5 Ways to Gain a Competitive Advantage: The Importance of Continuous Learning and Personal Development
One of the surest ways to gain a competitive advantage is by learning how to make the most of your time. Through continuous learning and personal development, you can keep up with, and get on top of, your job, career, and field of expertise.
Gain a Competitive Advantage by Reading
To gain a competitive advantage in your career, read at least one hour per day in your chosen field. One hour a day will translate into approximately one book a week. One book a week will translate into approximately fifty books over the next twelve months. If you read an hour a day, one book per week, you will be an expert in your field within three years. Through continuous learning, you will be a national authority in five years, and you will be an international authority in seven years. All leaders are readers.
Read Magazines and Trade Journals
Read the business and trade publications that contain articles and stories relevant to your field to gain a competitive advantage. Subscribe to them all. They only cost a few dollars a year, but one article with one key idea can save you years of hard work. Sometimes, a single insight in a single article written by a specialist in your field can change the direction of your career. Remember the Law of Probabilities. The more ideas that you expose yourself to, the more likely it is that you will expose yourself to the right idea at the right time.
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Read publications such as Forbes, Fortune, Business Week, The Wall Street Journal, Investor’s Business Daily, your local newspaper and business section, and all the specialty magazines in your field. One good idea is all you need to gain a competitive advantage.
Invest in Continuous Learning
Decide today to invest 3 percent of your income back into yourself, into upgrading your knowledge and moving towards personal development. Spend 3 percent of what you earn on your own professional and personal development.
Subscribe to every magazine in your field; buy every book written that can help you in your business; listen to educational audio programs in your car; watch educational videocassettes, alone and with your staff; and take all the additional training and seminars that you can find.
Here’s my promise to you: If you invest 3 percent of your income back into yourself, within a few years, you will not have enough time in the year to spend the amount of money that 3 percent represents. Three percent does not seem like a lot, but the impact that investing this small amount will have on your life and career will be so extraordinary it will amaze you.
Personal Development through Experts
Continuous learning requires that you read the books written by experts in your field. Read books that contain practical information that you can use immediately to improve the quality of your work and gain a competitive advantage.
How do you know what books you should read for professional and personal development? Here is a simple technique. With few exceptions, you should only read books written by people who are active practitioners of their craft. Books written by university professors are usually theoretically true, but practically useless in the course of operating a real, live business or living a successful life.
When you see a book that interests you, immediately read the biography of the author. Find out what the author has done and accomplished, where she has worked, what kind of experiences she has accumulated in the course of her career. You are looking for books by people who have established a successful track record in your field.
Once you have determined that the author is a credible source of information, look at the table of contents to be sure that what the author is writing about is relevant and applicable to your field today. Avoid theory whenever possible. Look for practical ideas with practical solutions to common problems.
That is, if the book doesn’t offer something practical, then the best way to save yourself is to not read it at all.
Take a Speed-Reading Course
One of the most valuable things you can do for personal development in your adult life is to take a speed-reading course to learn how to accelerate the amount that you read and retain. Most speed-reading courses are based on similar principles. You can actually triple your reading speed in the first lesson or class. These courses are given in every city, and they are usually advertised on the Internet or in the yellow pages.
With a good speed-reading course, you will quickly learn how to read 1,000 words per minute with about 80 percent retention. You will learn how to plow through large quantities of magazines, newspapers, and books. You will learn how to get through more reading material in two hours a day than many people get through in a week.
I hope you enjoyed reading this article on how continuous learning can help you advance in your career and life. If you have any other personal development tips and techniques to gain a competitive advantage, please feel free to share and comment below!
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