It is SUCH a great feeling isn’t it? When you complete a huge project successfully, or hit that major goal it feels like nothing can stop you – and there certainly is no reason to hold back on the celebration. In fact, celebrating big achievements properly can encourage us to tackle the next assignment with the same energy as the last. Time marches on though, and those who allow the celebration to last for weeks… months… years… (I knew someone who celebrated for decades!) may be brought back to the present with a rude awakening.
Please don’t confuse what I am trying to describe for mere “remember the good old days” talk. No, that is nostalgia and a different (if not equally unhelpful – in business) feeling altogether. Nostalgia wishes for different circumstances around a person, while what I am describing is someone wishing to be a different person… to be the person they felt like during a past win, even though they are now facing a new and different challenge.
To avoid the trap described above, always remember that your last (most recent) action speaks the loudest. It is the most true depiction of who you are as a person, and more importantly how finely tuned your skill set is to meet current challenges.
I’ll prove it to you in just two words. Lance Armstrong. Ok, maybe that was a cheap shot. How about… General Petraeus. Ok, ok… imagine instead for me the BEST new home marketer in the world… in 1995. Lets say he stopped learning and interacting with the outside world until we dropped him in 2013. Would he still be the best marketer in the world? His skills have not kept up – he is no longer competitive. He’s never even heard the words “online lead” before. Yet, if you called him to a meeting he would likely reference his domination of the marketing world… back when news print was king. No one would care… and they shouldn’t! Past successes more than three years ago do not indicate any better chance of future success than someone who is unproven but well prepared. Yes, the world is changing that fast. The answers for the test back then will not work on today’s final exam.
What to do then? Focus on continually increasing your skills, and not on telling others how you’ve “done this before” or “did that once.” Always be analyzing the surrounding landscape and asking “do I have the skills to appropriately tackle this challenge should it arise?” Again, if you succeeded at the same task more than three years ago, you are likely to be blindsided without careful self evaluation.
True experts will focus on skills that will serve them well forever. Can you learn quickly? Can you teach yourself? Are you disciplined? Can you interact well with other people? Can you lead them? Motivate them? Motive yourself? Can you analyze? Strategize? Take action? Are you self aware? Those will serve you much better than becoming a MySpace expert (even if it seemed important in 2006), or an expert App developer (in 2012).
So today take some positive action, and don’t coast – because tomorrow your new boss won’t have anything else to judge you on. He certainly won’t care what you did 3+ years ago.
PS. Your resume is not a piece of paper in today’s world. It is the connections you’ve made, how you’ve treated them over time, and your last few actions. That’s it. (this goes for companies too! Mind your brand.)