Ideas + Insights
December 12, 2018
Contrary to the popular song, the best things in life are not free. The best things in life come at the following costs:
Bottle of red – $20 (much under and you’re not invited to dinner)
Chocolate – $3 (Cadbury is still king)
Memory foam pillow – $200 (worth it)
Massage – $55 or $120 (depending on your risk tolerance)
Overseas holiday – $5,000 (those ‘Euro summer’ selfies don’t come cheap)
Therapy – $100-150 an hour (any less and you may as well rent my dog for the day)
The above is a list of the reasons why I work.
Whilst I’d love to be the token philanthropist who works endlessly for free. The above necessities cost money and therefore require me to have money in my bank account at all times. I’m okay with this, particularly because I’m one of the lucky few who get paid to do work I love.
But what I’ve come to realise is that ‘getting paid’ as an entrepreneur, certainly doesn’t come as easy as it did when I used to throw on my Gloria Jeans apron and dish out a coupla hundred coffees a day.
Working hard as a business owner takes on a whole new level of Arnie Schwarzenegger muscle. When you work for yourself, you have to work much, much harder to get those pennies in your pocket. And what’s more, if you’re working in a growing business, you’re last in line for those pennies.
So how does one do it? How do you make ends meet and earn enough keep for your weekly block of Fruit & Nut?
In my opinion, it comes down to consistency. You show up, every damn day.
I’m lucky enough to be surrounded by some pretty exceptional business owner friends, and the common thread that I see amongst those that are striding forward and feeling fulfilled by their work, is consistency. They know that it takes grit, determination and hard bloody yakka to see their dreams come true.
And whilst I don’t condone slogging it out to watch every second of your Apple Mac’s journey of depreciation, I have seen the rewards of consistently showing up to your desk, to your inbox, to your customers, to your staff and to your coffee machine.
Among my mates, there are a few that play with the brakes and accelerator of business like all the good taxi drivers of New York – it’s a game of Russian Roulette – they go hard and go home far too sporadically in my opinion. From what I’ve seen, this just leads to a lack of momentum, a feeling of exhaustion and stopping just short of the finish line each and every time.
Because the thing I believe, is that success isn’t built on strategy. Success is built through execution.
Having a consistent practice of showing up and doing the work is, in my view, far more valuable than any degree of talent or experience. It’s also far more valuable than the business idea itself, no matter how grand that lightbulb is. Having the world’s best talent coupled with the world’s best idea simply doesn’t cut it in the long haul. Being successful and bringing your vision to life is about doing the work and showing up. If you ask me, it’s the defining factor between failure and success.
In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell says that it takes roughly ten thousand hours of practice to achieve mastery in a field. That’s a truckload of time, requiring some consistent behaviour and discipline to show up each and everyday and practice. It means putting in the effort, being engaged and interested, and above all, following through.
In my brief, but bracing, time as a business owner (who pays way too much attention to other businesses and how they’re run), I’ve been convinced that brilliance isn’t born, it’s built. Here’s why:
For better or for worse, our habits come to define us. Habits are creepy little things, they sneak up on us whilst we’re going about our daily lives and before we know it, they’ve latched onto our souls like permanent parasites. But if you can gain control over your habits, and form positive ones that ensure productive days and conscious choices, you can forge yourself into the person you want to become. My day starts when the sun rises, and from then it’s all systems go as I always do my best work before 9am. This habit allows me to pump out three hours of uninterrupted work before the phone starts ringing and my inbox starts filling. It’s a habit I’ve consciously cultivated for the majority of my working life and will (hopefully) stick to forever.
By consistently showing up and doing the work I’m unintentionally but very clearly telling the people around me that they can rely and depend on me. And in return, I give myself a sense of accountability, to be there for those people. Simply put, it’s a two-way street. As business owners, we consistently expect our employees to be accountable for their deliverables and goals. But what I think is even more important than that, is that they should be able to expect the same in return from our leadership. I put a priority on making time for and being available to my team whenever and wherever they need it – no if’s, but’s or maybe’s.
Just like your street cred, your business growth requires a track record of success. From my experience, it’s difficult to establish a track record if you are constantly shifting gears or failing to follow through. From what I’ve noticed, the majority of business objectives don’t fail before they get to the finish line because the strategy was flawed, but instead because the vision wasn’t played out right to the very end. If you’re showing up, doing the work and following through, you’re building on your reputation and staying relevant, just simply by putting one foot in front of the other.
When I back look over my relatively short but sweet career trajectory so far, I’m well aware that I haven’t done anything amazing. I’ve just done the work consistently. And what I’ve noticed is that eventually you reach a point when success can’t outrun you anymore. Not when you’re steadily hunting it down with a dagger in your hand. Success is not about luck or a brilliant idea. It’s about stickability. The stickability to keep going, even when reason and distraction would suggest otherwise.
Image credit: Yoshinori Mizutani
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