At TED 2008, I had the pleasure of meeting Jenny Lam (Founder of Jackson Fish Market - they do "branded software experiences"). After a little email back-and-forth, I decided to check out the Jackson Fish Market Web experience, and came across an excellent Blog posting titled, Working Hard Or Hardly Working? VC-Backed Startups Vs. Bootstraps.
It seems there's been lots of discussion online about work, work ethics and dedication. Always an interesting (and difficult) topic to discuss, but I do have some thoughts.
First off, I know how easy it is to dismiss my forthcoming comments because I'm an Entrepreneur and I own Twist Image. That being said, feel free to contact any of my previous employers, and you'll learn that my work ethic was the same - from being a business owner to being an employee. I treated every position I had as if I owned the company, and its success (or failure) rested on my shoulders.
I think it all boils down to where you want to go in life, and what you're willing to do to make that happen? It may sound hokey or "motivational speaker"-like, but I wholeheartedly subscribe to it. When I do my public speaking events at the Power Within, I use this line: "most people I know are trying to make it to the weekend. I'm trying to make it." You can re-read that line and meditate on it, but I believe that is the difference between me and the masses. I'm also known for letting people know that I'm never looking for someone who needs a job, but I am constantly looking for people who are passionate about the work they have to do. There is a huge difference between a "job" and the "work you were meant to do."
When I was a Journalist, I once asked an Editor how many hours a day he wrote. I remember his response to this day: "creativity does not keep office hours." That Editor worked until the piece was perfect. Sometimes it happened very quickly, other times it took several sleepless nights to polish the words just right.
So here are my thoughts on what's acceptable (and what's not) in the workplace:
If you went through the interview process, and you feel like you negotiated a salary that works for you, and you're doing the work that you were meant to do, you should be willing, eager and happy to do whatever it takes to be successful. Should it be at the detriment to anything that scars your mind, body and spirit? Absolutely not (and, if that is the case, you may well be in the wrong workplace). But beyond that, you have to be willing to do what it takes to make it happen.
Life's not perfect. Clients are demanding. You may have to work late (after coming in early), and you may have to plug away on the weekends too. The big question (to me) is, ultimately: did you do everything in your power to accomplish whatever it is you set out to do with you life?
We're all given the same twenty-four hours in a day, the same seven days a week and the same three hundred and sixty five days a year. It's incumbent on you (as an individual) to make sure that you're spending your time getting ahead.
I sucked in school. Maybe it's that paranoia that drives me to read a book a week, or pushes me to constantly put in extra hours to learn more about the Digital Marketing industry. Maybe it's something else that drives me to get involved in the community (both my industry and in charitable organizations), or get up on stage and talk about our Marketing space (and where it's going) in the hopes that people will get motivated and push themselves further.
I do know this: I don't look at the clock (I guess some might consider Blogging work, and it's closing in on 11:00 pm). I don't harp on my paycheck. I don't complain about tough deadlines. I went through my own/personal interview process, decided on a salary and accepted everything because it is the work I am meant to do.
Would I ever do this by placing family and health second? Never.
Do I think that I am working at my full capacity, and that everyone else is unmotivated and lazy? Absolutely not.
The truth is, I think I could work harder, and be even more dedicated.
The only reason I think like this is because I know what I want from life, and that I am willing to do whatever it takes to make it happen (but not at the risk of my family and health).
So, in the dark of night, when the only person there is you and your reflection, how do you feel about what you're doing, and what you're willing to do to get there?
Thanks for the inspiration Jenny.