Success doesn’t just happen. You have to work for it: apathy will get you nowhere and kissing ass will only take you so far.

To be successful at something you need to be awesome at it first. If you’re not awesome at what you do, someday you will be found out, probably humiliated and likely hit a ceiling that will put a halt on your career.

There is some good news, though. As long as you’re willing to put in the work, it’s not too late. You can still become awesome and if you’ve already hit that ceiling I mentioned you’re in luck again because it’s breakable.

Here’s where to start:

  • Stop looking for the silver bullet: the journey to success starts at the bottom of a staircase, not an escalator. It’s not called climbing the corporate ladder for nothing. There is no magic potion for success. Insert as many (misquoted) clichés here as you like, bottom line is you need to start working harder!
  • Know what you want: it’s cool to be all like ‘I let my moral compass be my guide in a career that makes a difference’ but you still need goals. There is no career without them. Stop being a floater. Write down your goals and get at them!
  • Know your business, organisation and your job inside out: research your ass off until you’re an expert and you know all you can about your industry/sector!
  • Seek out and grab with two hands every learning opportunity you can: create your own personal and professional development plan. Show your boss if she’s interested and supportive. Make it happen even if work doesn’t support you!
  • Become T-shaped: if you’re a generalist, become an expert at something; if you’re an expert at something, start learning about everything else!
  • Surround yourself with people who are successful: success breeds success!
  • Don’t make your career your only measure of success: your personal life, health, fitness, hobbies and intellectual pursuits are important and achieving outside of work will make you better at work. Don’t just aim for a successful career, aim for a successful and happy life!

Without hard work and being great at what you do, a successful career will be nothing more than a pipe dream.

When you’re old and looking back on your life, what do you want to see? A loser who looked for the cheap, easy way to the top and didn’t reach their potential; or a winner who worked their ass off to achieve what they were destined to?



What Michael Jordan can teach you about career success

Kobe-Bryant-Michael-Jordan

In 2003, two of the greatest ever to play the game of basketball faced off in the NBA Allstar Game: Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant. The old school and the new school battled in what would, in hindsight, become a passing of the crown from one king to the next.

At one point in the game, hidden amongst all the jawing and trash talk, Jordan dropped a knowledge bomb on Bryant, whose brash cockiness and sense of entitlement often rubbed people the wrong way.

The conversation, about a foul-call that went against Bryant and in Jordan’s favour, went something like this:

Jordan: “Hey. That’s a foul all day long.”

Bryant:“Oh, I know you ain’t talking! I know you ain’t talking.”

Jordan:“Hey you only got three man, I got six. I’m gonna get that foul. You only got three man.”

Bryant: “You’re right. I can’t say nothing to that. I can’t say nothing. I’m gonna shut up and take it.”

And in that one exchange, you can learn almost everything you need to know about getting ahead in your career and in business.

You want the title? The position? The trust and admiration of your peers? You want to be promoted? You want your business to be recognised as a leader?

Then put in the time and do the work.

Jordan got calls from the referees because he earned them. Not in that moment. But in the previous decade-plus of blood, sweat and tears in the gym and on the basketball court.

Jordan was respected so much for his work ethic and his achievements that when a referee’s call was a 50/50 and could go either way, he got those calls. Every time.

Do the time. Do the work. Strive for excellence. This is how you achieve greatness. This is how you get those calls at work, in your career and in business.

Be consistent, put in the hard work and in time, recognition and success will come.



Photo credit: LA Times

The Rule Book: 19 elite-athlete behaviours that will make you more successful at work & in life

In 2011, a good friend and I coached a varsity boys basketball team at an international school in Myanmar (Burma). Leading into the pre-season, I created a rule book which outlined how the team was expected to conduct themselves during the season.

http-::iconomy.com:hbo-documentary:

The rule book was inspired by thoughts and principles that were originally developed and used by legendary basketball player and coach, John Wooden. A former teacher and now member of the basketball hall of fame, John Wooden was an extraordinary basketball player and coach. As a player, he went All-American in college. As a coach, his high school and college teams won an extraordinary 80% of their games with him at the helm. He won 10 NCAA National Championships over 12 years as head coach at UCLA and was named National Coach of the Year 6 times. That’s a hell of a record.

