Rainbows and Butterflies

There are times when work is not fun. There are times we don’t want to get up in the morning. There are parts of everyone’s job that suck.

If you work in Corporate America I would assume these statements resonate with you on some level. At some point in my professional career, I realized that my college life (read: rainbows and butterflies) was not going to materialize in the same manner in my professional life. While it’s admirable to truly do what you love and work in a job you are passionate about, everyone, even those people, has days that suck and moments where they dislike their job.

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Over the years, I’ve had hundreds of conversations with people about their careers and one thing I’ve learned everyone has things they like and dislike about work. Unfortunately, our paycheck requires us to do both of them. It’s not so much about the good times – everyone can weather those, but how you handle the bad times and adverse conditions is going to determine how well you do and what you gain from your work experience.

I often tell people it’s not about you do, but rather, what you are willing to give up sacrifice in order to do the job you do. Or, said another way, like marriage, when you pick a job, you pick your problems. For some, that’s long nights and weekend work. For others, its low pay, and for people in my industry it’s getting on a flight twice a week and living out of a suitcase.

So, how do you figure out what you love and what you hate? Here’s a simple exercise:

  1. Write down all the things that you love about your job.
  2. Write down all the things you have to give up in order to do those things you like.
  3. For the things you like, rate how much you like them, and for the things you hate, determine how much you’re willing to endure them to do the things you like.

This exercise will help you appreciate the benefits but also acknowledge your limits for the downside that comes with your job.

At some point, you may come to the realization that whatever you are doing while great is not worth what you have to give up, and that’s okay. I think you’ll find that even when we’re frustrated with our jobs there are a lot more things we like and appreciate about them when we really think about our priorities and sacrifices.

 

Work will not always be rainbows and butterflies. But it can certainly give you things that bring you joy, happiness, and engagement. You just need to define what that is, and what you’re willing to give up to achieve it.

 

Necessary, but not sufficient

When working towards a goal, there are some things that you absolutely must do (necessary.) Not doing them will not help you achieve your goal. Having said that, simply doing just those things is not nearly enough (not sufficient) Case in point: Let’s say your goal is to lose weight. In addition to working out, you’d probably need to do other things, such as getting the right amount of rest, eating healthy, and managing stress. In this case, if you want to lose weight, exercising is necessary, but not sufficient.

 

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I was reminded by this concept this week when one of my friends shared with me their disappointment in being passed over for a career opportunity. They talked about how they worked hard and had performed well but still had not received the opportunity, and shared their frustration that despite their loyalty and efforts they were not rewarded.

In order to achieve high performance in a company, working hard and executing is necessary but not  sufficient*. In high performing companies, it is the expectation that you will show up, do your job and do it well. If you want to stand out, and achieve high marks, there are other things you need to do in order to achieve that goal, such as building relationships with the right people, making sure you get recognized for your work, supporting other people, and making yourself indispensable to your team/organization.

As you think about your own performance goals and aspirations at work, I urge you to think about two questions: What is necessary to achieve this goal, and what else do I need to do in order to sufficiently achieve this goal? Separating out these two questions and spending some time to think about answers will give you a much more holistic perspective about what you need to do in order to achieve success.

 

*there are always exceptions to this rule, we all know someone who doesn’t do anything and still gets promoted, but generally it rings true.

Closing the Delta

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If you took Greek, you’ll be familiar with the Greek Symbol delta, which essentially means difference or change. When working with a friend on some career advice, I talked about the concept of “Closing the Delta.” In this concept, the delta is the difference between the aspirational vision of who you want to be and who you are in reality each and every day

Closing the delta means winnowing the gap between the absolute best version of yourself yourself and who you actually are. On any given day, you have many moments where you exhibit qualities of that aspirational state, and perhaps some qualities that are not aligned with that aspirational state. If you’re struggling with that, good news – it means you’re human!

The beauty in life is working on chasing and winnowing down the delta, and if you choose to accept it, you can use each and every day as a chance to close that gap. It’s not easy, but from my experience it is worthwhile and inspiring to get closer to becoming the person you want to be.

So, how do you start?

First, you need to define that aspirational state. Having a roadmap certainly helps What are the qualities or values you want toe exhibit and espouse?

Second, it means identifying both behaviors that help you work towards that aspirational state, and behaviors that bring you away from that aspirational state. Self-Awareness is an underrated gift, so understanding what you need to do and what you need to avoid is critical to success.

Third, is finding opportunities to exhibit as many of those behaviors that bring you closer to that aspirational state, and figuring out mechanisms to block, circumvent or avoid things that take you away from it.

The chase to become the best version of yourself lasts a lifetime. While I’m fortunate to have a good sense of what that version is, I fight (and fail) every day to live up to it. It’s an incredibly audacious and worthwhile goal, but certinaly something worth fighting for.