We have discussed the option of using your current job as an opportunity to train for the job you would really like to obtain, either inside the current company or in a different organization. This would involve more than just applying yourself to the current job, improving people skills, participating in on-the-job training, volunteering, and so on. It would also include taking courses outside the company, reading, volunteering, etc. – all in areas related to your desired position or occupation. And as mentioned in previous segments of this series, any soft skills, such as creativity, communications, memory training, and so on would be a plus. (Most of my 41 e-books published by Bookboon.com involve soft skills, and you might check them out on our website at taylorintime.com. Two in particular that I would recommend are How to Build Character, and How To Be a Top Performer.

The key to learning on the job appears to be “try, fail, learn, and grow.” This means that you practice the skill yourself after studying or watching others who are competent in that skill. Then, based on feedback (from a teacher, coach, mentor, or others, (or simply by the results that you observe), practice the skill again and again. When studying, memorizing, or practicing, repetition is important, as is the focus. Electric signals travel through the same chain of neurons and their nerve fibers every time you repeat something. These neuron fibers are coated with white insulation called myelin. But myelin does more than just insulate. It becomes thicker the more that neuron is used, and signals become stronger and faster. In his book, The Talent Code, Daniel Coyle says, “Myelin quietly transforms narrow alleys into broad, lightning-fast superhighways.”

Christine Carter, in her book, The Sweet Spot, claims that myelination works best when we make a mistake or fail at something and make corrections and keep trying. Daniel Coyle says that “operating at the edges of your ability where you make mistakes – makes you smarter.”

The correct information is then more easily retained in long-term memory. You could say that failure is a part of success if you learn your lessons well. In the same way, if I have trouble recalling a name or place – which happens more frequently as I age – instead of asking someone, by taking my time and recalling it myself, I tend to recall it more quickly the next time.

When receiving your exam papers back in school, it didn’t pay for someone to tell you the correct answers while you wrote them down. It added little if anything to the learning curve. Looking up the answers in the text yourself or searching online is the active process that produces myelin. Cheating doesn’t help for the same reason. It may help you get good marks in school, but terrible results on the job or in life.

As you complete the “try, fail, learn, and grow.” cycle multiple times, you become progressively better at any skill. If you want to become a top performer, in a specific skill, it takes thousands of hours. You can improve more quickly if you are able to focus intently on what you are doing. This was called “purposeful” or “deliberate” practice by the late researcher Anders Ericsson, in his book, Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise.

In most cases, the better you become at doing anything, the more you enjoy doing it, and the greater you excel. I have found this to be true in school as well. We usually do well in subjects that we like, and vice versa.

In the next few segments of this series, I will discuss a few ways to make any job easier, such as developing a sense of humor, getting adequate sleep, and of course, having a positive attitude.

In the meantime, if you want to obtain the complete report on which this series is based, it is available on our website as an immediate PDF download for $4.95. Click here.