The Illusion of Guarantees

In a family-owned business, the mom, who is the owner, promises the son that he will take over the business when she retires. However, she remains “active” in the business until her late 80s, and then decides that the son is too old to take over and gives the chairman position to the grandson.

A person works in a publicly-owned Fortune 500 company and is praised for her efforts year after year. She is assured that one day she will rise to being an Executive Sr. Vice-President. Yet every year for a decade she is told that it’s not going to happen this year, but hang in there because she has a very bright future.

Your career is a journey. You get to choose what you make of your journey wherever you are at on the road. Just don’t fall into the trap of living today for a “guaranteed future” because the beast does not exist. The future you want may or may not happen, but the impact you can make today in your work, in your community, and in your family is something you definitely can attain.

Work is a Subset of Life, Not the Other Way Around

I’m reminded several times a week that work is a subset of life, and life is not a subset of work.

An NFL wide receiver has to shut down his football career to deal with drug and mental health issues.

An aging parent falls in her apartment and gets rushed to a hospital.

A middle-aged, working person suffers heart issues and has to go immediately to the ER.

A client’s father suffers from pneumonia shortly after dealing with blood cancer.

Don’t wait for the holidays to remember you have a life outside of work. You actually have a life every day. Work just fits inside of your life. Keep your work in the proper perspective.

Pick a Lane, Not a Bowling Alley

Two conversations in the past week.

The first one the person says he stayed in the same line of work for 28 years and then sold off his piece of the business for enough to retire very, very comfortably.

The second one the person talks about the many different ideas he’s tried in multiple industries and completely different types of jobs and now just wants to get a job that he can intentionally do a mediocre job at in order to get a pension.

The first person chose a lane, and the second one chose a bowling alley. The first one struggled for the first three years, but he hung in there. The second one was a star out of the gate, and then constantly kept changing jobs for 30 years.

What lane will you commit to for a decade, and then step by step get better and better and better at doing?

Improve the Details of Your Work

Make a list of 15 things that you do in your work.

Here’s one example:

Talk with employees. Talk with prospective employees. Talk with customers. Talk with prospective customers. Talk with suppliers. Talk with potential suppliers. Talk with peers. Talk with the boss. Design work flow from product creation to product delivery. Provide customer service. Solve problems as they pop up. Develop cutting-edge products to open new markets. Price your products/services to support your brand. Develop clearer compensation plans. Evaluate all current employees for future positions and responsibilities.

Now take one item and focus on improving it for the next two weeks by answering these questions:

  1. For this item, what do I do well right now and why is that effective?
  2. What do I do now that is not effective and why is it not effective?
  3. What could I do to be more effective and why would that be better?

Focus on just improving that one item for the next weeks. Then go to the next item for two weeks. In seven months you will have improved all 15 parts of what you do.

The Value of Ordinary Moments

Please never lose sight of the value of ordinary moments in your life where a message has stuck with you for a long time. Dig for the lesson inside of the message and apply that lesson every day in your work in order to consistently deliver excellence.

In 1970 my family bought its first ever electric typewriter. My dad put it on the kitchen table, plugged it in, put a sheet of paper in it, and started typing. He typed 10 lines and then put the sheet of paper on the kitchen table. We all leaned in to see what he had written.

It said:

Good things come to those who wait.

Good things come to those who wait.

Dan wrote that same line 10 times. It was his mantra. I heard him say it over 500 times in my lifetime. By it he meant that if you work hard today somewhere in the future something good will happen for you.

In 2009 during the great recession I had the worst financial year of my career. I worried all night about how I would pay my bills. At the same time my dad was dying of Dementia with Lewey Bodies.He didn’t know my name, and he couldn’t talk, but as I sat next to him I felt him saying, “Good things come to those who wait. Work hard today and something good will happen in the future.”

Dad, you were so right. The key is to put in effort without knowing when it will pay off.

I encourage you to examine ordinary moments in your life where a message has stuck with you. Look for the lesson inside the message. Apply that lesson every day in your work in order to consistently deliver excellence.