Category Archives: Ambition & Career

The PRACTICE of CAREER

Your ambition is either written by you or for you. Choosing to author your own means you have a shot at a career of freedom and autonomy. And that’s what you really want don’t you?

Not a job!

Most people don’t even know what it means to have an ambition or a career. They attend career fairs to really just look for a job.

Freedom and autonomy is what it’s about baby and the good news is that you can have it. The bad news is that you’ll have to work – hell even fight for it. Freedom doesn’t come cheap.

Recognising your addictions

Recognising your addictions

A good friend sent me a link to a 90-minute video on becoming super productive that essentially boils down to this: focus only on the things that matter and stop doing the million other things that don’t.

That’s not the rocket science thankfully, it’s the separating what matters from what doesn’t, and the speaker, Darren Hardy, talks about the things that to him don’t matter—like playing golf, following sports, and being the handyman around the house. He literally won’t spend any time doing things that he’s not exceptionally good at, and he’s become exceptionally good at those things because he won’t give his time to anything else.

But we’re not like that.  We give up our time and attention easily. The “Do you have a moment?”, or “Do you have a minute?” (I call the DYHMs), or “Is now a good time?” (INGTs) are almost never met with “No!” or, “No, I’m doing stuff that really matters,” and then there are the “requests” from superiors (hate that word),

  • “Can you come to a meeting?”
  • “Will you be on the call?”
  • “Can you double-check this report John did, before I send it?”
  • “The CEO said … today and I thought you’d be just the person to get on that.”

These “requests” pull you away from the commitments you already made to this same bozo, who complained about your “productivity” and “time-management skills” in your last performance review.

Been there? I have. But what’s interesting is our tendency to deal with the stress from these “requests” and our unwillingness to say no, with more diversions like social media, YouTube videos, and the News. We make the situation even worse by giving away our limited time to stupid distractions.

But what’s interesting is our tendency to deal with the stress from these “requests” (and our unwillingness to say no), with more diversions like social media, YouTube videos, and the News. We make the situation even worse by giving away our limited time to stupid distractions.

For many it’s social media: twenty, thirty, ninety minutes a day searching through news feeds and chasing links, posting stuff you hope at least thirty of your closest five-hundred friends will “like”, and feeling hurt when they don’t.

For some, it’s sports, others it’s reality TV, or binge-watching The Walking Dead. For me, it’s the news. I can’t seem to help checking what’s happening internationally and I also have this morbid fascination with Trump. I know I’m not alone and I haven’t discerned why, but I get a strange entertainment in getting fresh updates on his rants, ramblings and twitter torpedoes into truth, decency, morality, justice, science, common sense, respect and integrity.

While he was running, the possibility of a popcorn presidency grew increasingly entertaining as unlikelihood became a real probability; and now as a reality, I’m sure I would really be reaching for popcorn if his weekly or even daily disasters could be contained and released in one evening segment.

But no, we keep getting distracted with the insanities as they happen; we get daily drips of him and everything else that’s happening in the world, and 99% of it is bad. And each drip pulls our attention away from what really matters to us e.g. building our relationships, increasing our skills, or fulfilling our ambitions.

The news organizations learned a long time ago that our brains are wired to pay attention to disaster. We want to know who died and from what, we slow down to watch the wreck on the other side of the highway, and we will consume any news that shows, death, disaster, war, famine, crime, horrible crime, corruption, and fall from grace.

We can’t get enough of it.

My girlfriend reminds me of this all the time, and while I have reduced my intake from the local newspapers, I can’t wean myself from Trump. Not yet, but I think I’m getting better.

At least I’ve taken the first of the twelve steps. I acknowledge I’m addicted to Trump news and that’s at least 50% of the battle. If you can’t acknowledge that you have a problem you can’t do anything about it.

Darren is right, if you want to be more productive you need to focus on what really matters, and even if you don’t yet know, you can recognize the distractions you’re addicted to and get rid of them.

What distractions are you addicted to?

The video’s below and it’s called “Insane Productivity”.