Coach Wooden’s success came from his unique approach to basketball, to coaching and more pertinently to life. He believed that being a great player and a great team required more than just a well-drilled set of technical basketball skills.

He believed that to be a great player and a great team, you also need the right values. Values that, when translated into action embody, promote and facilitate altruism, fairness and humility.

I recently came across the rule book by accident, while trawling through some long forgotten folders on an old hard drive. Reading through it again, I couldn’t help but reminisce about how impressed my fellow coach and I were with the conduct and behaviour of our team that season.

How after winning the Myanmar national tournament, we travelled to Bangkok for the South East Asian Schools Athletics Conference (SEASAC). How at that conference, playing against bigger and more established schools from around South East Asia, we punched well above our weight, coming within 4 points with two minutes to go of beating the eventual division one tournament champions in a group-stage game.

How the boys personified sportsmanship, cheering for other teams during game breaks and being gracious in both victory and defeat, shaking hands and congratulating teams before and after every game. And, how after winning the division two championship, the boys were voted Best and Fairest by the other team’s coaches.

We may not have won it all, but I consider that season to have been a very successful one. When we arrived in Bangkok for SEASAC , it was clear that we were under-dogs. From what I could gather from the snarks and sneers of some of the other teams and even coaches, we were also widely considered a joke and an also-ran.

We were younger, shorter and nowhere near as resourced as the other richer and better connected international schools. While most students from the other schools came from comparatively privileged backgrounds, our boys were from a country widely recognised as third world/developing and that had been locked down by a military regime. A country that had shut out the rest of the world for the previous 20+ years (long before these boys were even born).

A country where until recently, most citizens weren’t allowed out and most foreigners weren’t allowed in. Where foreign journalist were banned and cameras and laptops were confiscated at the airport. A country where some of the world’s longest running civil wars have raged for decades. And, where military personnel with rifles stood posted at every intersection in the former capital, Yangon (Rangoon), the city where the team was from.

Despite these challenges, by the end of the tournament our boys were looked up to by everyone. Why? Because of their respectful conduct, their leadership on and off the court, their heart and courage, and their never give up attitude.

They were honoured as Best and Fairest because they practiced what Coach Wooden had taught them in that rule book. They were honoured because they behaved in a way that embodied, promoted and facilitated altruism, fairness and humility. Because despite not being crowned champions, they behaved like champions.

Today, those boys are following their dreams. Some are just finishing up high school while others are studying in their chosen field at universities around the world. Some are working in their family business back in Myanmar and others are blazing their own trail, making a difference in their community or building companies. Needless to say, I was and still am a super proud coach.

As I was reading through the rule book again, it occurred to me that the principles therein aren’t really about basketball or even sports, at all. They’re about how to conduct yourself in life. They’re a framework for success in any field you wish to apply them. They will never get old, outdated or irrelevant. And the best part — anyone can practice them.

So here it is. This is the exact rule book I gave those boys, with the exception that I’ve added links to some articles, blogs and videos to get you thinking and acting on each one. Work on establishing these behaviours and you can be successful at whatever you put your mind to.

Read right to the end to watch a TED Talk by the man himself Coach John Wooden, in which he talks about the difference between winning and being successful. It’s well worth your time!

The Rulebook-2

Click here to download The Rule Book as a PDF for Free

1. Act Like a Winner

True winners handle themselves with class, integrity and confidence. People who act like winners will usually become winners, so do the same.

2. Stay Positive

Positive people can take on the world. With a positive outlook, so can you! Trust me, it’s backed by science.

3. Commit Yourself to Hard Work

Hard work is the price you pay for being successful. The harder you work, the less likely you are to give up, the more you will achieve and the more rewarding those achievements will be.

4. Commit Yourself to Doing Things the Right Way

There is a right way and a wrong way of doing things. Practice makes perfect. Do things the right way, even when no one is watching.

