Grow into Your Career

Years ago my wife and I were considering the mission field. We had been working in the technical support of missions and Bible translation and were thinking we were being called full time. We decided to bring it up with our pastor to seek that wise counsel. He started asking us about our involvement to date, and I realized we had not been as involved as he was expecting. I thought it was because work was keeping me busy – but he seemed to be leaning toward me not being ready. Finally, he said something so profound it has stuck with me.

“You do not go into missions, you grow into missions.”

Wow – I realized at that moment I had to grow.

Wise Advise Applied

We never went into missions – at least in the formal sense. Maybe God was calling us to something else. Since that time we have started multiple companies, taught at the university leading professional development programs, and served many families by helping them to prepare their kids for college STEM careers. Our service was much different than I thought it would be – but likely a better fit for who we are.

Those words about growing into your role have rung in my ears – and I have heard me say the same thing to many people.

  • You do not go into business; you grow into a business.
  • You do not go into a career path; you grow into a career path.
  • You do not go into a market; you grow into a market.

The Result of Becoming Good

You see, the problem with growth is that we have to wait and work – two words most of us struggle with.

First, you have to work at something. And working at something that is new is hard. You are constantly learning, adjusting, and making mistakes. Like any new skill, it just takes work to before you develop enough skill to make it look easy.

I was reminded of this as I read Cal Newport’s book So Good They Can’t Ignore You in which Cal describes a guitarist who was working hard and a new song – making mistakes along the way. The work was frustrating. The musician was playing is slowly to get it perfect before speeding up the tempo. A lot of hard work on being perfect.

But the result of someone who knows their craft is something of beauty. If you have ever played a song, you felt like you knew well on a guitar or piano and then heard it played by a pro you know what I mean.

I have played all the same notes – but somehow the pro makes it sound so much better and more natural. It is not hitting the notes that makes you a musician – it is that something more you put into it that brings music to life. It takes work to make it happen like that.

Are You Willing to Develop Your Skills in Your Work

Like playing an instrument with great skill, doing anything with practice and professionalism takes work. And, when the work is put in, you can do your work easily and with great skill. 

But it takes it time – and often for a long time.

The typical business startup takes two years to get its legs and begin to generate real returns. Often the first year is a lot of work with little return. Most will quit because the instant rewards did not come.

I have told many wannabe entrepreneurs of what the path will look like. Most tell me they are 100% committed and willing to give it 100%. Most are lying to themselves. We often kid ourselves about how willing we are to work at it no matter what it takes.

Work Over Time

The physics of measuring work and power are interesting here.

Work performed over a period of time is defined as power. We often see it written as

Power = Work / Time

So when we do work on a regular basis over a period of time, we generate power.

The Result of Power

Just like your home power usage (measured in watts) indicates how much work your appliances have done over the month, your personal work over time results in another measure of power… success.

Success might mean wealth
Success might be changed lives
Success might be personal satisfaction
Success might be overcoming the odds to live life on your terms

The Resistance

The reason we do not do work is because resistance. In physical systems resistance is friction, momentum, and gravity.

For us, the resistance looks a little different. Steven Pressfield covered the resistance as this force that keeps us from doing our work in his book The War of Art and Do the Work.  Some of these forces of resistance Steven talks about are:

  • fear
  • self doubt
  • procrastination
  • addiction
  • distraction
  • timidity
  • ego
  • narcissism
  • loathing
  • perfectionism

Pressfield refers to the resistance as an invisible, insidious, impersonal, infallible, universal force that never sleeps and plays for keeps.

I think he has it. Read The War of Art, and you will get the sense that it is a war going on. Pressfield expresses great amounts of grief, anger, and almost moved to violence as he confronts the resistance.

From a Christian perspective, the resistance looks like the devil. Not the funny made-up looking evil force we deal with on Halloween – but true evil much more ugly and deceitful that can be depicted in even the worse horror movie. 

And as anyone who has ever tried to accomplish anything knows – the resistance is ever present and powerful.

Comfort, Fear, and Growth

But, to grow, you must overcome the resistance. To fight the resistance takes us outside of our comfort zone. 

