As part of our “Routes to the Top” articles for “The Actuary” magazine in July, August and September (still to be published), we’ve been speaking with senior leaders about their career paths and their suggestions for others who want to reach the same heights. One area that arose during our interviews was that of effectiveness, adding value and the power of focus.
There’s a lot that can be said against multi-tasking or juggling too many balls: these activities can make us frazzled from trying to concentrate on too many things at once and/or lead to our output being too fragmented to be of much value: too little too late. However, part of professional life is managing multiple conflicting priorities, and the reality is that we don’t have the luxury of being able to focus exclusively on one item or domain, or at least not for an extended period of time. Also, our natural human curiosity means we keep listening for the latest news and what’s trending, partly because of our collective fear of missing out.
The advice of the CEOs and MDs prompted me to reflect on focus over my own career, and think about a number of examples where previous bosses or colleagues have mentioned focus in their feedback to me. This post shares those examples, and my reflections on them, and hopefully will prompt you to reflect on your own careers to date, especially how and where you add value and whether you are applying effort in the right areas.
In this second instalment of our Routes to the Top series for "The Actuary" magazine, we speak with more Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) and Managing Directors (MDs) about their career paths, and receive further practical professional advice for us all.
This article was published in the August 2018 edition of "The Actuary":
Following on from our July article showcasing four global actuaries who run businesses in the insurance, consulting, banking and wealth management, and technology industries, we now turn to share with you the experiences of three life and health leaders, across insurance and reinsurance. May their reflections on their career journeys and their guidance for others also encourage you to consider your own career and aims.
Given Protagion’s preoccupation with development and lifelong learning, today we share a video which we hope will inspire you to learn something new. Josh Kaufman’s TEDx talk sets out four steps to learning something in only 20 hours.
His entertaining talk is almost 20 minutes long, and within this time is a practical demonstration of Josh himself practising the ukelele, singing a pop medley! His endearing presentation style is quirky, and well-suited to the university audience he was speaking to (Colorado State University).
The key question Josh poses is “How long does it take to acquire a new skill?”. The topic of acquiring knowledge and learning new things is referenced in two other Protagion posts about breadth, depth and expertise:
Josh refers to the 10 000 hour rule (which he points out is the same as a “full-time job for 5 years”) which argues that it takes that amount of practice time to get to the top of your field. It comes from studies of expert-level performance among professional athletes, world-class musicians and chess grandmasters.
But, he also argues that people can get ‘good’ at something with a little bit of practice, given the slope of the learning curve. He proposes that with 20 hours of focused, deliberate practice, done efficiently, we can perform at a reasonable level. He sets out some steps to rapid skill acquisition, which we’ve added our own thoughts to:
1) Deconstruct the skill