Too many of us are working really hard….running on that proverbial hamster wheel….trying to make a big difference, create something substantive, or just trying to make a huge amount of money.
Equally, many are looking for that magic ‘something’ to catapult their business, their careers, and even their lives into the orbit they want.
The end of December 2021 and the start of January 2022 is always packed with ‘lists’ that promise that magic recipe.
Well….newsflash…there is NO one single magic answer.
Every single year, for at least the past 30+ years, I’ve been guilty of watching, listening, reading….and reading some more to tap into the ‘best in class’ advice…so that I could pursue that coveted outlier success status.
This year, I decided to dive back into my journals and harvest years and years of thoughts and provocative approaches I’ve collected ….and cull it down into a shortlist of 7 tweaks that I believe are indeed seminal in their perspective.
Make no mistake…the answers reside 100% in YOU….(shameless plug: one of my most successful programs in the Alignment at Work™ offering is entitled “Inner Alignment to Outer Strength”)…..yet, I’m hoping this shortlist will get you thinking…as they are not all ‘ordinary’ in their focus.
So – here is my condensed list that I believe can indeed make a big impact with somewhat small tweaks to what many of us are already doing.
1. Explore a new slant on the 80/20. So, here’s the reality: many of us are working so hard at our ‘job’ that we don’t take the time to invest in ourselves. And no…I’m not talking about sharpening the saw that we use day in and day out. I’m talking about investing ‘outside the box’ of your ‘day job’. Google made, what became known as 20% time, commonplace. Google encouraged their employees to spend at least 20% of their time developing skills, approaches, relationships, talents – which were NOT in their standard ‘wheelhouse’ or about their job. What this may mean is you taking an online course, or learning to play the piano, or enrolling in a spiritual retreat, or reading a new book every month. Normally, this ‘investment of time’ in ourselves is the very first thing to fall off the list. And honestly, it is THE most important investment we make….not only for 2022 yet for the years to come. It expands us. It broadens our perspectives. And it will invariably prepare us for new opportunities that we can’t (or don’t) even see yet. So – the first tweak is to carve out 20% of your time to invest in YOU……sharpening YOU – which will have a huge ROI in ways we cannot even predict. (My example: many years ago I became interested in holistic studies and became a Reiki master. This energy work has helped me in ways that only during ‘Covid time’ became fully apparent.)
2. Be a hard act to follow. Whether you are an entrepreneur, author, corporate executive, or small business owner, we have to distinguish ourselves so that we become difficult to compete with. This, by the way, does not mean we have to be the smartest person in the room – as frankly, as you may have noticed, those folks are seldom the most successful people in the room. No, this means becoming unique, differentiated, and ‘hard to emulate’ based on your uniqueness. Get this picture in your mind: imagine when you meet that person who has a deep, well-grounded network of relationships, complemented by a strong, indisputable personal brand, and has mastered the art of aligning multiple points in an ecosystem. This person has carved out THEIR unique offering, approach, connections, and deliverables…..and made it virtually impossible to compete with because it is theirs. The beauty of this: only YOU can be the best YOU in your field. The key is to DO IT. It is a path of less resistance to just mimic someone in your field….yet, that does not make you stand out, and frankly most folks go in that vein…because it is easier. Yet….you will never differentiate yourself doing what everyone else does. As the song from Gypsy says…’ you gotta have a gimmick’….yet, the ‘gimmick’ is that powerful combination of being great at the intersection of multiple angles. THAT is a hard act to follow – if not impossible.
3. Evaluate your posse. If you read my articles, you know I quote my parents a lot. When I was growing up, my mom used to say: ‘you are the company you keep’. That truism never goes out of style. The adage that we are the sum of 5 people with whom we spend the majority of time has merit. Yet, here is my take on that. This does NOT mean that we want to surround ourselves with the richest, smartest, most successful people in our field. Quite the contrary. We need to build our personal board of directors which stretches us – in a myriad of ways. They need to be diverse in their cognitive offerings and perspectives so that we benefit from various lenses. For example, consider surrounding yourself with a ‘big picture thinker’ to help strategically, an ‘operational efficient’ thinker to streamline your approaches, and a metaphoric thinker to help write stories and simplify your messages. Everyone’s needs will be different, yet diversity is key. And one of the most effective aspects of building a strong posse (and extended network) is to always give more than you receive. Always. It will come back 100 fold over time.
