If you were a boxer and you wanted to become the most elite fighter on the planet, what would you do first?
Would you improve your footwork and perfect your defensive drills?
Would you take after Rocky and go seclude yourself in the woods to maximize your focus?
Would you hire a coach to help you master your mind while getting in amazing shape?
While all of these are crucial components to climbing the ranks, there is one essential ingredient missing that is needed to catapult you to new levels of success and mastery, and that is the strategic use of proximal development.
Championed by social psychologist Lev Vygotsky, proximal development is the concept that deep learning, growth and elite levels of progress are quickly catalyzed by intentionally interacting and practicing with people who are much more skilled or knowledgeable than you.
This concept of surrounding yourself with high-achievers in order to promote growth is nothing new, but the tool of proximal development can explosively grow your bandwidth as a successful leader if you utilize it in a strategic way.
Read on to find out how to use this concept to speed up your progress and create massive momentum with your ability to grow your business.
Lose the Ego
Surrounding yourself with like-minded individuals in order to increase success is the cornerstone of countless business books, personal development courses, and addiction recovery networks.
And while this has a large role in improving your thoughts, actions, and habits, it leaves something to be desired in terms of really stretching you to become your best self.
Your ego likes to be around people who are similar to you because it feeds into our human tendency to want to fit in. But exponential growth quickly occurs when you seek out engagement with people whose vast accomplishments make you seem like a rookie in comparison.
Admiring the hyper-successful from afar to use as a benchmark is all good and dandy, but intentionally using them to shed light on your weaknesses and vulnerabilities is where the real value lies.
Don’t let your ego scare you out of putting yourself in a position where your shortcomings will be exposed because this is where quick learning and adapting occurs.
Seek a Butt Whoopin’
Back to the boxer analogy, what sounds like more fun?
Going around your gym, sparring the same people, kicking their butts and feeling like Mike Tyson every day?
Or seeking out far superior sparring partners, revealing your weaknesses and shortcomings, and risking painful exposure to failure every day?
It’s clear which one is easier and helps protect your ego, but which one is going to promote the most overall growth, development, and ultimate success?
It goes against our neural programming to seek out situations that put our status at risk, but getting past this tendency and intentionally engaging with people whose skills far exceed yours can unlock your potential in profound ways.
Key Word Is ‘Strategically’
Please note at the beginning of this article that I said the key to quickly leveling up your success was to use proximal development strategically.
I am not encouraging you to seek out situations that make you feel grossly inadequate for the sake of scarring your ego and bringing you down to earth—although sometimes that is needed.
I am saying that intentionally exposing yourself to situations outside your realm of comfort and expertise will force you to grow in new and powerful ways.
Attend events where you are the least experienced person in the room.
Sign up for workshops that exceed your current skill level.
Work with a coach who scares you a bit.
Apply to speak at an event where your resume pales in comparison to the other presenters.
Whatever you do, make sure you head into the situation with the positive intention of extracting as much value as possible while reminding yourself that your journey is one that is constantly evolving.
The key to using proximal development to its greatest advantage is to focus on strategically learning from the those who are further along than you without letting yourself feel belittled.