 

“If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?” – John Wooden

 

5. Write Down Your Goals

Review them often. When you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.

6. Focus!

Don’t waste your time with trivial pursuits. Focus all your energy on achieving your goals. Give your complete focus to whatever single task you are doing at any given time – attempting to multi-task kills productivity and is harmful to your health.

7. Thrive on Pressure

Be Prepared. The more you prepare, the better you will be able to handle pressure situations. Pressure often brings out the best in people, but only if they are prepared.

8. Don’t Procrastinate

Don’t put off anything you could do now till tomorrow.  Don’t feel like it? Develop some strategies to help you out. Just stop putting things off.

9. Be Honest

Always tell the truth. If you say you are going to do something, do it! And, be honest with yourself. Be realistic with your goals — but still challenge yourself.

10. Eliminate Negative Words From Your Vocabulary

Negative words will only ever hold you back. Start by replacing ‘can’t’ with ‘can’ and ‘try’ with ‘will’. Work on becoming the most positive person you know.

11. Learn From Your Mistakes

Use this 4 step process: 1. Recognise It 2. Admit It 3. Learn From It 4. Move on. Failure is not the end of your journey — it’s just the beginning.

 

“If you’re not making mistakes, you’re not doing anything. I’m certain that a doer makes mistakes.” – John Wooden

 

12. Admit Your Weaknesses

Play to your strengths and work on your weaknesses. You’ll be better off for it.

13. Always Be On Time

10 minutes early is even better.

14. Sit Up Front

In class. In meetings. In life.

15. Be Nice

Treating others the way you would like to be treated is the key to success in any endeavour.

16. Be Courteous

Please and thank you will take you a long way. Using them is simple. If you need something from someone, say please. If somebody does something for you, say thank you. It’s not difficult.

17. Smile

In every country and in every culture, smiling lets people know that you are a respectful, caring and sharing person. And that’s the type of person you should want to be.

18. Dress Your Best At All Times

A wise man once told me that the quality of your threads matters much less than if they’re clean and pressed. Learn how to iron your shirt/pants/skirt.

19. Stay Humble

Respect and recognition come from personal sacrifice and hard work. Handle it like a gentleman/lady, not a clown.

 

“A player who makes a team great is more valuable than a great player. Losing yourself in the group, the good of the group, that’s team work.” – John Wooden

 

If you’ve got a few minutes (17 to be precise), watch this awesome TED talk by the legendary John Wooden about the difference between winning and success. With almost 4 million views, it’s one of the most watched TEDs in history. You’ll learn something, I promise.



 

Success starts with being awesome at what you do

I recently wrote an article with tips for getting noticed at work. Not long after I’d posted it, I had a great conversation with my good mate Ben Lee about success and what it takes to achieve your goals (he should know – Ben runs four businesses and is Brisbane’s top personal trainer). After our chat I realised that the article I posted makes a big assumption. One that potentially undermines every piece of advice therein.

It assumes that everyone trying to get ahead in their career is awesome at what they do. As we all know, this is just not the case. Look around your office or workplace any day of the week and you’ll find lazy, ignorant underachievers left, right and centre. The major implication here is that for them, the advice I gave in the article is useless in the long term.

Unless you’re awesome at what you do, all the tips and tricks for success in the world aren’t going to help you achieve anything.

So, before you go trying any of the strategies in the article (or from any other source for that matter), have a good hard look in the mirror and ask yourself: am I awesome at what I do? Am I improving, learning, developing? Do I have goals? Am I focussed on them? If you can answer most of these in the affirmative, congratulations. Make a commitment to consistent, hard-work and you can start thinking about office optics. If not, it’s time to do something about it.

Success doesn’t just happen. You have to work for it. Apathy will get you nowhere and kissing ass will only take you so far.

If you’re not awesome at what you do, someday you will be found out, probably humiliated and likely hit a ceiling that will put a halt on your career. There is some good news, though. As long as you’re willing to put in the work, it’s not too late. You can still become awesome and if you’ve already hit that ceiling I mentioned you’re in luck again because it’s breakable.

