I was recently asked, what is the best advice that you would give a professional today. The first thing that popped into my head was “don’t get outworked”.
I was very lucky in that I learned to have a strong work ethic from my dad. Whatever he did, he put 100% effort into it, whether it was running his business or cutting the lawn. He was able to instill in me the pride of a “good day’s work” and the benefits that come from working harder than someone else.
As I became an adult and ventured out into the world, I tried to take that same value of hard work with me wherever I went. At times, I encountered myself working hard, but recognized it was not meaningful. The work did not “fill me up” nor was it helping me to achieve my overall goals and objectives at the time. I realized that I needed to tweak my thinking somewhat from the lesson I took from my dad. It wasn’t just about working at your highest level, it was about working at your highest level on the work that will help you, your team & your organization reach its goals.
I do not want anyone to think that I am saying “follow your heart here”. I am not even talking about doing things that you like. We all have to do things that we would rather not. That is called life. What I am talking about though is giving 100% to those tasks that you need to do, the ones that will move you towards your goals. I do not like doing cardio in the gym. I would much rather play sports to get exercise. However, my crazy travel schedule, and a series of injuries (getting old sucks!) have kept me from team sports for a while. I know that if I want to live a longer, healthy life I need to stay reasonably fit, so I get on the treadmill and give my all.
The final catch that I also learned over time was that in order to work your hardest on the things that matter most, you also need to take time to recharge. If you are constantly pushing the needle to the limit, you will easily burn-out if you don’t rest. You need to find ways to recharge your batteries and prepare you to once again step into the arena. If you are not just as intentional in recharging as you are in expending your energy you will be headed for a crash eventually.
So, I guess what I am trying to say is be the hardest worker in the room, just make sure you are in the right room. And when you can, step out of the room once in a while to recuperate.
Now get to work!