4. Love what you do and get into Flow. So, this ‘tweak’ may require some deep diving. Yet, what I know for sure: individuals who love what they do statistically have been proven to have a higher net worth. And my concept of Alignment™ – which is where I believe we are at our most powerful is that perfect intersection of “Loving what you do, being Good at it, and having it tied to something Greater than Yourself’. When that happens. we get into FLOW. And before you think ‘flow’ is an easy street….it is not (that is stagnation and complacency). Flow is that perfect stream somewhere between being totally stressed out and being bored out of your mind. We want to be challenged and stretched…..and that is in alignment when we love what we do, we are good at it, and it is tied to something greater than we are. That is FLOW. That is Alignment™.
5. Be ruthless with your priorities. So, here’s the thing: no one….and I mean no one…. can be good at everything. We have to determine what we want to good at (what we want to be known for) AND correspondingly what we will ‘be not so good at’. I listened to a podcast that Frances Frei, a Harvard professor gave last year. She and her co-author were discussing what separates the ‘winners’ from the ‘losers’ in business-speak. And here is one (of many) powerful statements she made: “Choosing to bad is your only shot at achieving greatness. And resisting it is a recipe for mediocrity.” BOOM. So FOCUS is non-negotiable. Sam Altman (uber-successful entrepreneur and investor) has said that “Focus is a force multiplier on work.”. Truer words were never spoken. We would be well-served to determine SPECIFICALLY what our priorities will be, what they will NOT be, and FOCUS on them….so that we can go FAST. Sometimes we have to go slow so that we can go FAST.
6. There is magic in compounding. Well, most of us will associate the magic of compounding with the Rule of 72…..the simple way of factoring how long an investment will take to double given a fixed annual rate of return. (Example: if your account earns 4%, divide 72 by 4 to get the number of years it will take for your money to double). Yet, the concept of compounding is WAY more than when just applied to investments and money. There are two other perspectives relative to compounding to consider ‘tweaking’ as we start this new year. The first: working hard in any career is a given. A person needs to master the art of working hard AND smart to experience extreme results and success. And to be honest, doing so early in your career will provide ‘compounded benefits’ over the life of your career. No – this is not a pre-requisite for success – yet, it is something to consider. As the track record you develop, the income you make, the network you build, the experience you conjure will all pay off over time and in the long term. The second: having your career (and life) be a self-editing and self-propelled compilation tied together with a golden thread promotes the value of compounding. Think about successful leaders you have observed who jump from one platform to another…all tied together…and every single one of their experiences catapults them to the next. Not a linear path….a jaggedy, hockey-stick path. The common denominators? These leaders almost always have remained curious. They crave contribution. They covet making a difference and an impact in the world. And the ‘big aha’…..they are skating to where they think the puck will be (thank you Wayne Gretzky) and they take a long-term, 50,000+ foot view of the world and the contribution they want to make. Each move – each contribution – truncates the prior one. Their career (and their contributions) are COMPOUNDING. Think: Oprah, Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Sir Richard Branson,…..to name a few.
7. There is Power in living with the Questions. I am a fervent believer that the wisdom of life comes from the questions we dare to ask….and to live with. James Hollis (one of my favorite authors and Jungian psychoanalyst) offers a quote that is beautiful in its power AND its permission to remain in question: “Our lives find their purpose – not in answers but in living large questions that are worthy of the soul’s magnitude.” Our sacred responsibility is to remain open to the most provocative, catalytic questions which arise. We will never know it all. Ever. We are constantly evolving. Through life, if we continue to peel pack our layers, we can and will continue to grow, expand, contribute and ALIGN to what we are CALLED to do….and yes…I use that word deliberately. In my last book, I offer a guide helping folks navigate their road to Alignment™ which includes several questionnaires to facilitate the process…as well as many other techniques to tap into what you want to do, what you are good at, and tease the question ‘what if’ you pursued that with all your mojo?
So, there are my musings as we start 2022. We are all hungry to emerge from this cocoon in which we have been living the past few years….and I am convinced that the process of spreading our new wings has (and will continue to) strengthen us in ways we could never have predicted.
AND, I also believe the best is yet to come.
I would love to hear your observations and your input. And if you have interest in connecting…I would welcome this, as well. After all….we all learn from one another and in community with each other.
My best to you as continue along our path in 2022.