Most people like to say they work hard. In fact, it’s a badge of honour to say you are working hard, as often as you can. If you aren’t, you feel like you are “behind” in some way. Without getting into the “balance” argument, I’d like to dive into what working hard actually means and why I don’t think most people do it at all.
Athletics are a really good analogy for business. The idea of teamwork, pushing yourself to get better, setting goals, etc… all make the corollary strong. There is another similarity that people don’t ever seem to talk about—training. Athletes are known for their intense training schedules. The definition of working hard to an athlete is to train. How come? Why bother training? Well, by getting in better shape, becoming a master at your sport, and improving your mental state—your goal is to win. Whether at the Olympics, at the Super Bowl or Wimbledon, your goal is to win a championship. You need to outwork, outsmart and outperform each person you compete against in order to win. This is the beauty of sports.
In business, we don’t take this approach. The reason is simple, we don’t have a benchmark of “winning” in business. So we lack a fixed point to work towards, making it difficult to work backwards. Some people start a business to support their family, some to employ their friends and some to disrupt an industry. Each of their goals are different.
And yet, no matter what person in business you speak to, they all claim to be overwhelmed with work. They are busy, run-down and exhausted. Besides the fact that this is a stupid way to approach sounding important to your friends, it’s also not impressive. Working hard is an irrelevant term by itself when it comes to business.
Working hard actually has two separate components:
1. Domain Labour
Both are essential to survival, but only #2 is important for “winning”. I’ll explain that more in second. Firstly, let’s understand what domain labour is. In every business, there are things that make the business “tick”. These are things like accounting, legal, drafting sketches if you are an architect, arranging flowers if you are a florist, etc… The labour is specific to your domain, and without it, you have no business. Every single business will die without doing these things. Improving your domain expertise is actually fairly straightforward, and progresses throughout a career in linear fashion. The more you lay floors, the more you understand how to do it better, faster and more efficiently. And so the labour you supply to the market is more specific, and by nature, rare, allowing you to make more money as you gain experience.
I don’t think, however, domain labour contributes to training, if we use the athletic analogy. I don’t think it should count towards hard work. I think it is the essential unit you need to survive at what you do.
I believe hard work comes in when we speak about #2—training. Training as a person in a business is an obscure and strange term to use for most of us. I find this interesting for a number of reasons. I believe the simplest way to look at training is to look at what the end goal is—to win, or in this case, to be successful. I’m not going to set a fixed goal for you, but this is important to determine. You could want to build the biggest company in the world, the best salesperson in your company, or win a Pulitzer Prize. Either way, you need to determine what success looks like to you.
The only way to get to this point is to outwork your competition. The way to do this is well-defined, you need to gain, interpret and apply more knowledge than others in your space. Knowledge is the great differentiator in the developed world. Formal education is a part of this, but it’s shocking how believe that the second they are done “school”, they are at their peak in terms of knowledge. These people quickly get passed in life.
Your goal with training should be to gain as much knowledge as you can, as quickly as you can, and apply it back to your work. This is called hard work. People that work harder than others simply learn faster than others. Nearly every successful person will attribute their success to luck + hard work, not brilliance. And this is accurate. They just never define what the hard work is. The reality is, these people absorb knowledge at an enormous rate.
Knowledge can be acquired in a variety of ways. An obvious way is reading books relevant to your goals. Want to know how to win? Read books from people who have won before. Another way is to meet people in the real world. Each sales meeting, networking coffee and co-worker should be teaching you something about social psychology. Domain specific acquisition of knowledge is also important. Want to be a great CEO? Not only do you have to the domain labour specific activities like managing, payroll, hiring & firing, but you need to constantly improve your management, communication & leadership skills. This only comes through acquiring knowledge.
The beauty about knowledge is that the winners aren’t just a little bit smarter than the losers, they are exponentially smarter. Knowledge scales in unbelievable ways. The best analogy is like a snowball, it picks up steam by itself after a while and starts to become easier and easier to roll.
Start thinking of your working day of a training day that an athlete has. Instead of working on your body & sport, work on your brain & domain. (see, it rhymes) Spend your time on things that scale, and grow exponentially. Set a fixed point that you determine is “success” and out-knowledge your opponents to get there. And once you figure out how best to capture the knowledge to help you get there, then yes—work hard.
Two Strategies for Picking a Direction Post-Education
What is it like trying to navigate our lives and what we want to be doing for the next 30 years or so? This does not always mean we’ll be doing the same kind of work year after year. But it does mean we have to pick a direction that will satisfy us for decades. Daunting, no?
I had a Skype call last week with my friend Theresa — probably one of the happiest and most bubbly human beings I’ve ever met.
She was making a cup of tea in her bright apartment when I gave her a digital call to learn more about students navigating through post-secondary education. She’s currently attending Royal Roads, a University in Victoria, BC that provides students with applied education that will give them practical techniques and tools required for life after post-secondary. She’d just finished one of her all-day classes when I called.
