Hard Work Won't Make You Successful -- But Doing This Will
I don’t blame anyone who has become frustrated and disillusioned with the working world. It is a huge disappointment to grow up and realize that most of what we’ve been taught about how to be successful is bad advice.
We were taught “Just work hard at whatever job you get, and things will work out.” That’s false. Working hard at your job does not get you much. When you work hard at a job where the boss doesn’t value your efforts, all your hard work gets you is taken for granted. Just working hard by itself will exhaust you and shorten your lifespan without any benefits to you.
There has to be more to success than merely working hard, or millions of people around the world would be a lot more successful than they are!
If you are at work right now, think about the investment of time and energy you are making. Imagine that you only went home to sleep for four hours a night, and gave up all the rest of your personal time to get more work done. Imagine that you practically lived at your desk and worked your tail off for the next five years. What would that extraordinary effort get you?
If you’re working for a fixed salary or hourly wage the way most people are, you won’t see economic benefits from pouring your energy into your job. Your boss may be grateful to you for all your extra effort, but he or she is not going to give you a pay raise every month just because you’re putting in extra hours.
You’re not going to get paid more just because you have great ideas. None of those investments on your part translate into tangible career success. You could donate every waking hour to your job and still get a one percent pay bump at the end of the year, or get laid off when the company realizes that you’ve solved all of their biggest problems and they don’t need you anymore.
We can see that there’s more to career success than just hard work — so what’s the magic ingredient?
The magic ingredient to success is not the good fortune to come from a wealthy family, and it isn’t a great education, either, as plenty of underemployed but highly-educated people can attest. The magic ingredient for career success and satisfaction is self-determination. When you are the captain of the ship, you get to decide which way to sail. That’s the only way to be successful in your career.
Career self-determination doesn’t require you to start your own business. My friend Mike has been insanely successful in his career working for well-known employers. What makes Mike successful is that he decides what he wants to do next rather than letting the job ads or inertia decide for him.
When one job has given Mike all it’s got to give, he moves on. He doesn’t really care what his boss thinks about his performance. He cares what impact he’s making at work — impact that he can talk about later, with other employers, when it’s time to move on!
That is really all that matters, because his boss’s only influence on Mike is the influence the boss holds while Mike is actually working for that boss, and Mike never plans on staying at any organization for more than five years.
Mike is self-employed in his own mind, although he works for other people. He loves his career, has plenty of time off, gets paid very well and best of all, is healthy and happy.
Mike is not a suck-up or someone who needs to get external approval to feel good about himself. He simply knows what kinds of Business Pain he solves for employers, and that knowledge makes him very valuable as well as content in his own skin.
Mike did not come from a well-to-do family or attend a top-tier college. He follows these ten rules for career success, and you can do the same thing.
Ten Rules for Achieving Career Self-Determination
1. You’ll start by creating a vision for your life and career. Your vision can change over time and it undoubtedly will, but at every point you’ll be following a path that you laid out for yourself rather than somebody else’s plan for you, or no plan at all.
2. When you need money and you can’t find a career-type job, take a survival job. Don’t make the mistake of deciding, “Now that I have this low-level job, I’m a low-level employee. I’ll have to beg and grovel to get a better job.” Use the survival job to earn enough money to live on while you’re seeking a better job. Never, ever turn off the “available” light on your taxi cab!
3. Decide for yourself what you want to do next at each point in your career. Don’t be seduced by a manager who tells you, “You could have a great career in this company!” Talk is cheap. Stay in control of your forward motion and if it slows down to an unacceptable degree, move on!
4. Know yourself. Most folks rely on other people to tell them what they should be doing professionally. If you want to achieve career self-determination, you have to be honest with yourself and you have to look in the mirror. You don’t have to feel bad about anything in your past, because it is impossible to make a mistake as long as you get the learning from every experience.
5. When you take a new job, make sure it’s because you like and trust the people, not because they offer you a fancy title or a big salary. A lot of jobs that look good from the outside are rotten on the inside and will make you sick. Listen to your gut above every other guide!
6. Keep in mind that you are a consultant and the CEO of your own career, whether you work for a big corporation, a tiny startup or yourself. How you get paid is a detail. Mike remained the CEO of his own career through six or eight job changes and he’s not ready to give up that title yet!
7. Get a consulting business card and begin to think of yourself as a consultant who solves problems for clients, even if you’re not ready to take on clients yet. Give out your consulting business card instead of any business card your employer gives you. Make a plan for your fledgling consulting business. What kinds of services will you offer? What problems will you solve for your clients? How much will you charge them for your services?
8. Get a journal and write in it every day or as often as you have time. Write about your career and your plans for your life. Write about your goals and setbacks. Write about your feelings and your dreams and ideas. You are cooking up something magnificent. Get it out of your head and onto the page!
9. Choose carefully who to spend time with. Your time is your most precious resource. Spend as much time as possible with people who grow your flame and avoid people who suck your life force away.
10. Finally, find your voice and advocate for yourself. Every successful person has had to face a lot of naysayers and haters and they’ve had to walk away from situations that were not a good fit. You will not be successful by trying to please everyone or by letting yourself become a doormat. Speak up and say what you feel. Not everyone will like it. You might even get fired once or twice. It’s not a big deal and getting fired will actually make you stronger and more convicted. To be successful, you have to give up the idea that you can play it safe and still achieve your dreams.
Life is temporary. Every job is temporary, too.
You get to decide how to spend every year, every month and every minute of your precious time. You get to decide when to let other people steer your ship and when to grab the wheel.
This moment is the perfect to take back control of your career and start running your working life as a business — what are you waiting for?