Work really hard

All the most incredible people I know work hard.  Really hard.  Crazily hard.

My first job out of college was as a management consultant.  The deal in those jobs is that you sign away your life for a few years in exchange for a professional experience that gives you a lot more exposure and learning than you really deserve, given what you know.

That was my experience.  In the first two months on the job I worked 7 days a week, 12-14 hours a day.  It was pretty miserable.  And that was a close approximation of the next four years.  Of course, I also learned a lot.

I also figured that working that hard had to be temporary.  It had to be, I figured, since the distinction between “work” and “my life” was a bright line.  Work wasn’t terrible, but it was definitely work = something I had to do.  Not working = fun.  Over time, the more I worked the less I felt I was living.  For me, that was exhausting.

That’s why I think passion and loving what you do win every time – because you want to be there.  Your mind is always churning with the next idea, not because your boss tells you to but because you’re doing your life’s work.

Of course you’re not going to love every job every day starting today for the rest of your life.  It takes some time to get there, since it’s a combination of self-discovery, trial-and-error, and chance.

If you’re not working at your dream job today, what do you do?

The easier, but ultimately limiting, option is to slog away at the job you don’t love, and steal every last minute you can for “free time.”

The other option is to make finding and living your passion a big part of what you do, starting today.  You don’t do this by quitting your job (assuming that’s not an option) but by taking the time you have when not at “work” to keep on working, not on your day job but at discovering and learning your craft and your passion.

Jump into your dreams today.  Find the 15 most influential/inspirational people doing/writing about the work you hope to do, and read them religiously.  Add in a few people who are going to give you a daily dose of kick-in-the-pants inspiration.  Get involved in conversations that will lead to opportunities for real-life interaction and opportunity. Learn the skills that will serve you in your life’s work – by setting aside the time today, rolling up your sleeves, and doing the work.

Stephen King famously said that step 1 in writing is “Put butt in chair.” That chair isn’t placed in front of a TV or a computer that’s browsing Facebook, it’s not a barstool and when you sit in it you’re not reading a trashy novel.

It’s placed squarely in front of the tools of your trade, the ones you hope, someday, to master.

Which skills are you practicing?

Maybe today, right now, you’re in a prestigious job (or one that promises to be).  It challenges you but it really isn’t your life’s work.

What do you do?  It’s especially hard to get out, because the pay is probably good, the whole undertaking is well-recognized by friends, peers, and family, and you’re continuing to grow and learn.

So you say to yourself: there’s no real risk in staying put.  I’ll be just as qualified (more qualified) to get that job I really want a few years from now as I am today.

But there is a risk, and it comes from confusing the ability to get the next job and the ability to do the next job.

To get really good at something requires very specific skills.  Selling isn’t the same thing as marketing isn’t the same thing as investing isn’t the same thing as advising isn’t the same thing as building a team isn’t the same thing as really understanding what happens when your suppliers give you crappy payment terms and you run out of cash.

So the risk is this: putting off (for years, maybe) starting to become really good at that thing you’re meant to be doing.

Sure this is fine, but what are you waiting for?