 

Do you give confronting feedback?

Do you give confronting feedback?

Recently my girlfriend gave me feedback on my writing, and it didn’t go well. Just about everything that we knew about what to do, or not do when giving feedback went wrong, and I felt personally attacked.  Funny thing is that we are both trained and experienced in giving and receiving feedback. But it wentContinue Reading

The investment stock metaphor for your integrity

The investment stock metaphor for your integrity

Perhaps an investment stock is a great metaphor for your integrity—one day up, the next day down and over time trending in one direction, and then another.  People buy the stocks consistently trending up, and sell the ones trending down.  They do the same with you based on the trend of your integrity. Your integrity—asContinue Reading

Stop chasing productivity

Stop chasing productivity

Most of us chase productivity like a crack addict after his next hit. We’re compelled to buy books, attend workshops and listen to podcasts so we can become more productive. But why? That’s not a silly question. Asking it may stop you from chasing productivity like a dog chasing his tail. What’s wrong with doingContinue Reading

Why giving 100% is a faulty ideal

Why giving 100% is a faulty ideal

Saying workers are not fully engaged at work may be today’s politically correct way for managers to complain that their workers are not giving 100% at work. Well maybe that’s an unreasonable expectation. You wouldn’t expect an athlete to maintain her top speed for very long, and no engineer would think it’s a good ideaContinue Reading

What if I don’t want to do anything big with my life?

What if I don’t want to do anything big with my life?

Why don’t more of us take on the tough questions like, “What do you want to leave behind?”, or “What difference do you want your life to make?” One reason is mainstream education was specifically designed to train us for factory-type work for the top 1%, and the last thing the one percenters want isContinue Reading

Are you a hypocrite?

Let’s save some time. Of course you are; at least if you go by the strict definition of the word. Hypocrisy is the practice of claiming moral standards or beliefs to which one’s own behaviour does not conform. Every one is a hypocrite in some area of their life. What is hypocrisy? But hypocrisy orContinue Reading

Why working hard can get you nowhere

Why working hard can get you nowhere

We’ve been taught that hard work, not intelligence, is the key to success, but that couldn’t be true.  If it were then why are millions of very hard-working people experiencing stress, regret, disappointment and fear? Millions of people live in a perpetual cycle of (1) work hard, (2) worry and (3) repeat.   At theContinue Reading

It’s never to late to craft Ambition

It’s never to late to craft Ambition

Ambition gets no respect. It’s hard to respect something that you don’t understand. Many hold ambition as a drive to succeed that causes those driven to do whatever it takes to win, including stab people in the back.  For many, ambitious people are not to be trusted.  Yet we also know that ambition is somethingContinue Reading

The problem with credentials

The problem with credentials

Most of us learned that degrees are good things; that having a degree was the key to a good job, security and a high salary. Older generations came to believe this because they looked around and noticed that the people above them—the managers, the politicians, and professionals — all had an “education.” Therefore the path toContinue Reading

Do you work “too much”?

Do you work “too much”?

Work life balance is a flawed concept in the same way that love life balance would be—even if everyone passed the phrase around like a bad cold. Yet people often love too little, eat too much, and yes; work too much.  The issue is not balancing relationships, health, or work with life itself, but managing theseContinue Reading

Why work-life balance is silly

Why work-life balance is silly

Work life balance is the holy grail of modern existence.  Amazon’s 15,000+ results for the term shows how desperate we are to find the solution to one of the greatest problems of modern life: work is necessary to live, but we spend so much time working that we have precious time left to live. If workContinue Reading

Why leadership is not about being right

Why leadership is not about being right

One of Amazon’s Leadership Principles states that leaders “Are Right, A Lot!” This is a destructive principle and probably a major contributor to why many Amazon employees find the company a difficult place to work. Here’s why: Leaders become rigid and defensive when they believe they must be right The big problem with a leadershipContinue Reading

The good thing about a bad boss

The good thing about a bad boss

If you work, sooner or later, you’ll have a bad boss.  It’s just like if you drive long enough you’ll have a flat tyre and get pulled over by the cops, but while these last two can be over in a few minutes, a bad boss can last for years. A bad boss can costContinue Reading

Are you high cost?

