‘When the learning curve expires’

I was listening to the latest podcast from How I Built This How I Built ThisWeWork: Miguel McKelvey

In this episode, Guy interviews Miguel McKelvey, one of the founders of WeWork, a company that provides shared workspaces for freelancers and startups.

Miguel was discussing a previous job he held with an architectural firm. When asked what prompted him to leave his response included ‘when the learning curve expires’. The phrase stayed with me. It perfectly describes my career for the last decade. When I achieve a point when I can no longer learn or make improvements to the role, I move on.

This was not always the case. From the age of 25, I spent the next 17 years within varying but very similar roles within government. The only real difference in the roles was the level of responsibility and staff managed. Occasional adjustments were required over the years with new managers and legislative changes but realistically, I consider my ‘learning curve’ expired in the first 5 years of employment.

At that time though, I lacked the drive and confidence in my ability to move on to new things. I walked through each day in a cruise and spent more time developing social networks than anything else. I was stale but it was only through hindsight that I realised this.

I’ve worked with countless people who have reached their own ‘learning curve’ expiration but have failed to progress further. In fact, I find that many people actually go backwards in their skill levels. I equate this to exercising at the same level day after day, year after year. The body adapts and rather than improve, it starts to decline. You have to keep progressing to make change.

The point I take from Miguel’s comment is that when you have reached your maximum capacity in a role and the role is no longer challenging, it is time to change. This may mean a career change, finding ways to improve the functionality of the role or seeking learning opportunities to increase your potential for advancement.

Whatever you do, don’t stagnate. This is where you become less capable to adapt to change and limit your options.

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