Michael Hyatt, an expert on goal setting, says

“For a goal to be meaningful its attainment should lie somewhere outside our comfort zone.” Michael Hyatt

Wherever you hear people talk about goal setting and comfort zones, you hear them talk about fear. 

“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.” Dale Carnegie

What does it take to overcome fear and leave our comfort zone?

Work.

Sometimes the work is done externally – like when we are pushed off a high-dive by a well-meaning friend. Sometimes others – or just life – push us to places we did not think we could manage.

The truth is – most of us never leave the comfort zone without a push because the resistance is too hard to overcome. 

 

I have coached hundreds of people doing startups and changing careers. For all the talk and plans – only a very few have leaped.

Many I have met with for over two years, and they refuse to leave the comfort of their current nest. For some, their nest is comfortable and nice – such as the well paying job that they like and cannot leave to do what they want.

But for others, the nest is misery – such as a relationship or job that is at a dead end or just pure misery. To stay is to settle and to settle is almost more than they can stand. But yet – they do not move. They are comfortable in their misery. If they got out, they might even miss the misery.

How to Break Away

What does it take to break away from the resistance and grow?

Focus Your Energy

Have few goals. Maybe even have one big goal that pulls us out of the comfort zone. I might be all we can handle. But if we do focus, we get something awesome.

Like an aircraft being blasted into space -it takes an incredible amount of energy to break the gravity. This energy is provided by rocket fuel that is carefully ignited and directed to produce the right amount of force to overcome the resistance. If you do not focus all the energy in the right direction, the rocket does not lift off and therefore does not break gravity. 

Yes – it takes a lot of energy to grow and change. That energy comes in the form of physical, mental, and spiritual packages. And you have a limited amount of energy.

One of the biggest challenges of energy is the waste of it. If we only have a limited supply of energy -we have to decide where to use it. Yes – decide. Which means we have to decide what not to do.

One of the new clients I was bringing into our IEM program told me

“I am pumped – I am getting this masters degree, just started a great new job, bought a new house I am fired up, and I am about to start my new company.”

That is a lot of energy spread out thinly. How can this person even think of winning since he now has a lot on his plate?

It is not just hours in the day- it is the number of hours in a day you can focus. For most of us this is painfully few – usually less than 5 hours per day.

So what will you focus on?

What will you drop?

Where will you spend your precious hours to focus?

For those who have a full-time job and family, you might expect to get 1-2 hours per day that you might have some capacity left. How will you use them?

Pick Your Hour

When do you do your best work? Pick that time to be your focused time. 

The time might be 4 hours, or might only be 15 minutes. But either way – decide the best time you have to do your work. When are you fresh and when do you do your best work. 

Social media guru Amy Porterfield realized that she did her critical work best in the morning. Most people do – but do whatever works best for you. 

Schedule Your Time

Go right now to your calendar, find the right time to work for you, and schedule the time. 

I find it best to pick a chunk of time and then schedule it every day. Mine focus time is between 8-10 AM. You might not have that luxury of picking your time – but do something. 

I learned this when I was working on my Ph.D. After many false starts on the dissertation, I decided to use the hours of 7-9 AM to get the work done. Within a few months, I had made so much progress that I was practically done.

 

Protect the Time

Amy Porterfield calls her AM time her TIGER TIME because she guards it with the fierceness of a tiger. 

I do the same. I will occasionally take some AM appointments if the win is big – but otherwise, I push meetings to the afternoon. By then my brain can no longer concentrate on focused tasks, but meetings and other activities I can still handle.

 

Forget the Excuses

Your situation might be different than mine. You might be a single mom, have a full-time job where you cannot get away, have young kids at home, etc. I get it – but you can still make things happen without sacrificing your priorities. 

The problem most people have with their time is they decide on too many priorities. Only you can decide what they are. 

I have seen many success stories where families worked around the care of young kids and work to generate something of value. Even if you only have 15 minutes, use it wisely. 

Joseph Michael wrote a course on how to use the writing software Scrivner over his lunch hour. He would pull up to a Starbucks in his Honda Civic, get on their WIFI, and sit and write over lunch. Today he is a full time writing coach.

It Still Takes Work

To grow in anything still takes work. You might be growing away from something – like a day job – or growing into something – like your own company. But growth takes work over time. And then you get power.