and family, your colleagues, your clients… Whenever the opportunity arises. Seek it out, don’t hide from it, and you’ll see that sooner or later fear will turn into skill. If you don’t believe me, take a look at how many speeches Lincoln gave with variants of “four score and seven” before he settled on that language.
Learn to work with data.
Can you review your own website analytics? Do you really know how the latest Excel works? Do you do your own research at the end of each quarter, or do you plan based on data someone else dug out for you?
You don’t need to be a genius to gain at least a basic comprehension of a) the metrics that are relevant to your career and b) the trends and mutual influences that are at work in terms of the given metrics. The deeper understanding you get, the better your planning, forecasting and prospecting will become.
Give and receive negative feedback.
Giving feedback is important. Receiving feedback is even more important. Especially when it’s not exactly praising and pleasant. We as people have the bad habit of turning on defense whenever someone criticizes our work. Try to focus on this, and face the negative feedback straight on. After all, acknowledging a mistake — or at least looking at the issue through the eyes of the criticizer — is one of the most fortifying moments of our career.
The same goes for giving negative feedback; it’s not easy, it may hurt on both sides, but softening the edges and beating around the bush will not help anyone get better. If you’re a leader or a friend, in both cases you need to take a firm stand and be honest and straightforward.
One of the first bosses I ever worked for, back when I was a teenager, always used to say “You think I’m an * insert word * now, but you’ll thank me for this a few years down the line.” And he was so right.
Get up early.
This is definitely the least popular advice I’ve ever given (and followed), but it’s an essential part of every guide to self-improvement. Getting up early and implementing some recharging morning rituals will make your workday more productive and organized, your head clearer, and with some extra time for a jog or a yoga routine on top you’ll also be more healthy and feel better.
Even if you’re really not a morning person, just try to set your alarm some ten, fifteen minutes earlier than usual, and see the wonders of a rush-free morning.