How to Improve Yourself

In the post 4 Lessons on How to Get Things Done, there is an interesting comment by Mark Foo:

Bill Gates once remarked that the key to succeed in business is to innovate and make yourself obsolete. If you don’t make yourself obsolete, your competitors will make you obsolete.

I agree completely. We live in a fast-changing world. What is current today may already be obsolete two years from now. For that reason, it’s important to know how to improve yourself. You need to make yourself obsolete. If you don’t, someone else will.
I once read that when a Sony team in one floor launched a product, another team at another floor was already working on a new version of the product. And yet another team was working on an even newer version of it. That’s a company that works hard to make itself obsolete.
The same principle, I believe, applies to individuals. You should improve yourself and make yourself obsolete. Here are some ways to apply it:
1. Upgrade your tools
Can you imagine the difference in productivity between those who use a typewriter and those who use a computer? This example is a bit extreme, but it illustrates the importance of upgrading your tools. If you don’t upgrade your tools, you risk being left behind by those who do. They will produce far more output with better quality than you.
But be careful, don’t spend too much time researching and experimenting with new tools at the expense of doing real work. Remember, your goal is getting things done. Set aside some time to experiment with new tools, but spend most of your time doing real work using the tools you are already comfortable with.
2. Upgrade your workflow
More than just upgrading your tools, you should upgrade your workflow. Find ways to improve your productivity system. Is there any leak in your system? Is there anything you can simplify? Do you take full advantage of your most productive hours? Tune your system to improve your ability to get things done with minimum overhead.
3. Upgrade your knowledge
Living in the Internet age is a great blessing because there are abundant sources of knowledge available. All you need to have is the desire to learn. That’s why curiosity is important. With knowledge being so readily available, the eagerness to learn makes the biggest difference between those who thrive and those who don’t. Curiosity makes it much easier for you to learn about pretty much anything.
4. Upgrade your skills
With the pace of the world we live in now, your skills would quickly become obsolete.I remember a few years ago I learned hard to earn a certification. Now, just a few years later, the certification is practically useless. That’s how fast the world is moving. If you don’t constantly upgrade yourself, you may soon find that the world has moved beyond you.
One important thing to remember is you shouldn’t just upgrade your current skills. What if your field of expertise became irrelevant in the near future? What if the world no longer needed it? So, instead of just improving your current skills, open your eyes for new skills to learn. Is there a skill that could be in high demand a few years from now? Is there a skill that becomes increasingly necessary? Don’t just be a specialist. Be a versatilist.
5. Upgrade your mindset
This is perhaps the most difficult one to apply. People tend to always use the same lens to see the world through. They always see the world the way they are accustomed to. But you need to upgrade your mindset before it’s too late.
Here is an example of mindset change: instead of looking at yourself as an employee, look at yourself as an independent company. Your employer is actually just a client of yours. You should serve them well, of course, but you should also improve yourself and find other potential clients. Your progress is your responsibility. Can you see the difference this mindset has on your attitude?
To upgrade your mindset, you need to admit that the world changes. Don’t expect that the world you live in today works the same way as it did ten years ago. Nor should you expect that the world ten years from now will work the same way as it does today. Admitting this will make it easier for you to change your lens.
Improving yourself means that you should constantly move beyond your comfort zone. Stretch yourself. Challenge yourself.It’s easier said than done, but you will come out as a winner.
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  1. Hi Donald,
    I just realized, you have over 500 posts written! Wow – good job. It’s difficult to write 500 things to fit in a niche. I definitely have a hard time of it. Looking at you’ll notice I have all kinds of niches represented! lol.
    I have a great idea for how you can improve yourself…
    Write an entry for my new eBook, “What is the Point of Life?” I wrote you email just yesterday, you probably haven’t even seen it yet – but, I don’t want you to pass it by. I’d really love to have your idea on the subject. At AFA I’ve posted a write-up on what you have to do to contribute. Basically, send couple lines or paragraphs about the point of life… what you find worth doing with your life. What is the focus of your life?
    Anyway, would love to have your ideas. Also, an open invitation to anyone reading this – if you have considered the question and want to contribute – do!

  2. Hey Donald,
    I like this concise, to the point post =)
    One thing I would add is upgrade your environment – and I don’t mean that just physically. As in network with people, join meetup groups, check out events where people go that you want to have in your world, in your circle
    Easier than ever now to do online with twitter and blogging =)

  3. Excellent post Donald! 🙂 You’ve highlighted every area that needs attention and I’m gl;ad your left mindset until last because in my opinion it is by far the most important. With the right mindset, tools, skills and even knowledge aren’t strictly needed to get where you want – mindset matters!

