Everyone knows that we must work hard to succeed. But is any kind of work sufficient? Obviously not. Then, what kind of work do we need to get there?
In the book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell explains the concept of 10,000 hours. (Not the Robin Padilla movie, which looks interesting.)
He gives several examples of world-class talents in different fields who all have the common element of having put 10,000 hours into their craft – Bill Gates has over 10,000 hours of programming, the Beatles had over 10,000 hours of playing as a band, etc.
Some people then seem to think that as long as one stays the requisite 10,000 hours, you’re on the fast track to being a world-class talent. Not true. 10,000 hours spent playing basketball in the neighborhood court is not the same as playing 10,000 hours of basketball with coaching, training, and drilling.
In short, the kind of working hard we do matters.
Whether you’re a student contemplating your future career or you’re working at a job or business that you want to grow, make sure that you aren’t just logging hours. But you’re putting in the kind of work that will have great impact for your future.
Here are three kinds of High Impact Work:
By creative work, I don’t mean go with whatever crazy idea your mind concocts and call it creativity. Too many unhelpful and useless ideas are marketing themselves this way, but are of no value to anyone else. Yes, creativity is in the unorthodox, but for it to be High Impact it must have value to someone else.
High Impact Creative Work means making something where there once was nothing – write things that will benefit others, create a system in your office that many can use, make images that simplify communication, videos that are entertaining but surprisingly educational. Create! Try even just writing a letter to your loved ones telling them how valuable you are to you. The discomfort you feel doing it is your creative workout.
Don’t just consume. Our mobile devices already have so much creative capacity in them, but we mostly use them for consumption. The process of creating something, anything, of value will bear great results in the long run.
2. Do Weighty Work
Weight, the quality of being heavy, has the idea that we have a load on our shoulders. That is High Impact Work. If your job is so light that you don’t feel the weight on your shoulders to deliver, then it is an insignificant role and will bear little benefit to you in the long run. Unfortunately, for some of us, that’s the kind of work we look for. We want to be in groups with classmates where we can do the least amount of work possible and get all the benefit from theirs. (I know this because I was the same way for much of my college life.)
But if we do Weighty Work. If we take responsibility for something. If we say, “I’ll be in charge of this.” The guy who makes sure the meeting room is set up every morning. The girl who makes sure everyone is informed about the decisions from the meeting. The person responsible for this project. It doesn’t have to be big at first. Just make sure you deliver every time. But as you do this many things happen:
- You feel the weight. You can’t make excuses now because you’re the one in charge. If it doesn’t happen it’s on YOU.
- You get stronger as you carry that weight. As you take responsibility, you learn to live with it. It becomes a part of your life.
- People notice you carrying the weight and not dropping it. They start to give you heavier ones because they know you can take it.
3. Do Leadership Work
Leadership doesn’t need a position or a title. Leadership Work is like Weighty Work in that you take responsibility and answer for something. And it has one other dimension: the need to work with and through other people. Leadership Work cannot be separated from the skill of communicating with others: inspiring, motivating, listening, delegating, encouraging, correcting, training, etc.
This is one of the most effective High Impact Work(outs) because it will test multiple parts of you, like an exercise that hits many muscle groups at the same time. If you don’t know where to start, try following a leader first and then take it from there. Following is potentially a great step toward leading.
You don’t need to wait for someone to give you that role right away. Look around you: Are there problems that need solving? Is there someone that needs help? Are there people who are passionate about something but are not coordinated? Are there opportunities no one is taking advantage of? Is there a change you always wish for, talk about with classmates or coworkers but never go around to doing? These are all possible moments of leadership.
So here are three of the High Impact Work(outs) you can do to improve yourself in your career. Let’s ask ourselves:
1. Am I creating or only consuming? (Creative Work)
2. Am I carrying the weight or shirking it? (Weighty Work)
3. Am I leading or only complaining, criticizing, being lazy, blaming, basically anything besides leading and following? (Leadership Work)