None: Before you overreact and consider this to be a hit piece about you (yes, you reading this post) try to understand that this is a challenge that almost all professional people face.
Over the past few weeks I’ve been in an uncomfortable position of offering a friend some advice about what he needs to do. I am hit up for advice all the time and I generally decline the opportunity because if I was that damn good to be dishing out business advice I wouldn’t be running a business. Funny conundrum. But since this friend has been instrumental in helping transform OWN to what it is today, I tried to offer my two cents here and there. It wasn’t easy writing some emails or saying some things but I appreciated when my friends rallied to help me out. The whole process, and complexities of “change” got me thinking about something that I myself struggle with and an overwhelming majority of professionals (whether they admit it or live in denial) deal with from college kids to CEO’s.
The following is not a business advice. This is career advice:
Decide what you want to do and focus on being great at that.
This is something that people struggle with, be it as business owners or college graduates. You gotta love what you do. If you don’t love what you do, the grass will always be greener on the other side and you’ll always be trading something that could be successful if you focused for something that you like (which tends to change) but can’t quite make a living at it. There is a happy middle ground somewhere between doing what you resent for money and being a starving/homeless artist.
We’re growing very rapidly and when the usual grilling is done and it’s my turn to ask a question, I always ask for the game plan. Is this job what you wanted to be when you grew up? About 90% of the time the answer is no. Everyone just stumbled into a path, ended up in a degree or specialty or program and just figured they’d play along. How am I supposed to give a job to someone that I know up front is not going to like coming to work?
Between a Guru and a Fraud
There is a thin line.
Not a day goes up that another consulting coach or management firm springs up to help you shave off some of your profits for the promise of industry leadership. Yesterday I got 3 SPAM messages from consultants coaches, and having been in this industry for over a decade, I haven’t heard of one.
Just because you can’t play doesn’t make you a coach. Towel boy maybe? OK, ok, I’m promoting you to Gatorade dispenser.
While almost everyone out there can expose a fraud, people rarely seem to stop and think about how this identical style/behavior reflects on them. Are you a blogger? Are you a social media expert? Are you a CEO? Are you a twitter phenom? Are you a business community leader? Are you a video/podcast host? If your audience can’t easily point to one thing that you do and do best then you’re no better than anyone else that is chasing the latest meme. And who wants to do business / hire a distracted chaser? (answer: very few, usually the types that are hustlers and short fused people themselves, which does not build a long term business).
One of my best friends is an all out hustler. He’s one of the few people I know that works harder than me. He owns a UPS store. He owns a tshirt/sign marketing/embroidery business. He owns a car lot. He owns a print shop. Across all of those properties he hardly pulls in what a professional would pull in a 40 hour workweek. At the cost, effort and time commitment that would crack most people.
You have to focus.
It’s something I keep on telling myself, too. Because when things are good and everyone is happy, it’s easy to sit in the Aeron and daydream about what else I could be doing. And since I’m the boss, who is going to call me out on it? That white board just looks so lonely, let me doodle something on it and find a way to solve another problem and pull in more $. Bad Vlad, bad!
It’s hard to give up the entrepreneurial spirit and always chase that next problem that could be solved. It’s also hard sticking with the game plan and pursuing excellence when all you’re doing is fixing problems your original solution created when it became successful. This is where most people crack under the pressure because they signed up to solve a problem and make money, not work hard on perfection. This is also where people come up with great excuses for mediocrity: “You gotta work smart, not hard”, “You don’t own a company, you own a job.” Oh, bull#$@%. If you aren’t front and center in leading that company, converting your vision into a reality, motivating and mentoring your staff, interacting with your clients and soliciting input – I don’t know what you’re doing but it ain’t business.
There is no shame in hard work. There is no shame in doing things right. If you find shame or lack interest, this work s@%! ain’t for you. Here’s a $1, try lottery or Vegas.