Roy Osing is former executive vice-president of Telus, educator, adviser and author of Be Different or Be Dead.
Achieving anything amazing is a messy affair. Rarely do great outcomes happen in a pristine fashion; there are simply too many variables at play that affect us along our journey.
So if you’re not prepared to get dirty in your job and career, chances are you won’t reach your desired destination. Success is never the result of applying a formula but more often requires taking the awkward and less travelled route to get where you want to go.
These approaches will help you achieve great things amid the chaos and uncertainty that surrounds you.
When you are confronted with a formidable challenge, make a decision quickly; overanalyzing doesn’t usually lead to success because it squanders your most precious asset – time.
Take the information you have, assess the implications and make the call. And don’t expect it to be perfect; perfection doesn’t exist in a messy world. The best you can hope for is that you’ve landed on the least imperfect of a number of imperfect options.
Once you’ve decided on your course of action, be confident that you can tweak your choice on the run. Rarely does your first choice turn out exactly the way you expected it to; you can always adjust your actions on the fly.
Success demands that you act fast and not waste valuable resources by over-complicating the route to a decision.
Have a ‘what if’ plan
Have a contingency plan for when your chosen course of action doesn’t work out the way you intended. Fast – or slow – decision-making will require a secondary strategy, so spend time creating backup plans for various contingencies.
I have a great deal of respect for people who are honest enough to admit their plan will probably fail in some unpredictable way and who show the discipline required to account for various potential outcomes. It helps mitigate risk and increases the chance of success.
Don’t chase perfection
Embrace imperfection; there is no such thing as a perfect anything. Imperfections will always exist, and embracing them will lead you to quicker success.
Unfortunately, we have been taught to come up with the right answer our entire life. Our parents direct how we should behave, the school system judges us on how well we follow the rules and the consulting communities proclaim ways to solve problems and deliver the best outcomes.
In my experience, the successful understand that seeking perfection is both a waste of time and stands in the way of progress.
Keep your feet moving
Your objective should be to make as many attempts as you can; when one thing doesn’t work, try another, then another.
Keep your feet moving. Try to reduce the lag between decision-making and action-taking; the world won’t be on hold while you contemplate your next move.
You need to believe that it is more productive to try five things in 30 days than spending that month coming up with one single idea backed by research and analysis that you believe will ensure it succeeds – which it won’t.
Young professionals are always asking what it takes to build a rewarding network. My advice is to align yourself with doers. Find people who have a proven track record of doing things fast. Let individuals who are passionate about doing infect you with their zeal to get things done.
Absorb their passion and take on their energy.
Take inventory of your personal network. What percentage are doers as opposed to intellectuals? If the mix doesn’t overwhelmingly represent doers, lose the intellectuals and get some more doers.
Play it unsafe
Work outside your comfort zone. If you’re not uncomfortable with what you’re doing and the decisions you have to make, then you’re playing it too safe. And playing it safe prevents you from doing.
Playing it safe makes you predictable and indistinguishable from other young professionals all working hard to maximize their career opportunities. Success requires that you stand out and be different than everyone else; shedding the rules of safety is a step in the right direction.
Shun the rules
Rules exist to make us compliant and fall in with what others do; they are a set of standards imposed by others. I have always looked at rules as suggested guidelines meant to empower, not restrict. They empower you to try as many times as possible rather than only consider one imposed direction.
If you get to the point where a rule is in the way of accomplishing your goal, bend the rule – or break it – and move on. There may be consequences, but that’s the cost of dealing with the mess, uncertainty and ambiguity of current times.
Bottom line: Broken rules are the cost of doing messy business.
Forget your job description
Job descriptions compartmentalize the activity of an organization; they specify the role we must play and the results we are expected to deliver. They represent the line we mustn’t cross if we are to avoid stepping on someone else’s toes.
Constraints like these do have their advantages, but they also impede getting stuff done. Progress in any organization sometimes demands a freewheeling culture where people do what needs to be done, regardless of what the job description says.
Look at your job description as a guide and don’t be encumbered by the confines it imposes on what you do and how you do it. Feel free to step outside your current set of responsibilities to do what is required to achieve greater results. Be the person who won’t let anything stand in their way.
Try many things in rapid succession but avoid multitasking. Have a target, hit it, then take on another. Pragmatically, we simply don’t have the bandwidth to successfully deal with many tasks at the same time; we perform better when we deal with things sequentially.
Multitasking creates the illusion that you are being productive, but you’re not. In my experience, it’s exhausting, frustrating, stressful and does nothing to enable high performance in today’s complicated business markets.
Success doesn’t come from juggling several balls. It comes when we are focused on a single outcome and dedicate our heart and soul to seeing it through.
Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. They’re not a sign of failure, and in the midst of chaos, how can they be avoided? Mistake avoidance is tantamount to dedicating oneself to taking no risk and achieving little progress.
Making mistakes is actually a sign of forward movement and is one of the most accurate predictors of success; successful people make more of them than anyone else. But what separates the successful mistake-maker from others is that they view each error as a learning opportunity and try to avoid making the same one twice.
If you want to succeed, take a look at your hands. If they’re dirty, you’re on the right path!
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