Investing in your skills pays off in the long run

Skills pay-off in the long run

I recently had to run a two-day workshop to assess new product visions and plan the needed discovery phases accordingly. Due to some scheduling fuck-ups on my side, I hadn’t been able to put in the preparation time for the workshop I usually intend to have.
So I expected to have a rather mediocre workshop itself, not matching my typical aspiration for a fun thing like that.

Contrary to my expectations, the workshop went pretty well. We had a superb time, produced exactly the output we needed and were after all pretty aligned on the outcome.
Despite being happy with the results, I couldn’t help to think about why it worked that well, lacking my usual load of preparation time and thoughts. I almost felt guilty that I was ‘lucky’ and the scenario, day and time just played for me and led to the great results.

After putting some thoughts in it, I think it was something very simple which resulted in the situation: experience.
By doing stakeholder-heavy product work for six years and being in challenging environments managing high-scale products, I can now benefit from this year-long learning and refinement of my skills. This is what allows me to now being able to run workshops or discovery phases with fewer upfront effort.

When I arrived at that conclusion, a proper comparison came to my mind which was often articulated by my former swim coach back in the days. As you can imagine, putting a lot of mileage into swim training with a high share of endurance work’s not really what you crave for as a short distance specialist (like I was).
Observing the training plans of older world-class sprinters, which focussed much more on the intensity and had an incredibly small number of endurance sessions, we then raised the question towards our coaches why couldn’t train the same way.

The answer was simple, yet unsatisfying for me back at that time. Those athletes did put a lot of effort into laying endurance foundations when they were younger (e.g. during junior years) and could now still benefit from this high level they’ve built up for themselves. So they only had to put in quite few endurance effort right now to simply maintain this threshold.

It’s the same process which I described observing my actions – I can now benefit from the efforts and investments I put into my abilities the years before. Other examples are my efforts to ramp-up in coding, design and even online marketing to now being in a much better position to orchestrate those disciplines to form a great overall product.

The most crucial thing when arriving at this insight is though, to determine what the skills are you need to invest in today, to benefit from in a couple of years. For me, it’s, for example, public speaking and leadership – What are yours?