The worst thing about business that nobody tells you

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Once upon a time in the long long ago, right after college, I went for an interview with a Fortune 50 company and after a few interviews for an engineering job they went with someone else. About a week later they called me back and wanted me to come in and discuss a VP role. Quote: “You just seemed too sociable and too friendly to work in engineering long term and we think you’d do better leading the place”; few more interviews, all day meetings and calls with different offices later they again chose someone else. I was pretty bitter about that for a long time but it was good to be crushed at such an early age:

High profile jobs, with few exceptions, are not given. They are earned.

hustle-defintionThat’s not the lesson, I’ll get to that in a moment. Bringing in outside talent to an already thriving organization breeds disloyalty and crushes the corporate culture that is built on climbing the ladder. Why climb at all? Because to lead effectively and grow not just the profits but the team it’s about far more than just being qualified. It took me a while to figure that out.

Now.. what I’m about to tell you is not something a book can be written about because it’s not glorified feel-good bullshit people tend to seek out while they fantasize their way out of the daily struggles to manage and grow a business. Here is the truth.

Making money is hard. Sustaining it over the long haul it’s extremely difficult.

And that’s the way it should be.

The sooner you accept that – the better off things will be. It’s hard, it’s brutal, it’s without external motivation and very few people are cut out to do it. That’s business.

I have disagreed on this topic with many of my ex employees. Among the more triumphant failures I’ve tried to mentor are scores of stay at home moms, SEO experts, multilevel marketing sales frauds, sandwich flippers, family business part timers and other lifescapers who thought they knew better. I wish them all the best. But in so many ways I feel sorry for them and for the day when they look for a real job again and realize what HR does to resumes that have large holes between jobs and how hard their “willingness to work” will be questioned some day. But that’s their problem, not yours if you are trying to build a strong organization.

In a workforce full of dreamers is the reality of overworked and underpaid people who channel their frustration into solutions and success. If you think about what it took to build your business, that most certainly describes you. And while peons and dreamers will come and go, the people that can make it through the thick and thin are the ones that will be there for the long term and will ultimately succeed in the long term.

Not really a feel good motivational tidbit, is it? But it’s the truth. While people are stuck daydreaming about working at Google and being given a free paycheck and time to go find themselves on spiritual journeys through Indonesia (of which I’m almost certain there are like 6 people with those choices just for the sake of PR) the rest of the people are grinding it out like everyone else.

Don’t dream. Work. It doesn’t get easier, you just make more money. People that win have the mentality that it isn’t about the temporary annoyances but about smashing long term expectations.

And that pursuit, of overcoming adversity while excelling at your craft, is what careers are made of. And damn it feels good when you finally make it. Maybe it’s for you, maybe it’s not but I’ll tell you what – earning something always beats being given something and it sure as hell beats holding a sign asking for $15 an hour for a job that people beat you down at.