I’ve written my fair share of stories on what it takes to be a great [fill in the blank], but I seriously doubt if any of it really matters.

Think about it. If I tell you that highly successful people are never satisfied with their accomplishments, will that really change the outcome for you? You’re either like that or you’re not. You can’t just flip a switch and change. Human behavior doesn’t work that way.

So why write it? Usually to sprinkle a little reality dust on all the silly fluff others post, on the outside chance it’ll give all the habit and productivity junkies pause before wasting their lives chasing meaningless clickbait in the hope it will magically make them special.

More important, the one or two behavioral attributes you might require to round out your career potential are specific to you. Getting direct mentoring from a boss or someone you work with who knows your ins and outs is bound to be far more effective than reading some generic advice.

That’s one of the reasons why real-world experience is a far more effective teacher than any other means of learning. Trial and error is how we learn; the best feedback comes from those who literally watch how you work in the trenches and can help you up your game.

Look at it this way. If you’ve ever had to go to physical therapy, you know that some of what they do to help rehabilitate you is hands on but most of it is simple instruction and correction while watching you do it. You can never get that kind of direct feedback by just reading it somewhere or watching a video.

The same is true of any complex function, especially when it involves lots of variables and interaction with all kinds of people with different roles and responsibilities … like work does.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying a coach, book, blog or seminar can’t help. All I’m saying is that, even if the information is accurate, which it rarely is, it’s of nominal use compared to how the best-run companies groom their future executives: immersive, on the job experience with some mentoring.

In case you haven’t noticed, most of the guidance I provide is designed to keep you from drinking the Kool-Aid and, instead, inspire you to go out and do, learn, accomplish. I mean, isn’t that what life is supposed to be all about? The thrill of discovery. The satisfaction of becoming expert at something important. Isn’t that the whole fun of it?

Image credit Bill Alldredge Flickr