John Erskine learned the most valuable lesson of his life when he was only fourteen years old. His piano teacher asked him, “How many times a week do you practice, and how long do you practice each time?” He told her that he tried to practice for an hour or more each day.”Don’t do that”, She responded. “When you grow up, time won’t come in long stretches. Practice in minutes, whenever you can find them- five or ten before school, after lunch between chores. Spread your practice (or growth) throughout the day, and the music will become a part of your life”. Her advice obviously worked. Erskine became a concert pianist who performed with New York, Philharmonic, and later served as president of the Juilliard School of music and director of the Metropolitan Opera Association. He also went to teach literature at Columbia University, The Private Life of Helen of Troy, was written as he commuted to Columbia. (Source: Success one day at a time, John Maxwell p73)
A leader can have a very fast paced life. Days and weeks can feel like minutes. Often as adults we do not have blocks of time for personal growth. That can be even truer with the busy life of a leader. In the above story, John Erskine learned a lesson that most adults don’t know. If he had not learned that lesson I believe that he would have been just an average person. John practicing the piano 5 minutes here and 15 minutes there could be the same as a leader’s plan for personal growth. A leader must continue to grow throughout the day. Ed Cole said, “There is a price to pay to grow, commitment is the price.” A leader needs to be committed to growing daily.
You might read a page in a book during lunch. Put in a Leadership CD or audio book during the ride to or from work. I have found that if I discipline myself to grow throughout the day, the results are outstanding. It would do the same for you if you took John Erskine’s example and applied it to your life; by spending small amounts of time on your personal growth as a leader.
This is the difference between successful leaders and unsuccessful leaders. It is hard to stay committed to growth, especially when times are busy. Growing leaders will separate from others because “Every person who has become successful has simply formed the habit of doing things that failures dislike doing and will not do.” Successful leaders form the habit of growing daily in small amounts of time.