The greatest gift you can give yourself, the wisest business investment you will ever make, is investing in your personal development. I am such a firm believer and advocate of investing in yourself that we hand every new employee CDs, books, and access to a digital personal development library. Why? Investing in the development of people is one of the largest competitive advantages you can create. When people ask me how they can advance in their careers, I tell them to spend as much time working on themselves as they are spending on their work.
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Abraham Lincoln once said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree, and I will spend the first four hours sharpening the axe.” With just two hours to do the actual chopping, Lincoln spent twice the time working on the tools of the job as he would on the task itself. In the task called your life, you are the axe.
When there is a tree in the way, some people grab that axe -- dull or not -- and start whaling away at it. When they realize they aren’t making a major dent in the tree, they quit and say it is somehow the fault of the tree. Don’t be one of those people. Realize that it’s all in how you swing the axe, how hard and in what arc and onto exactly which spot on the tree. Understand that all tactics can be measured, weighed, and improved. It starts with the axe — with you.
Learning doesn’t start or stop at school, through reading, or with great teachers. It also doesn’t start or stop with learning from your mistakes or from advice from friends. Continuous learning is a combination of all these things and so much more. When was the last seminar or adult-education class you attended simply to improve yourself? Think about it and make that change. Only you are challenging and developing yourself. Be open to learning and sharpening your skills. Investing in yourself means to never stop learning.
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Sharpen your axe. Read just one chapter of an information-rich, inspiring book every day. Listen to 15 minutes of a life-transforming audio. Take a course or seminar every few months. Most of your life -- 99.9 percent-- is made up of things you do on automatic pilot. It’s essential that you take charge of your automatic pilot’s training and never stop investing in yourself.
Jeff Olson, founder and CEO of Nerium International, is a leader in the direct sales industry, earning an industry-wide reputation as a top distributor, earner, CEO and more since he first joined the industry in 1988. He is also the owner of Live Happy and the author of The Slight Edge, which shares the philosophy and principles he used to achieve success as an entrepreneur and CEO, to help others reach greater levels of financial freedom and personal excellence.
This post originally appeared at Entrepreneur. Copyright 2014.