Here’s where to start:

  • Stop looking for the silver bullet: the journey to success starts at the bottom of a staircase, not an escalator. It’s not called climbing the corporate ladder for nothing. There is no magic potion for success. Insert as many (misquoted) clichés here as you like, bottom line is you need to start working harder!
  • Know what you want: it’s cool to be all like ‘I let my moral compass be my guide in a career that makes a difference’ but you still need goals. There is no career without them. Stop being a floater. Write down your goals and get at them!
  • Know your business, organisation and your job inside out: research your ass off until you’re an expert and you know all you can about your industry/sector!
  • Seek out and grab with two hands every learning opportunity you can: create your own personal and professional development plan. Show your boss if she’s interested and supportive. Make it happen even if work doesn’t support you!
  • Become T-shaped: if you’re a generalist, become an expert at something; if you’re an expert at something, start learning about everything else!
  • Surround yourself with people who are successful: success breeds success!
  • Don’t make your career your only measure of success: your personal life, health, fitness, hobbies and intellectual pursuits are important and achieving outside of work will make you better at work. Don’t just aim for a successful career, aim for a successful and happy life!

Without hard work and being great at what you do, a successful career will be nothing more than a pipe dream.

When you’re old and looking back on your life, what do you want to see? A loser who looked for the cheap, easy way to the top and didn’t reach their potential; or a winner who worked their ass off to achieve what they were destined to?

I know which one I choose.

Forward this article on to anyone who could use a little (or a big) kick up the bum to get them moving.



 

How to manage optics at work


Note: this article is not about tricking people into believing you’re more valuable than you are. This article is for those people who are good at what they do, are generous and add real value to their team but, who just aren’t good at being noticed. Please don’t misuse these tips. Thank you.

We all want to impress the right people at work.

Why? Because we know that when the people that matter have a positive view of us, the office becomes a much more pleasant place to be, we feel more secure about our job and finding opportunities for promotion is easier.

So, you’re good at what you do (if you’re not, this article is not for you! Go away, get good at it and come back). You’re putting in the hours and producing high-quality work. So, what else do you have to do to get noticed?

How do you give yourself the best chance of getting from where you are, to where you want to be?

Optics

Optics, put simply are the way things look or are perceived.

At work, managing optics is a way of shaping other people’s perceptions about what you’re doing, how you’re doing it and where you are so they don’t make the wrong assumptions.

Successfully managing your optics at work also helps you highlight your value without blowing your own trumpet. You might be putting in the hours, but who knows about it? You might be producing high-quality work but do the people that matter know it’s yours?

Managing your optics at work can make a big difference to your success and future career prospects. Here are some optic-management strategies that I’ve used in the past.

1. Look like you belong

Looking great for work is a no brainer, so I’m going to assume you’re doing this already. The next step is to have a look around and ask yourself: what is the appropriate style for my workplace? Is it a suit and tie, jeans and a tee-shirt or something in-between? What’s the office norm?

Once you’ve figured out the office norm, step it up a notch. You know the old adage ‘dress for the job you want, not the one you have’, right? Well, take a look at your boss, and their boss, and emulate whatever they wear. Don’t copy their day-to-day down to the finest detail (that’s creepy), but something close will do.

Finally, make sure that what you’re wearing is on-song with and adds value to the company brand.

2. Your calendar — use it, share it

In a perfect world, our bosses would care more about what we produce than how and where we produce it. Unfortunately, bosses with this approach are few and far between. Successfully shaping the perceptions of your boss and colleagues about the way you’re spending your time and where you are can have a positive effect on their opinion of you at work.

So, here’s my tip: always default to transparency. Make it clear all the time what you’re up to and where you are. That way no one can ever assume you’re slacking off. One tactic for sharing what you’re doing and where you are is to use and share your calendar. Some workplaces have a ‘calendar-culture’ and others don’t. Even if yours doesn’t, start using it anyway.

