By Robin Sharma
The only way you will ever truly succeed in this new knowledge-based economy is to become a star at work, that is, an individual who stands far above the crowd and one who is totally unique in a world where most people are trying to be more alike. The moment you make a deep commitment to becoming a star at work and burning all your bridges to the person that you once were, your life will change in an unmistakable way.
These are not the simple musings of yet another professional thinker spouting hackneyed euphemisms in the hope that one day someone will take note. These are the hard, cold facts of life - and they have been so for hundreds of years. And to deny them and continue living a life of complacency is to abandon your duty to do something special with your life. As Ashley Montagu observed: "The deepest personal defeat suffered by human beings is constituted by the difference between what one was capable of becoming and what one has in fact become."
To become a star at work and to start seizing some of the matchless opportunities that are out there you first need to make the decision to raise the standards that you will work and live by. Take a good hard look at the way you spend your days and ask yourself whether your agenda reflects your priorities. If there is an incongruity between the activities you invest your energies in and the values you hope to live by, you have a problem and need to make some immediate course corrections.
For example, if your goal is to have a meaningful and rewarding work experience but you devote your days spinning your wheels on mundane tasks that never advance your professional goals, you need to do refocus yourself on the things that truly count. If a rich and happy family experience is high on your list of life priorities but you have not been to your son's soccer game in a year and you cannot remember the last time you sat down to do homework with your daughter, you need to sharpen your pencil and rework your schedule. The facts never lie and the activities of your schedule will ultimately reflect the quality of your life.
The next step in becoming a star at work is to dedicate yourself to becoming "a person of action". In life there are three types of people.
- First are those that make things happen.
- Second are those that watch things happen.
- And third are those people who wake up one day, at then end of their lives, and ask "What Happened?"
Today, make a firm decision to join the first group - the group of human beings who have decided that life is a gift and every day is a new opportunity to learn, grow and contribute. As you go through this day, look for opportunities to bring a sense of excellence and mastery to your work. What little thing could you do over the next few hours to build relationships at work or make your clients say "Wow?"
What mental attitudes could you adopt to reframe what is negative into positive and rekindle that enthusiasm that you had when you were just a kid? What simple gestures of decency could you do to show your teammates that you care and are committed to showing leadership in a world where real leaders are few and far between?
As I wrote in my latest book "Who Will Cry When You Die?": "the smallest of actions is always better than the noblest intentions," and today is your chance to make a difference. "There's nothing really difficult if only you begin. Some people contemplate a task until it looms so big it seems impossible but I just begin and it gets done somehow. There would be no coral islands if the first bug sat down and began to wonder how the job was to be done," noted John Shaw Billings.
Here are seven more things you can do over the next 10 days to become a star at work:
- Take your hero to lunch. Find someone who has created the kind of professional and personal life that you want and have the courage to take them out to lunch. If there is an author you admire and she lives in your city, pick up the phone and ask for a meeting. If you just read an inspiring article about someone who had turned adversity into advantage and you know you can learn from him, send out an e-mail and open up the lines of communication. In this new knowledge economy, the person who learns the most wins. Learn from heroes.
- Set "learning goals." Most wise performers on the playing field of business set career, financial and personal goals but few set specific learning goals. For this year, I have set clear objectives as to how many books I will read, how many seminars I will attend and how many personal growth retreats I will visit. I also try and set a daily learning quota of three new things every day to keep me stimulated and excited about my work as a professional speaker and leadership coach.
- Become indispensable. While working at a major league legal firm after I had completed law school, I asked one of the senior partners what one had to do in order to become successful at this firm. His response has never left me and has been exceedingly helpful. "Robin," he said, "the real secret of success is to be so good at what you do that this firm will not be able to run without you. Be so good at what you do that you are the first person that we all think of when we need advice. Be so good at what you do that you become indispensable. Then your success will be assured."
So my challenge to your is this: pick your best three talents - 3 core competencies that you have that truly make you special - and then commit to refining them over the coming twelve months until they set you apart from the crowd. Make a personal vow that you will become so good at your professional craft that you become indispensable to your team and to your organization as a whole.
- Make time to think. It is a strange paradox of the frenzied age that we live in that we have become so busy that we do not even have time to think about the things that we are so busy about. We spend our days on projects that need to get done and in meetings that need to be attended. We spend our evenings with people we need to meet and doing activities that need to be completed.
When was the last time you went for a solitary walk in the woods and deeply reflected on the way you are working and living? When was the last time you took a few hours to gain some real clarity into where you want to be professional and personally five years from now? Henry David Thoreau said: "It is not enough to be busy, so are the ants. The question is what are you so busy with?" Carve out at least one hour every week for some serious reflection, introspection and self-examination so that you will keep learning from your weeks.
- Start a reading group at work. If you want to be a leader, you must first become a reader. Knowing how to read and not doing so puts you in precisely the same position as someone who cannot read. We live in an age where ideas - not bricks and mortar - are the currency of success. One idea, well executed, can transform your team, your culture and your entire organization. One idea, read in a single book, can reshape your thinking processes, transform your character or renew your health. Here's the thing: you just don't know which book contains that one idea that will revolutionize your life. But believe me, it is out there. And it is waiting for you. Read daily and ensure those around you to do the same. The company that learns together stays together.
- Look like a star. Get serious about physical mastery. Commit to being in peak shape so you increase your energy levels and enhance your stamina. Rekindle that healthy glow that comes from running or swimming or going for a brisk walk at lunch. And make the time to dress and conduct yourself in a way that conveys your commitment to excellence, not only in business but in life.
- Think contribution. We all have a deep human hunger to be a part of something larger than ourselves. We all carry within us a core craving to do something important in our work lives and know that, at the end of the day, our energies have been invested in activities that have added value to the world and made a difference in people's lives. Begin to see the higher meaning of the work that you are doing and stay focused on adding value to others. As the 13th Century philosopher Rumi said: "When you are dead, seek for your resting place not in the earth but in the hearts of men."