Embarrass the lazy with your work ethic

Quite a few years back (maybe decades in fact), a new member joined the team. He turned up first day professionally dressed with nicely pressed shirt and pants and wearing a tie. He was a friendly guy but other than on scheduled breaks, he didn’t join in with social banter. He kept his head down and worked hard.

A few days into his work, I advised him that he could ease up a bit on his work output and there was no need to wear a tie. He politely thanked me for my advice and got back to his work. He continued to wear a tie and work hard every day.

After a while, the new guy started to make me uncomfortable. Definitely, he had done nothing wrong. His work was of a high quality, he arrived punctually for work and didn’t leave until he completed his work for the day. He took the minimum break allowed and only occasionally took coffee breaks. Even then, he would take his coffee back to his desk and drink rather than chat in the lunchroom. What was really making me uncomfortable was that he was making me embarrassed about my own work ethic.

I did arrive early for work but for the first half hour (at least), I would sip on a coffee, catch up on gossip with colleagues and send a few social emails. I would then work for an hour or so then take another break to wander around the office and say hello to people. Oftentimes I would spend a substantial part of the day sending out emails with regard to social activity for the weekend. In all honesty, I probably spent 3-4 hours at most at constructive work.

The new starter was putting me to shame and I felt it. He looked professional and acted it. I turned up primarily for my social agenda and to pick up an undeserved pay cheque.

Not surprisingly, the new starter received a higher opportunity after only a few months at work. Initially, I was annoyed as I had been there longer and blamed politics. After reflection though, and thankfully before I said anything stupid, I realised he deserved it a great deal more than me.

Admittedly, it did take me a few more years to really learn the lesson. I had started a new job and I committed myself to start fresh with the right attitude. I presented myself professionally daily and worked hard. If the end of the day came and I still needed to complete something, I would stay back to finish. I would regularly contribute ideas to make work more productive for the customer, even if it would occasionally result in more work for me. Funny enough, one of my colleagues said exactly what I had said previously, take it easy with the work and a tie isn’t necessary.

Little surprise when only a few months into the job I received an opportunity at a higher level. And guess what, I enjoyed my work a great deal more when I actually felt like I was making a positive contribution.

I have continued to present myself as a professional and work hard through several more jobs. I have frequently received higher opportunities and praise from managers. I also receive many comments from colleagues to pace myself with my work and dress more casually. I wonder if they are as embarrassed as I was a couple of decades earlier.

Whatever you do, do it great!

“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as a Michaelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.

Martin Luther King Jr

A great quote! Whatever the job is, do it to your best. Never consider a job too small or below you.

If an opportunity arises, don’t let your work ethic or attitude be the reasons you miss out.

Self-limiting beliefs – Not for Cathy Hughes!

One of the biggest obstacles to success is having self-limiting beliefs. I’m definitely a victim to self-limiting thinking. Often I’m caught myself in doubt due to my age, lack of education, my mental health issues, financial situation or whatever else I can find in the dark recesses of my mind.

I came across a wonderful podcast today on How I Built This. This episode featured Cathy Hughes . Cathy is the founder of Radio One. She is now 70 years old and has a net worth of over $500 million.

I won’t go into every detail of Cathy’s story and recommend you listen to the podcast and read Wikipedia. The major points that I took from Cathy’s story is that she had no self-limiting beliefs. She had a goal and had no doubt that she would achieve it.

However, Cathy had several potential obstacles that many would consider insurmountable to achieve even minor success:

  • Lived in housing projects as a child
  • Was a single mother at 17
  • Is an African American woman
  • Lived in middle America
  • She started her career in the 60’s and 70’s, which I understand was a less enlightened time in the US for African Americans (I’m from Australia, so I wasn’t there to experience it)

Cathy apparently faced discrimination in her early days but again, she maintained focus on her goal and never doubted she would succeed.

Again, I won’t go into her whole story but one story she recounted was approaching financial institutions for a $1 million loan with only $10,000 in the bank. She went to 32 banks before getting the loan. 90% of people would give up after 2 or 3 banks but not Cathy. She said that she believed in the law of averages that every ‘No’ is one step closer to a YES. It is not hard to believe that she would have gone to 100 banks if she had to.

What if we all had the same confidence as Cathy that we would succeed despite self-imposed limits? Very few will achieve the success that Cathy has. Without question though, the person that follows a passionate goal without thought of failure will be far more successful then the one that finds reasons they can’t.

Surround yourself with people that challenge you to grow

I don’t enjoy getting old. I don’t wake up with the same energy as I used to when I was young and my knees remind me every day that I pushed them too hard in my 20’s.

However, with age comes experience and an opportunity to reflect on decisions made. I don’t live with regret but all the same, there are choices that I made that would have influenced my life in better ways.

One such decision was the choice of friends that I made. If you have read any of my posts, you may see that I have not always been the most confident of people and have resorted to alcohol on many occasions to manage.

A logical choice of friends would be around people that positively influence my perceived ‘need’ to drink and to enjoy life while being sober. However, rather than do that, I chose friends that only supported and encouraged the self-destructive behaviour.

I won’t rehash my post The evolution of my Friday’s that details my drinking but just say that I did escape my desperate need to drink by actually leaving the city I lived in. Now, I rarely drink and if I do, it’s for enjoyment of the taste.

Another aspect of choosing a friend when I was younger was to have people around me that didn’t challenge me. By this I mean that they displayed behaviour that wouldn’t influence me to be a better person. My friends were not ambitious in terms of career, relationships or financially. Any success they achieved was managed through longevity in a business, not through developing networks, education or taking risks. My two closest previous friends have clocked up 30 and 20 years of continuous service in the one agency.

This is not to disrespect their choices but for me, I wanted to achieve more but failed to have the right friends that would influence me to greater success. Again, my friends did not take financial risks and to date, do not have investment properties or share portfolios. Any discussion on the subject would be met with the possibility of losing money rather than the chance to make money.

When discussion came to my longer-term goals, often times I would be given advice that I should stick with my current job and save money for retirement. There was no encouragement and debate about ways that I could start working towards achieving my goals only ways that it would not be possible.

The problem is not necessarily my friends. They are who they are and that’s fine. They have a number of good qualities other than those that will make me grow. The problem is more so that I was not strong enough to take challenges on myself and didn’t chose another network of friends that lived at another level to what I lived at.

To be honest, I was scared to hang around people that were better educated, had higher-level jobs and were successful. I thought they would consider me beneath them. With experience and exposure to some very successful business people, I have found the opposite. Many of these people are not only willing to share their knowledge but are also very down to earth and treat me as an equal.

I guess my point is that I shouldn’t have limited who I let into my inner circle just because of my own insecurities. I should have encouraged other relationships with people of all walks of life to learn from them and improve myself. A good person is a good person. If they have success qualities that I can learn from, that is to my benefit.

It actually sounds quote parasitic but I consider I have values of my own that I can share and add value to their lives. Unfortunately, I did not consider that the case when I was younger and I was good only as the party clown. My better qualities were normally diminished once I started to drink.

If you have goals that do not align with those around you, open yourself to opportunities to meet and befriend those that have big goals and have achieved in life. Don’t dismiss your current friends but don’t limit yourself. You might find also that finding people that share the same values and goals that you do will give you greater peace of mind and happiness.