"How could I be better?"
It's a question that I've seen some of the most successful people I know consistently ask themselves. When we've reached a level of success, it's easy to rest on our laurels. We could be the best in our niche - or at least really really good. Our job security could be fine. Nothing about our day-to-day work could be facing much in the way of setbacks or scrutiny. On the surface, someone could be at the top of their field and be able to coast in. And nobody would blame them.
Is that the right approach?
Kobe Bryant is (or was) an MVP basketball player. Even after all of the accolades, he is well-known for his tremendous work ethic. He spends an insane amount of time in the gym always trying to get better and further refine his game.
My high school cross country coach guided teams to multiple state championships. He had several all-american runners. He wrote a book and was named the National Coach of the Year my senior year of high school. Even with the credentials to be able to school just about anyone in coaching distance runners, he continued going to conferences, reading books and figuring out new ways to make his team faster and stronger the next season. He never pulled the same workouts out of the hat over and over again. He knew we could always be better.
I've even seen this in my family. My grandfather was a master electrician. Up until the last year of his life, he would always take courses and learn new things in the world of electricity - and he was retired. However, he did just enough work to help people (like Habitat houses, summer campgrounds etc) that he knew he wanted to be the absolute best he could be at anything. Even right now, I'm seeing my dad take a similar approach. He's a physical therapist in his 50s and is pretty established where he's at. Despite that, he's taken new courses to learn more about his field and continue to learn and grow. It's an attitude I have a lot of respect for and a level of enthusiasm that I hope I have for my own work down the road.
Change and learning is hard and humbling
Simply asking the question "how could I do this better?" first admits the fact that we're not perfect. That there's still work to be done.
The work is hard. If it was easy, it wouldn't be called work.
To work and work at being good at something for a long time, see success and know that we could do more could be frustrating. The easy route would be to use our foundation of knowledge and simply coast in as long as we could.
We've seen this beyond the individual level at large companies. Why have large established companies - ones that were "too big to fail" - closing up shop? It's partly due to a resistance to change. They felt too big to fail. It was easy to rest on their laurels...for a really long time. When it came time to innovate and change, not because they wanted to but because the market forced them too, it was too little too late.
Change before you have to
The survivors don't wait for change to come to them - they are the change. They're the ones always wondering what it is they could do better. They're the ones that stay the most valuable the longest.
The ones who actively strive to keep doing better work are the ones who really care.
There's always a way to do whatever it is we do even better. If not, what's the point in doing it?