A client asked me about doing exercises to develop leadership and social skills. He pointed out most people don’t do them. Some people do them differently. He’s been doing them a while and has seen some progress, but knows he has a long way to go. He asked my thoughts on how much he should do. I wrote the following.
I look at leadership and social skills, leadership, and self-awareness exercises like learning any major life skill, like playing a sport, learning to dance, to play music, etc.
In sports you have to run drills. You have to run sprints, sometimes in the rain, sometimes when you don’t think you have it in you. You can skip those things, but in sports you compete, so if you skip them you’ll lose to people who do them.
In dance, you have to learn your footwork, you have to learn what’s in the music. Musicians don’t compete like athletes, but there are only so many venues to play if you want to perform.
To play music, you have to play scales. A lot of them. No matter how methodical, repetitive, and the opposite of playing music scales may seem, only by playing enough of them do you learn to play music. Even then you play etudes and simple pieces.
My friend learning acting said it well
You show me the best actor in a group and I’ll show you the one who works the hardest.
I agree completely.
Usually developing skills — scales, sprints, footwork, leadership exercises, etc — takes time and doesn’t feel fun in the moment, but it enables much more satisfaction, achievement, and much richer, complex, enduring, and intense reward later. As in the kind of feelings that life is about. Anyone can stop at any moment, rest on their laurels, and enjoy the fruits of their labors.
For me, I knew if I didn’t reach the level of mastery I have I would always look at others with skills I could have had and realize my missed potential. I still know always developing myself more and in new directions improves my life, so I do. I also have role models who developed himself to a level beyond me, which motivates me to continue more and more.
Discovering the limits of your potential isn’t for everyone. Not everyone likes running sprints in the rain. You have to figure out what improves you whether you like it or not. Personally, I recommend being aware of what level is right for you (only you can know for yourself) and achieving it quickly and efficiently. Then you have the freedom to push any time you want to advance more or relaxing if you want to enjoy yourself.