How to Win at Work
“By faithfully working eight hours a day you may one day get to be a boss and work twelve hours a day.” —Robert Frost
Not long ago, I was catching up with one of my best friends over delicious enchiladas. In spite of being financial advisors at rival companies, we are like shrinks to one another. This once all-night party animal is now a proud, and exhausted, parent. I asked him how his outlook on work has changed since becoming a dad. He made a comment I didn’t see coming from a cocky and ultra-competitive personality: “You know something I’ve realized, in our business you can work to make a lot of money, or you can work to make a lot of time.”
To define dollars as the shackles which hold you down is to simultaneously appoint money as the key to set you free. The first step to sheath this double-edged sword and achieve financial liberation is working where you want to work, not where you have to. Gallup conducted a worldwide poll in 189 countries that showed only 13 percent of workers liked their job. Prosperous people agree that money is only a byproduct of winning. Winning at what they love is the true goal.
Are You Excited?
If you find yourself asking what job you love, look no further than your passions. If you find yourself asking what your passions are, look no further than what excites you. Excitement is the biological synonym of passion and happiness; it’s a cure-all. When you find boredom, run! Positive anticipation is the spoon that stirs your Froot Loops.
If you still can’t pinpoint what excites you, look no further than your curiosities. The fear of death is caused solely by unsatisfied curiosities. Self-help books abound imploring that your Sundays should feel like Fridays, from the exhilaration of the week to come. That might be a little excessive, but it drives home the point that the workweek is where most hours are spent, and it should be looked forward to.
Excitement is when you’re already planning your goals for the day on your drive in, rather than drifting off to the music and saying to yourself, “Make it another nine hours and Monday will be done.” If you are not enjoying the journey of a career, then what is the point of the money anyway?
Do You Have the 3 I’s?
When I interview a financial advisor candidate, I often bring up what I call the “3 i’s.” The three i’s stand for income, independence and impact.
To the point of impact, Masonic luminary Albert Pike once said, “What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others in the world remains and is immortal.” This missing component is regularly found in behind-the-scenes positions, such as the analyst. The employee who works his own schedule and makes high six figures, but halfway through life implodes crying, “All I ever see is this computer screen, and I don’t know, what’s the point of it all!?”
Independence goes back to working where and when you want. Is it a job in which you can still coach your son’s soccer game? Or is it a job in which you’ll be traveling the world and forgetting what grade your kids are in? “Thanks for your tireless service the past 20 years, Mr. Employee, but we’re relocating headquarters and you’ll be moving out to Idaho in February.” This is routine for the big firms; ambitious college grads proudly take their staff job only to lose their 20s to 80-hour workweeks. Millennials are fortunate enough to live in the Golden Age of Telecommuting; we hate offices and that’s become OK.
Finally, there is income. Unfortunately, countless individuals love where they work and feel it’s a worthy profession, but they are forced out of a career because the income won’t match their lifestyle. Smart financial planning can keep more of these happy workers right where they are. This seed of discontent is often found in teachers and police, for example.
Are You Good at Work?
If you’re lucky enough to find a career that satisfies the 3 i’s, get really good at it and don’t lose it! I’ve asked and researched these guys that walk on water about what separated them from the pack and launched their careers. The common impetus is exactly that—they separated themselves from the pack.
It’s imperative to stop the zombie walk found in the rat race and take a step back. As professionals say, “Stop working in your practice and take a second to work on your practice.” It is astonishing how in a period of calm, you can achieve an aha moment, a small tweak to your work that fixes all the bugs. Work hard, but also work smart.
The magic that keeps any productive worker going is momentum. It can devastate us or carry us far beyond our wildest dreams. Momentum is the emotion multiplier. However, like any emotion, it can be a positive or a negative.
When success becomes obsession, the effects can be as harmful as they may be helpful. This realization provoked me to ask several of my colleagues at a conference what they would do if they closed their “case of the year.” The answers… go on a cruise, fly somewhere or treat my girlfriend to a long weekend. But the top producer in our company defiantly said… work some more. That time when we are on cloud nine is when we’re at our best. You’re on the heater, make the tough phone call and schedule your biggest client. Taking off then would be like LeBron James sinking back-to-back 3’s with the game on the line and then asking the coach to take him out.
So when should you take that vacation to Fiji? At the point in time where you feel like nothing’s going right. This might sound like throwing in the towel, opposed to a winner’s hymn of when things get tough the tough get going. The concept of R&R is one of hardest for successful people to grasp. That feeling that we’ll miss a week as our competitors blow right by us. A stop-at-nothing attitude is crucial to long-term success, but recharge the batteries when they’re empty, not full.
That time when we are on cloud nine is when we’re at our best.
When it’s time to stimulate some missing momentum, begin analyzing your strengths and weaknesses. Good companies find the flaw in the mirror and try to cover it up. Contrarily, rejecting perfection may be half the battle toward happiness. Great companies also try to make their weaknesses good, but they try much harder to make their strengths great. It is our talents that really separate us. Have you ever seen a Cy Young winning pitcher also bat for .300? Act like the pros do and exploit your gifts. It makes one feel better about oneself and increases the money/emotion multiplier… momentum!
Balance and harmony are coveted terms that have been thrown around for over a thousand years. It’s your individual decision to define their meaning. The perfect mix of excitement, impact, independence, income, momentum and personal reflection are guaranteed to bring them into your life.