What Theresa told me was surprising:
"I have no idea what my dream job is. My teachers kept saying ‘what’s your dream position? Where do you want to go?’ And I was like ‘I don’t knooooow.’ Lots of people in my class were feeling that too."
Here is this bright, talented, personable, curious girl—and she has no idea what she wants to do after she’s finished school. But she told me some things that made me think she’s not as far from deciding as she thinks.
The 2 ways of figuring out what we’d like to pursue
As Theresa moved through University, and eventually Royal Roads, she learned two major things about herself:
1. What she likes to learn Even after a couple years taking a veritable smorgasbord of classes, hoping to ignite her career interest, she found that everything interested her. Though there were a few classes that stuck out—like journalism—she didn’t want to take the full major that came with that particular class. A year or so later, she tried another random non-fiction class and loved it too. A pattern was emerging.
Know that just because you didn’t focus on a particular subject in school, that does not rule out elements of it as your future career.
2. How she likes to learn Education doesn’t stop when we get out of school. There’s constant learning on the job. And with such a high percentage of people feeling like they are impostors (especially among women), it can feel like you’re starting from the ground up with no prior knowledge. Learning how to learn is one of the main ways to make career discovery that much more enjoyable.
- Is it in intimate one-on-one chats? - Reading a book or listening to a podcast? - Following by example? - Being cautious or taking risks? - Do you require alone time or listening to big group discussion?
The next 30 years are going to pass you by no matter what you do. It can be hard to choose what you want to do— so choosing subjects that keep your attention more than others is a good place to start. Then play with how you like to learn about those things. They may be keeping you attention for longer than you thought possible.
Making it easy to discover exiting new careers is our number one goal at Sokanu. We’ve been working on a bunch of new features to make this even better, and we’re excited to introduce them to you today.
Today, we’re introducing a new career matches page that makes it even easier to browse through all our careers. We’ve put a lot of effort into making everything faster, especially on tablets and laptops. Photos are bigger and more vibrant, to give you a better idea of what each career is like.
We’ve done some re-search
We’ve totally overhauled our search experience. Suggestions appear below you as you type. Our search engine has gotten faster and more intelligent; we now try to find careers based on your intention. Search for ‘emergency’, and you’ll see a suggestion for Firefighter appear below.
Finally, we’ve been hard at work improving our recommendation system and adding over 100 new careers. If you haven’t visited Sokanu in a while, check out the new careers page. You might be surprised at what you’ll discover!
The 5 Questions to Consider When Looking for Your Next Career
At Sokanu, we want to help you Discover your best options for a career path. So we get down and dirty and ask you questions that will match careers best suited to you. So when you have your career matches — what’s next? Here are some questions to think about to help you choose from your list of compatible careers:
1. What fascinates you?
Look at the topics or events or objects that capture your whole attention. What makes you lose track of time? When you’re in a conversation with a group of people, what makes you perk up when mentioned? Is the core of the work you do, something that you love?
Why it’s critical: Whatever career you end up doing, no matter how much you love it, there will be days, weeks, or maybe months when it just doesn’t feel the way you thought it would. Bosses will be hard to talk to, crises will need your immediate attention, business will be slow. If you choose work you love, getting through the hard times won’t seem too hard.
2. When was your last “shining moment?”
Do you remember a time when you felt like you were on FIRE? A time when people approached you to personally thank, congratulate, or praise you for something you did? Look back on the times when you were at your best — maybe speaking about a particular subject, up on stage, building or crafting something, or helping someone.
Why it’s critical: When you do this thing, you’re good at it! If you can do, say, or make something that compels people to speak out in praise of your work, you’ve got mad talent. And while there is always more to talent and skill than just natural ability, it’s a damn good place to start.
3. How much money do you really need/want to be happy?
What will it take for you to find financial satisfaction? Lack of research will usually result in lowballing or highballing our own worth.
Why it’s critical: Honestly, nothing gives me the heebie jeebies more than trying to figure out my own salary, but it must be done. Our salary is also going to partially dictate the kind of lifestyle we will have. And while it will always be a perk to make a million a year, really doing our research allows us to be realistic about the kind of work we want to tackle.
4. What kind of work environment do you desire?
Your work environment is about setting the style of your job. Do you like more team-based work from the office or solo projects from your living room? Is working outside more appealing than being inside a lab or office? How do you want to feel when you walk into work every day?
Why it’s critical: This environment is where you will be spending the majority of your day so it needs to feel right. We all have certain work environments that are compatible with who we are so picking a work zone that feels comfortable can seriously cut down on the “living for the weekend” mentality.
5. What is it you hope to gain from your career?
This is the big goal question when it comes to your career: what do you want to get out of it? Satisfaction, giving back to the world, financial independence or stability, becoming the best in biz? What takes priority in your career search?
Why it’s critical: There are going to be outside sources, like family, friends, or partners that may pressure you into choosing work based on their own ideas. Go for the prestigious job! Or the bigger salary. Get the job with more free time. Or the job that lets you travel all the time. And these choices are fine — as long as the motive behind your choice is intrinsically what you want! Down the road, it’s only going to be you driving, so make sure it’s the place you want to go.