About ten years ago, I ran the Big Sur Marathon, just south of Monterey on the California Coast. They close Highway 1 so runners get to enjoy the beautiful scenery over the ocean.
However, the scenery quickly becomes an afterthought, since the total elevation gain is over 2,000 feet along the course, starting around the halfway point. Woe to the runner who gets 10 miles in and thinks the race has been a breeze — that’s where the real race starts.
Finishing that race has been a reminder to me of how easy it is to get a short-term win or to do something halfway. In today’s guide, the perspective you need to finish the race — and get real results.
The Road to the Best Job
I’ve often found myself impressed at how smart a lot of our clients are. After years of working with engineers, scientists, and the military, I find myself asking basic questions about their work that probably seem naive to them.
I’m also noticing more and more that pure cognitive horsepower and number of graduate degrees doesn’t correlate directly with advancement. The days are mostly gone where a masters degree guarantees you a prominent role.
Long ago, Dale Carnegie called enthusiasm “the little recognized secret of success.” It’s becoming apparent that attitude and people skills will be even bigger difference makers long-term since the best jobs now require you to be a people person.
Trade for Tomorrow
When the stock market crashed in 2008, some people cashed out their retirement portfolios in fear, only to watch the market hit all time highs a few years later.
There are occasional exceptions, but most people who do well in the markets are playing a long-game. That was reinforced for me when I read an excellent book called The Little Book of Common Sense Investing* by John Bogle (founder of the Vanguard Mutual Fund Group).
Most people who are doing well in business and careers are also playing the long game. In the age of the internet, it’s easier than ever to drive a short-term result at the expense of others. It’s also easier than ever to get caught doing that.
Seth Godin reminds all of us that day traders rarely make history.
Dude, Take the Red Pill
Like a lot of people at the time, I throughly enjoyed the movie The Matrix when it came out. The concept of the movie was unique and the storyline was fascinating.
Neo discovers early in the plot that he’s been part of a fabricated world. He’s given a choice of pills:
If he takes the blue pill, he goes back to the fabricated world. If he takes the red pill, he escapes the fabricated world, enters a difficult journey with few guarantees, but controls his own destiny.
Lots of us have had similar choices throughout our careers. My message to readers over at Carnegie Coach this week was this: dude, take the red pill.
Be Like Einstein: Boredom Before Brilliance
We’ve all heard the stories of the people who have bucked the trends and leveraged their brilliance to create amazing things in the world.
There is more behind these stories than what's initially apparent. That’s one of the reasons I liked Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell* — since often there is a predicable explanation behind incredible success.
Cal Newport did some research into this and discovered that innovation almost always requires long periods of traditional training. In the case of one of the smartest people to ever live, his conclusion is this: Einstein was boring before he was brilliant.
You Can Take It With You
Many things changes over the course of our professional careers: the organizations we work with, who we report to, the benefits we get (or not), the kind of work we do — and countless more.
However, there’s at least three things that we can always take with us: our education, our experience, and our relationships. Smart leaders are always developing these three things, regardless of their current role, organization, or even industry.
It’s fitting that the image in an article I saw recently by Google veteran Karen Wickre is of a garden, since that’s the kind of attitude all of us should have. Even better is the advice she gives: I’ve Spent A Lifetime Building a Mighty Network. Here Are My Secrets.
Key word there? “Lifetime.”
207: How to Transform Your Limitations Into Advantages
One definite hack for finishing the race is looking at obstacles differently. Most of us see obstacles and get discouraged. The difference-maker is what happens next.
On this week’s show, I welcomed Mark Barden, co-author of the book A Beautiful Constraint: How to Transform Your Limitations Into Advantages and Why It’s Everyone’s Business*. We discuss how you can use constraints to work for you — and the mindset you need to do so. The audio and show notes are posted on the Coaching for Leaders website.
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