In military terminology, “being on point” means to assume the first and most exposed position in a combat formation. You’re out front, leading your team into hostile territory and therefore, fully switched-on and in tune with your environment looking for threats and opportunities. To be a successful point-man, you must have (1) experience, (2) knowledge, and (3) intuition. These skills don’t develop overnight — they’re honed through training, study, and being in the field doing.
Now apply this concept to how you acquire the experience, knowledge, and intuition you need to successfully advance towards your goals. Just as a soldier on-point needs to be in tune with his environment, you to need to be in tune with your environment looking for threats and opportunities. And yes, the threats in our professional lives won’t be life threatening (hopefully!), but they will be obstacles to advancing towards our objectives. And this isn’t good.
In his book “7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, author Stephen Covey presents the concept of sharpening the saw, a means of preserving and enhancing your assets: mental, physical, social/emotional and spiritual. This is what it takes to remain “on point” in life. You need a deliberate and consistent program of renewing your knowledge and skills, lest you be taken out by the obstacles that you’ll encounter in life.
I’m constantly gaining new knowledge, ideas, concepts, points of view and experiences through reading, study, talking, and thinking. Why? I don’t want my mind to become a terminus basin, where material goes in, isn’t replaced and becomes stagnant. Putting in new information allows the organic capability of the brain to piece together new concepts, ideas, and sparks of brilliance. Lack of new stuff = dull.
Here are some tips to sharpen your saw daily and to keep on-point in life:
Spend 10 minutes today identifying topics that interest you. This is a quick drill…write out a list of topic areas or skills that interest you, whatever comes to mind.
Set aside 30 minutes daily to read and research one of these topics for the next week. After that week, move to another. This may require a shift in daily tasks…like dropping TV or mindless web surfing. But you’re sharpening your saw.
Think. When was the last time you thought? Yes, the mind is constantly churning out “thoughts”, but these are typically tied to random items like shopping lists, TV shows, criticism of someones choice of wardrobe, or the email you have fire-off when you return to the office. I’m talking about contemplation of those goals important to you?
I’ll dive into more on thinking in later posts. For now, stay-on point in life through a purposeful regimen of thought and study. You have one life, maximize it by not letting obstacles take you out of the game.
Christian J. Knutson, P.E., PMP
Engineering Management Institute