That old line remains brilliantly true: "the harder I work, the luckier I get". Life helps those who help themselves. Learned that one from personal experience. I’m not one of those New Age types that believe "it’s all meant to be" and that our lives have been scripted by an invisible set of hands. That kind of talk smacks of victim speak and fear (Fear of failure. Fear of rejection. Fear of not being good enough. Fear of success). That kind of language also lacks any sense of personal responsibility and usually comes from people too afraid to get into the game. Sure I believe that there’s a force of nature that comes into play when we least expect it (and most need it). But I also believe – deeply – that we were given free will and the power to make choices for a singular reason: to exercise them. I believe that we generally get from life what we give to life. I believe that good things happen to those willing to put in the effort, exercise the discipline and make the sacrifices that personal and professional greatness requires – no – demands. I’ve also found that actions have consequences and the more good things I do – through good old hard work – the more success I see. Life favors the devoted.
Not one of the uber-successful people I’ve worked with as a leadership coach got there without outworking everyone around them. While others were home watching TV or sleeping, these great ones – who have made their mark on the world and have added tremendous value to it – were up early, putting in the hours, showing life that they were dedicated to their dream. I’m not – for even a moment – denying the importance of work-life balance and spending time with loved ones or caring for your inner life. I’ll be the first to stand for those values. All I’m saying is that in back of extraordinary achievement you will always discover extraordinary effort. Just a law of nature. Hasn’t changed for a thousand years.
Ivan Seidenberg, the Chairman and CEO of Verizon tells the following story: "my first boss – he was the building superintendent and I was a janitor – watched me sweep floors and wash walls for almost a year before he mentioned I could get tuition for college if I got a job with the phone company. When I asked him why he waited so long he said: ‘I wanted to see if you were worth it.’"
One of the clients that we’ve worked with to help develop employees who lead without title is Time Warner. The CEO, Dick Parsons, once observed: ‘whatever a man soweth, that shall he also reap’ this came from my grandmother," he added. "Best advice I ever got." So plant your seeds. Be spectacularly great at what you do. Wear your passion on your sleeve and hold your heart in the palm of your hand. And work hard. Really hard. Hard work opens doors and shows the world that you are serious about being one of those rare – and special – human beings that uses the fullness of their talents for the highest and the very best.