“There may be people who have more talent than you, but there is no excuse for anyone to work harder than you” Derek Jeter
About a year ago my company started a new service offering – Talent Path. The idea behind this offering is that we recruit and hire recent graduates from top universities who fit our profiles for the right academic foundation, aptitude, and attitude/commitment, then train them in specific skills and key technologies that are in high demand. It’s an unusual offering for a staffing company (particularly considering the investment in training and bench costs), but necessary in an environment like technology where demand far outstrips supply.
Now, to be clear, this isn’t a commercial on my new company/offering, but the context is important. As part of their first week with the company, I spend time with our cohorts to answer questions about the company and our purpose, vision, and mission. Inevitably, those sessions always turn in to a Q&A about the attributes they will need to be successful.
“How did you get to where you are?,” they often ask. “What did you do to become successful?,” they follow with. And in every situation, my answer is the same – I learned at an early age that I would need to outhustle the other guy/gal if I was going to get ahead.
I remember one of my first jobs out of college. After spending the obligatory two years in public accounting (that was our version of a master’s degree if you were in that field), I joined a mid-sized IT solutions firm in Houston. As an accountant, my job was to support the business by analyzing the company results and looking for improvement opportunities. And as an accountant, the tool of your trade was Microsoft Excel. Master it and you will be invaluable. At least that’s the theory I operated on.
“When you play, play hard; when you work, don’t play at all.” – Theodore Roosevelt
So, for the first several years of my career, I would spend evenings and Saturday mornings reading books on how to maximize the use of MS Excel. I would read a chapter, then practice building formulas and templates for a few hours. I would download sample spreadsheets from the internet and reverse engineer them. I would use the “record” function and click through a series of activities (like turning off the grid lines), then go back and look at the SQL code that was generated to figure out how it was done. While others were out playing on a Saturday morning, I was investing in my future by working on my trade.
“I’m a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it.” – Thomas Jefferson
I also realized I would need an edge if I were to get ahead. I needed luck. But chance always favors the prepared. And what’s more, luck will often find you much quicker if you position yourself where it can. And so, when company management would ask us to take on additional work, I would raise my hand. When special projects would surface, I would volunteer as quickly as I could. These weren’t paying opportunities mind you (they never are), and they would require effort outside the standard work week. But I knew it was necessary if I wanted to be recognized, and that eventually I would get the break so many others rarely get.
“No one ever drowned in their own sweat” Ann Landers
Still today I live by a philosophy that hard work is inevitable if you want to remain successful. I wouldn’t know what a standard 40-hour work week is. 9 to 5? That’s only in movies. While my buddies are out playing golf on a Friday afternoon, you’ll still find me in the office working.
To be clear, I’m not suggesting that a work/life balance isn’t important. Trust me, I need to eat my own dogfood when it comes to that subject. What I am saying is that if you want success in business, there simply is no substitute for putting in maximum effort. To stand out and get that big break, you’ll have to outhustle the other guy/gal.