Staying Relevant in the Workplace

In 2008, a quirky study shook the chess world by revealing that three out of the top ten players had below-average IQs.* This was a real head scratcher. How could chess, a game ruled by what we all thought were socially awkward and highly intelligent pawn hustlers, have players with less than ordinary intellect?

As researchers pried into the players’ backgrounds, they discovered a common thread – hours and hours of dedicated practice. Each knobbly grandmaster had logged between 10,000 to 50,000 hours hunched over a chequered board, scribbling notes and honing their skills, challenging the notion that intellect alone creates expertise.

So how did several average schmucks reach the top of the chess world? Here’s the sucker punch… hours of practice, sweat and effort baby. Yep, hard work!

Cue the outrage! Well, this awkward discovery goes way beyond the chessboard, and echoes the experiences of the most successful people across every field. Deliberate and constant practice, pushing beyond comfort zones, hard work and relentless self-improvement are all part of the journey of those who reach the top of their professions (and hobbies).

Here’s the good news for the middle aged and crusty. Learning new things and striving for growth and achievement are not exclusive domains of the young and pert (remember the chess geeks?). Numerous studies support the idea that there’s no age limit to learning. The human brain, remains flexible and ‘plastic’ throughout our lives. Learning new things sparks neuronal connections. Yep, it might hurt a bit more than the old days, but the potential is still there!

In a world evolving at breakneck speed, cultivating a growth mindset is a must. To build your career, and stay relevant in the workplace, requires continuous learning, persistent effort, and a willingness to push past self-imposed (and other imposed) limitations.

So, for anyone on the brink of abandoning your studies or contemplating new challenges in 2024, the grind is worth the effort! We’re all bit players in the same old carnival, but steer clear of the sideshows and embrace the less busy path of practice and hard work, and develop a growth mindset. ‘Buy the ticket and take the ride, as a brother said. Dig in and push yourself. It’s worth it!

*Nicholas Mackintosh, IQ and Human Intelligence, Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2011.

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