Are you high cost?

We don’t usually think of cost when applied to people, but it does.  Cost is not just a monetary concept, it describes the time and effort spent, the degree of unpleasantness or even pain and suffering incurred when dealing with … people. You know high cost people because you describe them as a Pain inContinue Reading

The purpose of Employee Engagement

The purpose of Employee Engagement

Whenever I think Employee Engagement (EE) has already become another buzz-phrase in the business world, someone asks me what it is.  I say engagement describes the degree to which people care about the work they do.  Engaged people care, dis-engaged people don’t.  That simple. It’s no surprise that businesses are increasingly turning to EE becauseContinue Reading

What’s on your distraction buffet?

What’s on your distraction buffet?

You probably have your favourite distractors—the time wasters that you find yourself engaging with when you know you should be doing something else. In “Your Distraction Buffet” I mentioned that sometimes your distractors appear to be work or work related and in fact are not.  You spend time on them justifying that time by thinkingContinue Reading

Your Distraction Buffet

Your Distraction Buffet

Ever spend a day being really busy, doing lots of stuff, yet at day’s end a friend asking “Productive day?,” leaves you staring into the question like a deer into headlights. “What the hell did I get done today?” Decimate my daily to-do list?  Complete a project? Wrote a chapter?  Finished that presentation?  No? GoodContinue Reading

Which would you prefer: to be liked or feared?

Which would you prefer: to be liked or feared?

You might be familiar with the Machiavellian position that it’s better to be feared than loved.  Unless you’re interested in acquiring raw power, I’m going to say that it’s the wrong question to ask if your objective is to get people to help you achieve your ambition or business mission. If you’re the kind ofContinue Reading

“This (your work) is shit!”

“This (your work) is shit!”

If Steve Jobs’ had a show like Donald Trump’s “The Apprentice,” his equivalent of Trump’s “You’re Fired” might have been “This is shit!” In Walter Isaacson’s authorized biography, that’s how Jobs often responded to any product, service, presentation or argument that didn’t meet his high standards, and he wasn’t shy about whose heart he stabbedContinue Reading

Look for passion first

Look for passion first

Trying to ignite passion in people who don’t have it is like getting a child to eat his vegetables by yelling “It’s good for you, dammit.”  You get tired and the vegetables only get eaten when you’re micro-managing chews. More effective to hire for passion first Similarly, in a work environment, managers feel just asContinue Reading

Why you need enemies

Why you need enemies

Our instinct is to avoid making enemies; to have everyone be our friend and ally.  But we’ll fail. Everyone has enemies: the Dalai Lama, The Pope even Jesus had enemies. In A Short History of Nearly Everything, Bill Bryson documents how, even among learned scientific minds, fierce rivalries have dominated much of scientific progress from biologists upsetContinue Reading

Happiness at work should not be your goal

Happiness at work should not be your goal

Happy good, unhappy bad.  Not too many people will challenge that. But being not happy doesn’t mean you’re unhappy. There are other non-happy emotional states that reward and fulfil the spirit. People who love their jobs are often focused, aggressive, challenged, curious, anxious, attentive, reflective, perturbed, inspired, stressed, thoughtful, vigilant and zealous.  Distinctly not happy. WhyContinue Reading

Do you do important work?

Do you do important work?