Using and sharing your calendar will reduce the chances of people making the wrong assumptions about what you’re up to and where you are and make you more productive.

Start by booking your upcoming meetings into your calendar. From now on, use your calendar’s meeting invites whenever you’re organising meetings with anyone. You’ll look more professional and hopefully won’t have to deal with those annoying “are we still meeting?” pop-ins.

Next, set reminders and create blocks of time in your calendar for working on particular tasks or projects. This will help you plan your day, make you more productive and might stop people from booking you in for meetings during a time when you need to get something done. Keep your calendar updated at all times.

To give you an example of how this can work, I used to block out my entire Wednesday every week. The calendar entry I created said something like: “Wednesday is my admin day so I am not available for any meetings — unless, your name is (insert names of my team) because I’m always available to you”. No one outside my team ever booked me for Wednesday meetings.

Lastly, remind anyone and everyone who asks if or when you’re free that your schedule is available for them to view in your calendar. Hopefully, it will catch on and the next time someone wonders where you are, what you’re doing or when you’re available they’ll check your calendar first.

3. Get in 10 minutes earlier and stay 10 minutes later than most other people

If you want to be a big-dog, you have to show people that you’re ready to put in big-dog hours. By arriving just 10 minutes earlier and leaving 10 minutes later than most people in the office, you’re showing everyone that you’re ready for that next step without being a sucker and slaving away without appropriate remuneration.

We’ve all got a spare 20 minutes — put them to work. Use them to help manage your arrival and departure optics at the office.

I’ve written briefly before about how writing your to-do list for the next day just before going home will make you more productive — well, the extra 10 minutes you’re now spending at the office in the evening is the perfect time to get that done.

4. Schedule emails

Just because you’re not in the office all the time, doesn’t mean you can’t make it look like you are. By scheduling just a few emails a few days a week, your team, superiors and even external stakeholders or clients will see you’re working hard and committed to your job — both definitely worth communicating. Try these:

The Early Starter

It’s almost time to go home and you’re shooting off those last few emails for the day. Pick one (or two) that’s not urgent (meaning it’s not critical that the email goes out by close-of-business today) and schedule it to send the next morning, around 60 minutes before the time you’d normally arrive at work.

The Late Night Caller

It’s likely that your boss checks their email at night (I always do) and seeing that you’re consistently sending emails after close-of-business will make an impression. Start with the same approach as The Early Starter but this time pick an email that needs to be in their Inbox today but not necessarily before close-of-business. Schedule it to send around 60 minutes after you normally leave the office. If you really want to make an impression, schedule an email to send later at night, like around 9 or 10pm.

Remember that not all bosses value employees without a decent work/life balance so use your judgement. Be careful not to schedule emails for when you’re in meetings, especially if you’re in a meeting with the person you’re sending the email too. And, don’t bother scheduling emails early in the morning or late at night if you don’t have remote access to your email account. That might just look silly.

5. Carry a notebook and a pen everywhere

In addition to being a useful tool for jotting down ideas, meeting notes and keeping track of your to-do lists, having a notebook in your hand gives the impression that you’re doing something or going somewhere important, even when you’re not.

Going for coffee with a colleague? Take your notebook. Heading out for a lunch date? Take your notebook. Popping down to the post-office to pay some bills? Take your notebook. Got it?

If you can afford it, avoid standard notebooks from the office supply room. To stand out from the pack, look for something nice, leather-bound and with pages that make you want to write on them. You want to be the boss, right? Well, a nice notebook will at least help you look like one and that’s what optics are all about.

Pick a notebook that suits your professional and personal style and give it a go. If you’re not convinced go back to the office standard, no harm done and it’s only cost you $30-$40.

* * *

I’ve used all or some of these tactics in every job I’ve ever had and in every job, I’ve found myself on the fast-track to promotion. Use these tips to compliment your already awesome output, get you noticed for the right reasons and help put you in good favour in time for the next promotion round.

Do you have any tips or tricks for managing optics in the office? Sharing is caring so tell us about them by commenting below. If you found this article valuable, please share it with anyone you think might also get something out of it.