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.

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 doing more with less?

Nothing. The unarguable obviousness of this is why we keep sending troops onto the productivity battlefield and accept the costs of the workplace stress it creates—burnout, high turnover, lost creativity and poor leadership—like society sends soldiers off to needless wars and accepts the costs of returning war vets with post-traumatic stress disorder

Productivity gains is good strategy for machines not humans

The problem is we think pursuing productivity gains is an effective strategy to job security and even career advancement.

It’s not.

Career advancement will depend on your leadership skills and your success at getting other people and teams to be more productive. Unless you’re clear on why you are chasing productivity gains and how you’re going to use them, all you’re going to get by your personal productivity increases is tired.

Your productivity gain will quickly become the new expected normal, and you’ll soon have to find ways to exceed that as well.

We don’t run machines at 100%

We try to compete with machines that never normally operate near to 100% of their capacity, by using productivity gains to routinely run at 110% of ours.

Engines are never routinely run at full capacity because doing so would cause an early breakdown of the machinery, and reduce their lifetime productivity. Why then do we ask our bodies to?

Our belief about work

Our beliefs about work is responsible for the relentless pressure we place on ourselves and each other to grow, compete and stay on top. Nothing is ever good enough because we all believe it’s necessary to compete, to win, to even survive. If you’re not producing more and more, with less and less they’ll just get someone younger who can, and for less pay. So you work longer and longer to stay in the same place. This creates tremendous pressure and paranoia in people who only want to do meaningful work that provides enough to take care of their families, and allows them to enjoy life.

Is that too much to ask?

It’s not. It’s a choice we’ve been trained not to make.

Keeping up with the machine

We’ve been trying to keep up with machines ever since they were just a capitalist tease at industrialization’s dawn. As I said in Why giving 100% is a faulty ideal, the possibility of 24-7 always on, standard quality, no vacations/sick days/maternity leaves/law-suits/strikes/training has always been a capitalist’s wet dream, and now with robotics and AI, that fantasy is slowly coming off their Fortune magazine centerfolds into their factories and workplaces.

Productivity won’t save you

If your job does not involve large doses of creativity, leadership or customer/client relationships it will die on the vine, and you may not even make it to retirement. You may be shielded by unions, or some peculiar low competitive environment, but your kids won’t be. Productivity gains won’t save you. Retraining won’t future proof you either—things are moving way too fast now.

they’ll always want more

Psychology might explanation why chasing productivity is a fruitless strategy. It’s called the hedonic treadmill and it describes the human tendency to quickly get used to things or events that increase our happiness and return us to a sort of preset level of happiness. We, and our bosses, appreciate the new benefit greatly at first, but it quickly becomes expected as the new normal. You must now find some way to improve upon your last improvement to gain that extra boost of appreciation, or to make you stand out to your bosses.

It’s like that old Janet Jackson song “what have you done for me lately.”

What should you do?

Abandon productivity?

Of course not. But don’t chase productivity for its own sake; use productivity gains to create space to develop the capacities more likely to help you keep your job and move up—your capacities to create, innovate, lead, sell and build relationships.

bring something else to the workplace

Don’t be tricked into playing the productivity game—even if you’re good at it—because you will eventually lose. Bring what productivity cannot: Your creativity, enthusiasm and authenticity; and don’t forget this last.

Do not underestimate your power of YOU.

Despite any of your real shortcomings we all crave people who are unabashedly themselves. Donald Trump is proof that authenticity may be the best vehicle to success and career advancement.  Be you and help make your colleagues, bosses and customers look forward to working with you.

Photo by Lil Shepherd

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 authorised 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

Are you ambitious?

Are you ambitious?

Many moons ago a senior director at my old company sat with me talking about my career and said, “Peter your problem is you have no ambition.” That felt like a slap across the face because at the time there was no one working harder than I was.  Prior to coming to the head officeContinue Reading

The one thing to get when you have a boss

The one thing to get when you have a boss

As we drove along the winding road to Maracas beach in Trinidad, my friend Scott said to me, “You know, I’ve come to realize that there’s only one thing you really need to get when you have a boss.” “Really?” I replied; my sense of intrigue and wonder stimulated because Scott is one of theContinue Reading

3 Noteworthy Developments to the Practice of Your Career

Here are three noteworthy developments that are relevant to your practice of career and/or your practice for adapting to/anticipating change. Game Crush What it is Online Video Game meets Online Dating meets Porn GamesBeat reported on a new online service called GameCrush that offers young hard-core video-game-playing males, the opportunity to indulge their addiction withoutContinue Reading