Almost everyone would like to be more successful in earning a living. Yet many people report that putting forth greater effort leads to actually accomplishing less.

How can that be? Well, it takes learning from experience to become more successful. If you seek experience just by trying things on your own, it takes a lot of mistakes before you learn enough lessons to avoid mistakes often enough to mark an improvement. By putting in more effort, you initially just increase the day-to-day frequency of mistakes. Oops!

Other people, realizing that making mistakes is usually a slow and costly way to gain enough experience, take the time to study others. Pretty soon, they may think they know what to do. They start doing the same things those they study have done … but the results usually aren’t as good.

Why? This quote from Sun Tzu will help you understand: ”All men can see these tactics whereby I conquer, but what none can see is the strategy out of which victory is evolved.” As conditions change, a strategy often has to be adjusted. As a result, someone who is just copying previously successful tactics will be left out in the cold.

Still optimistic that they can improve, some other people will seek books that proclaim formulas for success: strategies for all seasons. When trying to apply such books, many are more entertaining than helpful in providing sufficient directions to consistently produce superior results.

At this point the academically inclined may sign up for a course, or even a degree program, to gain the necessary insights. While the idea is commendable, unless such a learner is careful the course or program may do nothing more than recount the successful tactics of the past and encourage their adoption.

The wise person seeking advancement in work or career draws a different conclusion: Pick an area where little is known and do original work to identify what strategies and practices will most consistently deliver superior results.

As I think about these choices for gaining useful insights, I’m reminded of my outstanding faculty colleague at Rushmore University, Professor Georgette Boele, who also earned her Ph.D. degree from our university. Let me tell you a little about her.

After earning a degree in economics from the University of Amsterdam, she first worked as a mortgage and financial planning specialist in the insurance industry. Wanting more fast-paced and challenging work, she moved into financial markets, specializing in foreign exchange, which move rapidly and are heavily influenced by other markets. Boredom isn’t possible.

To gain more expertise Professor Boele first earned the ACI Diploma, which ACI describes as providing “superior theoretical and practical knowledge of the foreign exchange and money markets, their related instruments, and the linkages that exist between those markets and the practice of risk management.” Intrigued by what she learned, she decided next to study for a doctorate by researching the then fairly new Euro/US Dollar Interbank market.

Not satisfied with the lofty challenge of analyzing something so relatively unmapped, she made a fateful decision to employ an unusual method of investigation: applying the concepts of business strategy to uncover successful trading strategies for this market. Her decision was brilliant and yielded many wonderful insights that enabled her to better appreciate the interactions among the relevant markets.

Due to the excellence of Professor Boele’s dissertation, her advisor encouraged its publication as a book, which came out in 2002: Strategic Market Analysis: Eur/USD Interbank Market as Diversified Organization. The research behind the dissertation and book greatly improved her understanding of this and the related markets.

I caught up with her recently to ask how these experiences had served her needs. She noted that people who have a goal should get busy achieving it. She is also a believer in online education, based on her experiences as a student and as a professor. She’s excited by the opportunity to help others get the best out of themselves.

Let’s get back to you. So what are seven essential work and career lessons for you?

1. Have goals for your work and career.

2. Look around to find where little useful experience has been developed in areas related to your work and career.

3. Add the skills and knowledge to expand well beyond the limits of what’s known today in such areas.

4. Do original investigations that employ unique methodologies to acquire insights and experience that will be unavailable to others.

5. Share what you know to establish yourself as an expert and to test the adequacy of your work.

6. Apply what you’ve just learned in your work to extend the insights and experience you’ve developed.

7. Teach others to stay energized and to keep current with the constantly-developing cutting edge of knowledge.

What are you waiting for?

Author's Bio: 

Donald W. Mitchell is a professor at Rushmore University who often teaches people who want to improve their business effectiveness in order to accomplish career breakthroughs through earning advanced degrees. For more information about ways to engage in fruitful lifelong learning at Rushmore University to increase your effectiveness, I invite you to visit