Plan “A:” You can do something you might dislike (deal with angry customers) and get paid.
Plan “B:” You can do something you enjoy (watch movies) without getting paid at all.
You can do “A” as long as you can put up with your circumstances and you need the money.
You can do “B” as long as you can go without a paycheck.
You probably can’t do A or B indefinitely. So you might opt for Plan “C,” falling into a life working a job you don’t like and augmenting it by zoning out in front of your flat screen during the off hours. You can get away with this for years. People understand.
Or you can make a new plan, Plan “Z,” and put on paper how long you intend to stay at your job, your options for moving within the organization or moving on, deciding where opportunities are and how you can leverage your skills, experience and interests to take advantage of them. But that takes some work, and you could fail. And the TV has 900 channels.
A pet dog is an eternal optimist. He’ll check his bowl several times during the day, looking to see if bacon, liverwurst or some other tasty treat has appeared. The bowl itself represents limitless potential. Just wait long enough and somebody will put something in there.
A trained bird dog is an eternal optimist, too. But instead of waiting around his bowl he has work to do, locating game birds. (A good, trained sporting dog is not a “pet.”) Despite doing more work than his pet counterpart, the bird dog may actually get less “reward” in terms of handouts (and he doesn’t get to eat the birds he flushes).
Both dogs are happy, so which is the better life strategy? Granted, the dogs don’t have a choice, but you do.
You can wait around checking your phone or laptop for incoming business opportunities, and sometimes you’ll get some bacon. And it’s real comfortable relaxing on the couch.
Or you can get out there, relentlessly working the terrain, risking burrs and brambles as you enthusiastically seek out possibilities around each hill and dale.
Both dogs have their day. What will yours look like?
There are unlimited choices. But you have limited time, resources and attention. There are a lot of marketers interested in helping you figure out what you want. If you know what it is that you want, well then a salesperson can help you more finely narrow your options and you’ll enjoy the process.
“I want a Ford F-150 XLT Supercab with 6-inch chrome step bars.”
“Great, Ruby Red or Tuxedo Black?”
But if you don’t know what you want, that’s a source of stress. Continuous, nagging, soul-sucking stress. To combat this, you might look to others to see what you want.
Look at the Audi he just bought. Maybe I should get that.
Look at the job she just took. Maybe I should work there.
Sometimes others inspire us so looking to follow their lead is a good thing. But too often, the road others are traveling isn’t the one we ever really wanted to be on. Deep down we know it.
Deep down you know what you want, and probably always have. The trick is making sure those are the things you’re working toward.
We spend a lot of time and effort trying to “beat” the other guy. But trying to beat others is a complete waste of your time. And it’s not how the pros do it. Paul Kingsman talks about how he trained as a competitive swimmer not to beat others, but to win by competing against himself. “We took the view that the objective was to swim two minutes; I had no guarantee that two minutes would be fast enough to win,” Kingsman says. “But I hit my time and on the day, it was good enough for a medal.” As it turned out, Kingsman nabbed that Olympic medal by only four one-hundredths of a second!
The new year is a good time to think about what we want to excel in. But as we do it’s important to note that winning–-be it gold, silver, or bronze–-involves factors that are often out of our control. You can’t control how fast the other guy swims or how many products another businesswoman sells. You can only set challenging, measurable goals for yourself and work to achieve them.
In doing so, though, you may find others starting to try and compete with you, but then they’ll be making a mistake that you no longer make.
Look at him. The cool car, the career, the cash. Look at her. The condo, the corner office, the cool coat.
Let this be the year you stop caring about them and what they all have. Let this be the year you focus on developing your abilities, sharing your talents with the world, and obtaining things of real value and meaning to you.