There was a scene in “The Imitation Game” when the protagonist  —as baddies started to destroy his work—exclaimed, “You will never understand the importance of what I am creating here.” And as they continued wreaking havoc around him it was clear they didn’t.   Poor sap. But it made me think of the main reasonContinue Reading

Why we must all be entrepreneurs

Why we must all be entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurs are the marines of business. Figuratively speaking, they take the beachhead, and incur the heaviest casualties. Entrepreneurs have the “no guts, no glory” swag necessary to risk their money, time and reputation on a dream, and because so many fail, we think that only the naturally gifted could do what it takes to reapContinue Reading

Ten signs of a bad boss

Ten signs of a bad boss

Many bad bosses are nice people, but they all create unnecessary cost in high staff turnover and inefficiency.  Motivation enough to get rid of them. But from a purely human perspective, bad bosses give work a bad name.  They fuel negative work conversations and provide ‘evidence’ that work cannot be enjoyable and productive. Bad bossesContinue Reading

Should you or shouldn’t you follow your passion?

Should you or shouldn’t you follow your passion?

If you keep up with the literature you now ‘know’ that following your passion is not only bad advice, but the ‘worst advice you could give anyone.’ Why?  Because your passion, if you have one, may be a financial dead-end, against the law, socially reprehensible, or you may suck at it. Ask the average journalist,Continue Reading

Freedom at Work

Freedom at Work

How’d you like to take as much vacation as you like, whenever you like, and not have to worry about anybody at work counting the days you’ve taken? Well my hero Richard Branson announced on Wednesday that this is the new vacation policy.  It’s in fact a “no vacation policy” policy. What’s the catch?  HeContinue Reading

How work is like diet and exercise

How work is like diet and exercise

Just like the food you eat could be bad for you, the work you do could be also. In fact, the way most people relate to diet and exercise is the way they relate to work. They’d prefer not to do it. Food disconnected from nutrition Long ago native Peoples had no concept of diet.Continue Reading

Emotional labour — the source of service

Emotional labour — the source of service

Someone recounted an unkind incident to me recently.  A govt worker was insensitive and cruel to an old lady who was alone and in need of help.  Like a scene from a slavery or apartheid era movie, this woman thought it fit to speak in a condescending and accusing manner to a person who wasContinue Reading

The key to wanting to go to work every day

The key to wanting to go to work every day

Why is it that so many workers seem to exist as cogs in a system; unsmiling robots mechanically going through the motions, rigidly enforcing the established process. The answer is that these workers are not emotionally vested in their jobs.  They are emotionally detached from what they do and engage in their work as physical labour.Continue Reading

Six things we can learn from the faithful

Six things we can learn from the faithful

I’ve shut the door on many a Jehovah’s witness so it may seem odd to say that I admire them.  But I believe that devout people of faith can teach us a few things about living a passionate committed life. Here are six: 1. Choose your context The first is they have chosen a context forContinue Reading

Hacking your education

Hacking your education

Interesting word ‘hack.’  Being ‘hacked’ usually means someone broke into your computer. Being called a ‘hack’ means you’re a fraud or at least unsophisticated, yet many (computer) ‘hackers’ are respected because they are often just brilliant nerds intent on challenge; not on theft and destruction. Sometimes the word means the use of brute or blunt force whereContinue Reading

What can you do?

What can you do?

What a confronting question. “How can you help other people?” is perhaps a more polite variation of this question, or “What skills do you have?” but for impact I like “What can you do?” It forces you to think in terms of your responsibility to produce an outcome. If we begin telling hight school/secondary schoolContinue Reading

You could lose your job tomorrow

You could lose your job tomorrow

If you’ve ever lived in New York city you’ll be familiar with the concierge/doorman service in many buildings. These exist for not only businesses but for many of the upscale high-rises in mid-town and the upper west and east sides of Manhattan. Doormen are well-paid These doormen (and they usually are men) pull in aContinue Reading

Fake it till you make it

Fake it till you make it

Everyone faces times when they feel like a fraud; some people live their entire lives with that feeling. Many artists confess to this, especially writers.  David Duchovny’s character in Californication proclaims that he’s a writer that doesn’t write. Boy I can relate to that. Interestingly enough, sometimes this feeling persists despite all of the evidenceContinue Reading

Which commitments do you keep?

Which commitments do you keep?

