Progress at all costs
We all want progress in our lives, we want to be on the next level in our professions, skills, and business deals, but we rarely talk about what is holding us back. What is our main bottleneck in reaching the next level? Let’s explore the idea of a bottleneck and what strategies we can employ to figure it out.
You have a hole in your ship
An easy analogy to make here is of a sinking ship, no matter how strong an engine you have, if there is a hole in the ship, the whole will eventually overpower even the strongest engine in the world. I think a good mental model to use here is not to think about speed when trying to reach the next level but to identify the biggest current gaps in knowledge and actions we have. Focusing on those will be much more productive.
Fixing weaknesses != acquiring new skills
But, there is this popular idea out there that we should focus on our strengths and not weaknesses. Can we somehow mix these two ideas and think about them in the same way? I think that we should not try to acquire new skills, unless they are the bottleneck, but prevent holes in our current performance that is stopping us from going to the next level. I have met too many engineers with amazing technical knowledge, but piss poor communication, and fixing the communication by avoiding certain behaviors would have unlocked a lot for them.
How to find it?
One of the best ways to move forward is to keep trying different things because we might think something is a bottleneck but it’s not, and to find out what the real bottleneck is usually requires a trial and error approach until we hit the nail in the head. I had a strange experience while snowboarding this year where I was snowboarding on the same level for two years, not making much progress. And after trying various different things to fix I did not find what the real bottleneck is for me. Until I made a small fix in the way I transition from heel to toe edge. The heel edge is my primary edge which I used as a safe zone was causing me a lot of issues because I was not transitioning fast enough, which in hindsight is easy to see, but once I made a change to stay at a maximum of 2 seconds on the heel edge everything clicked. I felt at that moment what a compound effect looks like, it’s nothing for two years and then with just one tweak, everything changes. I can now run through some nasty hills without problems.
That is why mentors and friends can help us find our bottlenecks much faster, if I had a snowboarding instructor I could have made this fix in the first hour of snowboarding, not after two years. That is why reading books can unlock our true potential by showing us potential bottlenecks that might hinder our performance