I was watching my 6-year old play a game on the Ipad the other day. It was the one where a cartoon knight had to dodge an onslaught of obstacles on a side-scrolling platform. He was awful his first time through. He was awful his third time through. Then he shrugged and flipped over to the Apps Store to download a new game at which he promptly began to suck at as well. He gave the new game one or two attempts and deleted the game, only to download yet another one.
So I tapped him on the shoulder..
“Hey Brandon! You’re always going to suck if you give up the moment the game gets hard.”
The workplace is a bell-curve of accomplishments. Some people accomplish a lot. Some people accomplish very little. Most people are somewhere in the middle. Now before you stick a business card in my face and sneer “My title says I’ve accomplished this much!”, please understand that I don’t, nor do most people give a damn. Your title is only as impressive as what it can do for the person you’re talking to.
Here’s the thing. Being accomplished has nothing to do with innate talent. Being accomplished simply means finishing what you start – accomplishing something. And because many people do not, the few that do are considered superstars.
We’ve become so accustomed to being rewarded just for showing up, many of us see work as a perpetual thing we do to pay the bills. Few people work with an endgame in mind because a salary system doesn’t encourage it. The salary system was developed to retain people from doing something else. The first formal salaries were paid to soldiers to keep them from joining the enemies they fought. Everybody else was an entrepreneur or a slave.
Entire industries exist to sell shortcuts to people who love to give up when things get difficult. Then when they subsequently fail, they feel extra crappy about themselves because they’ve failed at sticking to a shortcut. They’ve actually failed at being lazy.
So how do accomplished folks keep at something when it gets difficult? Here’s what I’ve observed.
1. Their light their own fire. They anticipate the grind.
We love our motivational quotes. We love to look profound and feel that every time we stick a motivational quote on Facebook, we deserve bunch of Likes. But dude, what are you doing about it? Accomplished folks I’ve met keep that stuff in their heads. Just because they’re not advertising how badly they want something, it doesn’t mean they are not grinding it out quietly. When others clock out, they get their second wind. Some network, some read, some write, some run miles. But every chance they get to improve some part of their game, they take it. Almost everybody I know who has a modicum of real success does not let the clock determine when their day ends. And when the success starts to come, others wonder how they made it look so easy and what their favorite motivational quotes were.
2. They know why they are doing something. The grind has meaning.
I will always ask you ‘Why?’ when you tell me you want to accomplish something.
I can tell you why I work and why I grind it out to improve specific aspects of my game. I do it so I can continually up-sell myself to future customers/partners/employers. I want to be able to continually up-sell myself because I want adventure. I’ve done more scary s__t in Asia than I can ever write about and I already live an epic life. But I want more. I will always consider myself an entrepreneur and everybody is my customer. I do not believe in the myth of job security. I believe in constant selling and my product is to help others sell better. I crave difficulties and problems because I crave creating the processes to solve them. And for every process I create, I further increase my value. As I am continually tracking my improvement, I know where my next customer/partner/employer is coming from because they’re tracking my improvement too…
Do you know ‘why’ you work? If it’s just to pay the bills, any and all work becomes boring fast.
3. They track everything so they can take out complexity. The grind becomes the game.
Only the truly daft keep pounding away doing the exact same thing every single day without tracking to see what’s working. They figure if they put in enough years to get that ‘years-experience’ headline on their resume, they are becoming better. That’s generally bullshit and everybody knows that now. The key to improvement and ultimately accomplishment is purposeful practice, not just logging time. It’s tracking everything to know exactly where you are weak and where you are improving so you can work on specific aspects of your game. Where some folks look for shortcuts simply to work less in the short term, accomplished folks look to simplify processes so they can work more efficiently forever. Even better, accomplished folks simplify processes so they can outsource the work for margin.
I got it in my head a few years ago that the only thing I wanted to do was teach people how to pitch and win massive deals. I’m not talking about millions. I’m talking about tens and hundreds of millions. I worked in Shanghai and Hong Kong and had a ridiculous amount of fun. But there was no scale to my business. When I was earning, I wasn’t finding new business. And when I was finding new business, I wasn’t earning. So I stopped, reassessed and said to myself – I need to learn how to create a system that will prospect for me 24/7. I need a system that will do that for me so I can ultimately focus on my goal of deal making.
Accomplishing something doesn’t mean that you have to grind it out yourself. If the goal is tangible, then the steps to attain it are tangible and the people you need to contribute will show-up at the right time. There’s nothing magical about this. It’s just hyper-awareness and knowing what to say ‘No’ to.
And that’s the final seasoning to the sauce – accomplished people have clearly defined objectives they want to accomplish.