You Are Tying Your Shoelaces Wrong. Probably.

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What does it matter that my shoelaces come apart every so often?


As a child many of us face a number of basic challenges that affect our skillset for years to come: riding a bike, learning to swim and tying our shoelaces. These skills have a purpose, whether they are survival skills or purely in the pursuit of pleasure, they all aid us in our day-to-day lives. These skills are imbued upon us by our families or friends from such a young age that, at the time, we would never question their method – because they work! That is why I was so surprised to find out I have spent the past 20 years tying my shoelaces wrong. So what does it matter that my shoelaces come apart every so often when I can just re-tie them?

Simply put, we need to challenge the process, i.e. relearn to tie shoelaces so that they never come undone.

I stumbled across Ian’s Shoelace Site whilst listening to a podcast. Now what could quite well be a dull subject actually sparked a moment of clarity; I have been tying my shoelaces wrong every day for nearly 20 years. If I got this simple task wrong, what other everyday skills have I been applying incorrectly? I will leave the explanation of how to tie your shoelaces to Ian, but I was charged with curiosity and wanted to understand where else I could make amends. One of the easiest and most important places to start is with our professional skills, as they are not as hardwired as those learnt in childhood.

Look beyond copycat behaviour

Often when we start out in our careers, we seek to emulate the successful without questioning how we could improve it. The old adage of ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ comes to mind. This commitment to copycatting is a recipe for mediocrity. You are not the first person to copy another successful person; it was practically mandatory for the Italian ruling classes in renaissance Italy who fervently studied Machiavelli’s work. Look how that worked out in the long run.

As such the simple processes that we perform at work, like how we connect with others and what information we capture, should be ever changing. We should be challenging how we tie our proverbial shoelaces if we are to truly pursue professional excellence that stands the test of time. The Devil is in the detail. So where do we start?

Study successful processes

It may seem contrary to the above to suggest that we learn from our peers, in terms of how best to develop our professional skills. However, I would be remiss to say that they offer no value to our personal development. We should look to emulate the successful and good habits that our connections exhibit. It’s often the nuances of those processes that are of value, if not the whole process. So observe, review, challenge and if it’s of value: adopt.

Study unsuccessful processes

‘A man who is used to acting in one way never changes; he must come to ruin when the times, in changing, no longer are in harmony with his ways’ – Niccolo Machiavelli

At risk of sitting far too heavily on the teachings of power politics, this age old advice speaks to the business pragmatist. You most likely will not be the first person to try out an idea, so learn from where these ideas have failed before. Visit the ‘ruins’ of others to understand why your idea may share the same fate and importantly then, understand if changing the processes can nurture success.

Check your shoelaces

As titled, your shoelaces are probably tied wrong! If this is the case, it is likely that many of your ingrained behaviours are too. Now I am not saying that these behaviours are not performing their intended tasks, however, I am positioning the premise that these behaviours are not perfect. By ignoring the fact that your day-to-day processes could be improved, you are allowing yourself to underperform.

You must unlearn and challenge these behaviours – no matter how hardwired they are otherwise we tie ourselves down to the limits of our predecessors, as we hope to mirror their success. Utilise the resources of success and failure, but reimagine them with your own flavour so that your processes become part of your repertoire. Don’t simply become a copycat.

You as an individual at the other side of this screen can only change your basic skillset if you are willing to make core changes to processes. What makes you successful is down to you. I am a resource that has seen success, as well as witness to what to avoid and why, narrowing down the amount of research you must do. But before I can help you change some basic processes, you must ask yourself: “Have I tied my shoelaces correctly?

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