The best New Year’s Resolution you could ever make

Many years ago I had an ah-hah moment that changed my life.

Even though I had earned several graduate degrees, had won the “Outstanding Faculty Member” award at two different universities, had published many books, and spoken at hundreds of meetings … all the things that proved I was really smart … I realized I was stupid. I was trying to move up and move ahead in my life without the tools to do so. I was trying to accomplish tomorrow’s goals with yesterday’s skills. I was stupid because I had gotten really sloppy about my ongoing continuing education.

I suddenly realized I couldn’t get better at marriage or parenting unless I kept on studying marriage and parenting. I realized I couldn’t become a better leader unless I kept on studying leadership. And that ah-hah realization applied to every part of my professional and personal lives … my health, finances, relationships, career … everything.

So I made a New Year’s resolution that I have actually kept ever since that ah-hah moment.

I will invest X number of hours and X number of dollars into my ongoing education every year!

No matter how I feel, no matter what is happening in my life and work, no matter what is happening in the economy, I will make that investment.

The payoffs from that point on have been absolutely amazing. My relationships went from good to great. And my work went from good to great. As J.T. Meanor from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base says, “Your Journey-to-the-Extraordinary program was the most rewarding learning experience I’ve obtained in over 20 years working as a USAF professional engineer and leader. Truly the best of the best!”

As we come to the end of 2020, as you contemplate what you want to do with your life next year and all the years to come, let me urge you to make the best New Year’s resolution you could ever make … to commit yourself to a program of ongoing continuing education.

Here’s what I suggest:

► 1. Stop the excuses

If you’re going to be a champion leader, manager, supervisor, team leader, individual contributor, spouse, or parent, you’ve got to stop finding excuses for not upgrading yourself, not learning more, or not getting better. You’ve got to stop sounding like the pathetic souls who say, “That’s just the way I am . . .” or “I don’t have time . . .”

Eileen Zierman is one of those champions who taps into the power of continuing education. She said, “I thought if I could spend lots of dollars on fishing trips, I could sprout my wings and invest in your Champion Edge Master Class. I could learn more about myself, my relationships, and my work. Well, I went and I’m using all 6 practices that you taught us and it’s working. What a blessing from God. It was money well spent. I’m excited about the learning and it feels WONDERFUL.”

Like Eileen, I invite you to join my next offering of The Champion Edge Master Class. It’s an investment in you that will pay off big time.

► 2. Aggressively pursue ongoing personal and professional development.

No one who becomes rich in any particular business or field starts with all the skills he or she needs.

If, for example, your purpose is to turn your kids into financially independent, self-sufficient adults, you may need to take some courses on a variety of financial topics yourself. How else could you possibly expect to model the right behavior or teach your kids the proper financial skills if you don’t have them yourself?

If you have the goal of winning over your competitor’s customers without using price as a weapon, you may need to get some training on customer attraction and retention.

So what can you do to aggressively pursue ongoing personal and professional development?

Attend every GREAT seminar you can. There are lots of good and lots of useless programs out there. You don’t have the time or money to waste on them. You’ve got to choose carefully. Ask around to find out which programs and speakers are the very best. Ask successful people—that you trust—which seminars they would recommend.

► 3. Increase your replacement value.

Of course, there are millions of things you could study in your pursuit of continuing education. You’ll never have time to learn everything in your field let alone everything in the world.

So where should you focus your education? Focus on those things that will increase your replacement value.

In the past, your longevity or seniority might have saved you. But traditional definitions of longevity and loyalty no longer apply to getting ahead in your career.

In today’s world it’s all about replacement value. The more difficult you are to replace, the more money you will tend to make and the more job security you will tend to enjoy.

That being the case, you must have an answer to each of the following questions.

  • What are you doing to increase your value in the marketplace?
  • What are you doing to demonstrably increase your value to your current employer, clients, and customers?
  • What are you doing to increase your value to prospective future employers?
  • What are you doing to make yourself so valuable that you’re the least likely to be cut or the last to be cut?

Neil Schmitz from Hearth & Home Technologies believes in increasing his replacement value. He told me, “Your Champion Edge Master Class was truly an investment in myself and my future. It brought about huge improvements in my attitude and performance at both work and home. And your goal-setting process helped me move from a Focus Factory Manager to a Plant General Manager with five Focus Factory Managers reporting to me. I would strongly recommend your master class and have done so to countless people.”

This might sound crude, but the same strategy applies to your personal life as well. What are you doing to increase your replacement value as a husband or wife or lifetime partner? What education are you pursuing along those lines?

With a relationship failure rate that hovers around 50%, we all need to be asking ourselves what we are doing to make our partner feel so loved, honored, respected, cherished, admired, and special that we don’t get replaced by other interests, activities, or the just plain busy-ness of life.

A new year is almost here. You can’t control what kinds of things are going to happen, but you can influence, to a great extent, how great your New Year is going to be. And it all starts with you making the best New Year’s resolution you could ever make: Decide to invest in your own continuing education for the important aspects of your life.