How Humble Do I Have to Be?
Three words I hate hearing most: “You’re soooooo lucky”.
Really? Am I? Was it “luck” that caused me to get where I am today?
When someone speaks those three horrid words to me, let’s talk in the context of ‘business’, I typically bite my tongue (shocker), but sometimes I’ll ask them, “Really? How many weeks did you work 90 hours straight? Because I pretty much did that for about 5 years. And oh – by the way, when I was working those 90 hour weeks, I also spent 1 hour each day reading articles, books, and surfing the internet – always trying to find new ideas, fellow innovators, and ways to better myself…”.
At that point, people usually come up with an excuse; yes, unless one is dealing with an illness – I call it an excuse. Either they were “working on their relationship” or they were “having family issues” or any of the other reasons one can think of for not kicking their own ass into the office, there was always a CHOICE that was made. Individuals make the conscious choice to prioritize their friends or other relationships before their jobs; they make the conscious choice to read “fluff” (I love fluff, BTW), like Candace Bushnell, versus reading books by Seth Godin or Malcolm Gladwell. I don’t believe there is any ‘perfect science’ to becoming successful, but I am a firm believer in creating your own luck. My fellow blogger, Ty Unglebower will argue with me in-depth about “Skill vs. Luck”, but when looking at studies of various entrepreneurs and whether their success has depended on Skill or Luck, scientific evidence points to skill.
I am also a firm believer that if you have a skill (which may be innate – and some may look at that as “luck”, hence the nature vs. nurture debate) and do nothing with it, you are doing a disservice to society.
People have always told me I’m tenacious and ambitious. I would argue that my success is based on Skill + strategic ambition. What I mean by strategic ambition is this; don’t be myopic in your endeavors. Most people think, “If I’m ambitious and work, work, work, and bring in the most revenue or sign the biggest deals, I’ll make more money or I’ll move up in life”. Wrong. That’s only one piece of the puzzle. Sure, it’s the easiest to see coming out of college and there is certainly a correlation between bringing in revenue (or reducing costs) and moving up in a company, but what else does it take?
Certainly, I would say a large piece of success is dependent on the people you surround yourself with in the office as well as in life. As I wrote in a past post, I’ve taken pay cuts to work with or for certain individuals. By surrounding yourself and only working with people who will better you, make you think, expose you to new ideas and management styles, you are learning every time you interact with that individual. Choosing the right mentor and being pro-active enough to secure that mentor is a huge part of being ambitious. It takes time to build a relationship with the right person; it takes patience; and you have to be strategic about ‘who’ you pick.
Another important piece is the desire to for continuous improvement (learning). As cliche as this sounds, if you’re not moving forward, you are only moving backwards.
Many people talk about “balance”. I agree we all need balance in our lives, however there is a time for balance and a time to go “all in”. If you make the conscious choice to go ‘all in’ (working 90 hours / day for example), you WILL lose out on other aspects of your life. When people say, “you’re so lucky”, they fail to realize the losses that come with that proposed “luck”. Friendships and other relationships are ruined. Most people either lose or gain a lot of weight as they either have no time to eat or eat too much. When people talk about ‘balance’ and the importance of balance, I agree; but I think there is a right time for you to balance your life and some of us choose to be extremists. Whether you agree with it or not, again studies show that the more time someone puts into their job, the more money they will make and the higher likelihood they will have of moving up in a company. Again, it’s a conscious choice.
What I have learned is that by ‘giving things up’ in the short-term, you not only reap the business benefits in the long-term; but the long-term personal benefits as well. If we go back to relationships again – any relationship is work. If you have been through work experiences that teach you that “hard work pays off”, you will associate work with success. hence, you are more likely to work harder on your relationship.
If you have worked and been pro-active enough to find a mentor; likely you would recognize that a connection with an individual is important enough to change a life. Once you have had a successful relationship where you are being taught, learning to take criticism, sometimes even “tough love” (like a mentor) and see that it has led to something positive…you are more likely to be able to take criticism and / or ‘tough love’ from other people in your life. You will likely not just be able to take it, but do something constructive and better yourself (and your relationship) by making changes.
Tying back around…is there such a thing as ‘luck’? Probably. But when you make your own luck in one aspect of your life, you learn how to bring it to other areas. If you are one of the people who are reading this and disagree with me, try what I said above…try it in one aspect of your life or your job. And if you’ve already tried it once, try the steps again…and again…at a certain point, you will find your way and you’ll then understand that there isn’t luck. There are decisions; and each decision comes with sacrifices. it’s up to you to decide what’s most important and when the right time is.