there is always something to learn

Published on May 22, 2020

There is always something to learn.

Earlier today I was assigned a task that typically does not fall under my purview. It was a monotonous task, and one that I would have delegated if I could (that is most likely the reason it was delegated to me in the first place).

The task in itself was not something from which I could learn. I was making changes to a few blog posts, and following a specific process to do so.

Technically, I could have given up on the task. I could have left it until next week, or done a little bit every hour until it was done. But, I decided to go ahead anyway.

From doing this task, I rediscovered the importance of just getting stuff done, even if it is not the most glamorous work. If I am assigned a task, I should get it done. This is especially important if I have made a public commitment to getting that task done. I want people to know me as the type of person who follows through -- who gets work done.

The broader lesson I have taken away from this is that there is always something to learn.

When you are getting started in your career, you may be given a number of tasks that you don’t enjoy doing. That’s the thing about being at the bottom: when you are still getting started, you have very little choice over the type of work you do.

You need to prove that you are able to do any task, even the mundane ones, before you can take on the really important work.

While I spend most of my days doing really interesting work, these sorts of tasks inevitably come up. I have, in the past, approached boring work from the perspective that I am not going to learn anything from it if it is boring. This is not the right mindset.

Every task presents an opportunity to learn. From my work earlier today, I reminded myself that no matter how great my job is, there will always be tasks that I don’t like doing. Even if I don’t like doing one thing, it doesn’t matter. It needs to get done.

When I am working on something that doesn’t confer immediate value, I like to ask myself “what can I learn from this situation?”

At first, my mind often tells me that there’s nothing to learn. If there was, it would be obvious. After a while, my mind starts to adjust. It realizes that there is something to learn from every situation. Everything is a learning opportunity.

If you are just starting in your career, this is a mantra that you should keep repeating to yourself. There is always something to learn. There is always something to learn. You’ll be surprised how much more you get out of your job if you just keep asking yourself what opportunities there are for growth on a frequent cadence.

The same applies to life. I had a conversation yesterday which was not particularly interesting. Instead of writing it off entirely, I asked myself: what could I learn from this conversation? It turns out that there was a lot for me to take away, but most of those insights required deep thinking. They were there, I just needed to look harder for them.

Do you have any feedback on this blog post? Send me an email.
Do you want to hear more from me? Subscribe to my weekly Coffee with James newsletter.
Made by @jamesg_oca. Code on GitHub.