  4. Vern,
    There are 433 posts published so far, but many of them are guest posts. So only with their help can I have that many posts on this site.
    That’s a good topic you choose for your e-book. I’ll check and reply to your email about it.
    Nice idea 🙂 You’re right, your environment does make a lot of difference, especially since it includes your relationships. Those are all useful tips you have.
    Yes, mindset matters! Even if you have the best of the others, without the right mindset I don’t think you can achieve something significant. It’s something we need to pay special attention to.

  5. Hey Donald,
    In my book, upgrading the mindset always has the top priority. Because I think the right mindset is what can unleash all the rest of your growth, or sabotage it if you have the wrong mindset. Funny, I just wrote about this myself.

  6. Hi Donald,
    I’m a new visitor to your blog and really enjoy it! Great information and a great look! I’m one of Leo Babauta’s bootcamp students, and now I look at blogs with a new eye.
    Upgrading is the only way to make bold improvements in your life. Sometimes it is soooo hard to step out of all of the activity in your life and reassess where you need to grow and change.
    Thanks for the reminder.

  7. Regarding #1, I think people should plan a use a set of tools that they have decided on beforehand. Many people, especially those interested in time management and personal development, become so obsessed with perfecting their productivity systems that very little gets done. If you’re up front with yourself from the start about what you need to be accomplished, you’ll be much more productive.
    Following that, the tools will naturally enter your work flow as you are working. Yesterday I realized that I could save myself about an hour every day by switching my site bookmarks from Google Reader to Delicious. I made the change instinctively and got back to work. I think that’s the way you have to upgrade your tools if you want to be a productive individual.

  8. Hey Donald: I really liked this post and thought you made so many important points. We really do have to continually focus on upgrading ourselves. How can we continue to get better and better at everything we do because things are changing around us all the time and we have to really be about living and learning. The things that you did even as recently as last year are most likely in need of being upgraded. Nothing around us stays the same and there is no reason we shouldn’t be continually focusing on improving. Thanks for all the great pointers.

  9. It really very good article. This is a very high time for all of us to concentrate on improving the skill sets and tune up overselves to the need of the chaning world.

  10. Excellent post. I have a suggestion on i.5 – not “upgrade of the mindset” but rather “change of the mindset” is needed. We all have been trained to follow rules and dogma to the ridiculous level that we often forget to ask the question WHY. Why we do that at all? Why we do it that way? Why? At least I need to change my mindset to ask frequently that very important question every day and on every action of mine. 🙂

  11. I would say guys if you are new to the personal development scene that starting with a 30 day trial will do you well. Google it. You just commit to one thing for 30 days and build your discipline from there. You will look back in a month and be amazed at the progress and then you can tackle a higher goal and work those discipline muscles. Imagine being able to force yourself to do whatever your mind desires and know you could have it. This is the certainty that this will give you.

  12. You are right on track. It’s another aspect of getting better each day. If you have that personal mindset, you’ll naturally apply it to everything you do.

  13. Tools, workflow, knowledge, skill and mindset. I cannot agree more on your idea. The ideas are insightful and very well articulate that fit into the context of “change”.
    I particularly like and relate to the idea of mindset and its effects on one’s life.
    Awesome post. Thank you.

  14. Eduard,
    Nice coincidence 🙂
    Welcome to Life Optimizer and thanks for the kind words! I agree that it’s sometimes difficult to reassess your life.
    Interesting idea. Thanks for sharing it.
    The world is indeed changing fast these days and we need to keep up with it. Just we need to be careful not to neglect real work in the name of “upgrading.”
    I think we actually mean the same thing. What I have in my mind is similar to what you describe in your comment. In my mind, “upgrading your mindset” means “changing your mindset for the better.” I like your emphasis on asking why. It’s arguably the most important question to ask to change your mindset.
    That’s a good reminder for all of us.
    That’s right. Just it takes time to reach that point.
    Glad you like it 🙂

  15. […] This goes without saying. Your intrinsic value has a big effect on your bargaining power. Your intrinsic value depends on your personal quality such as your skills, knowledge, and attitude. To increase it, you need to constantly improve yourself. […]

  16. Thanks Donald. This is a new good news that everyone should read about to make innovations enough to make us successful in business and in any endeavor. Obsolescence is a loss, and it should be avoided without a cost. To do that, we should be the one to notice that and not our competitors.

  17. hi ,
    its very useful anyone .. its eally awesome ..i need more infomation about life serveway ,, i missed my girl friend .. can you pls advise me some interesting matters..
    by ,

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