Jump on the Hidden Fast Track

reading and bookshelf

I never liked homework.

As a kid, I wasn’t a fan of homework. I’d slam through it as quickly as I could, and focus on fun. In college, I began to appreciate homework, because it was an opportunity to direct my learning towards the specific end result I wanted. I couldn’t believe the professors would let us choose so much of our own direction! Still, I looked forward to ditching the homework, and moving on to living my life.

I wanted to do well in my jobs, and I wanted a comfortable paycheck. How? Kiss butt? Work crazy hours? Meet the right people? I was pleased to learn none of those were the answer. I quickly figured out that my coworkers who moved up the fastest were looking stuff up, reading about it, and practicing outside of work.

Reading about my industry makes me money every day.

Well! I’ve always been a fan of acquiring marketable skills more quickly, and I sure do love to get a raise. But what to read? How much reading? What to practice? How do I get in on this fast track? I asked the rising stars, and I received several answers, all of which had one thing in common: look at research. Case studies, articles in trade magazines, books by experts, and lectures and focus groups all made the list.

I started reading 30 minutes a day, usually at bedtime. When I came across applicable research (like most sales are closed on the 8th -12th interaction) I made notes, and took them to heart. And I developed skills and got results at work. (There are very few skills you can’t strengthen by looking things up on the internet, reading a book, or joining a group.)

I’ve stopped doing homework a few times in my career, and the same thing always happens. My skills develop more slowly, and I don’t get raises or promotions as frequently. And I end up going back to homework.

30 minutes a day gives me double digit raises every year

That extra 30 minutes per day has added up into hundreds of hours. I’ve read scores of books, trade magazines and studies. And over the years, I’ve developed expertise and a reputation for excellence. “How did you become such an expert?” people ask. I smile. 30 years in the workforce was a good start. But there was more to it. I gesture to my bookshelf, my Kindle, both of which are in plain sight, and say, “I read.”