Most people break or avoid commitments, yet for even the worst commitment breakers there are some people to whom they keep their commitments.  Perhaps it’s to a spouse, a best friend, or a boss, but to other people they don’t. To whom do you keep your commitments? If you reflect on the commitments you keep,Continue Reading

Business and Art: BART

One of the many implicit teachings of traditional education is that business is Business and art is Art, and never the twain shall meet. Like red wine not going with fish, or marriage only being between the same species …. sometimes you just have to ask why?  Or more forcefully, “Says who”? Since I’m makingContinue Reading

How a dream job is like a dream relationship

There’s a helluva difference between the idea of a romantic relationship and the reality of it, and there’s a helluva difference between the idea of your dream job, career, business and the reality of achieving/living it. They go through similar stages.Continue Reading

Rise from mediocrity

Rise from mediocrity

A while ago my good friend Scott was telling me about this amazing couple he met at Harvard.  The husband graduated Harvard with Masters in law and business, moved on to become the CEO of a billion dollar company, was an accomplished pianist had three lovely children with his beautiful wife who was a doctorContinue Reading

How Free Imprisons You

It’s either one of life’s cruel ironies or a brilliant example of the Golden Rule in practice, that the same unwillingness to pay for things on the internet—or the willingness to buy pirated material—may also be keeping you trapped in a job or career that you are indifferent to or hate. You won’t even tryContinue Reading

Steve Jobs on living, loving and learning

Steve Jobs on living, loving and learning

My sister told me about Steve Jobs’ 2005 Stanford commencement address where Jobs told three stories about his life that bring powerful perspecitve to education, work and life.  The speech is embedded below and here’s my take on those three stories. 1. Education – don’t be a sheep about it I think most people knowContinue Reading

Learning Good, University Bad

That’s an almost quote from Peter Thiel, the Stanford University educated billionaire who started Paypal and went on to invest in other internet successes like YouTube and Facebook. I jazzed it up a little; the actual quote is “Learning is good, credentialing and debt is very bad.”  (Click here for the actual ABC interview withContinue Reading

Call your shots—and make them!

Three ball in the side pocket.”  She leans over and stares intently along the imaginary line extending from her cue towards the white ball and on towards a tiny spot on the intermediary ball that she must hit with precision accuracy. Slowly, and deliberately, the cue slides back and forth along the bridge made byContinue Reading

“Are we there yet?”

Remember the zeal with which you would ask your parents or whomever was driving, “Are we there yet?  Are we there yet?” Only to have them yell back something like “Be quiet, dammit! We just left home five minutes ago!” We couldn’t wait to get to where we were going because we were so excitedContinue Reading

What’s your story of ambition?

What’s your story of ambition?

A test for Ambition Do you absolutely hate your job? Do you hate getting up in the mornings? Do you go through the motions at work? Do you wish you could do something else, but have no idea what? Have you carried your job dissatisfaction for so long, you don’t even think about it anymore,Continue Reading

What would it take to get you to bite off a lamb’s testicles?

Now there’s a question you need to ponder over.  Not like biting off lamb testicles was on your radar screen, or that you knew that people get paid to do that, but sure enough as Mike Rowe learned, there are people that do this as part of their overall practice of sheep ranching. What doesContinue Reading

Grace in Victory

Imagine not getting that promotion you had worked four years to get, and having the person who got it, run around your office yelling and screaming that she got it, with the help of a large number of people you work with thumping her on the back, yelling in support and celebration of her victoryContinue Reading

Do You Know the Costs of NOT Managing your Commitments?

Do You Know the Costs of NOT Managing your Commitments?

In the quest to improve performance we’ve gone through several useful philosophies about what to manage, specifically we’ve been told to practice managing: time people projects energy These are all valuable management philosophies but they don’t acknowledge the most fundamental practice: the practice of managing commitments. What are commitments? Commitments take several forms e.g. promises,Continue Reading

Two Principles for Getting More out of Life

Everybody loves simplification so here are two simple principles you can use in the practice of your life; two principles you must own to get more from life—and by “own” I mean not just understand and explain, but know and act from (without thinking) like an extension of your own mind and body. These principlesContinue Reading