Like it or not, work is one of the few things that gives life meaning. You cannot possibly expect your life to have much meaning unless you are doing something that you love and care about. And if you are doing something that you love and care about, how can you aspire to just be good? If all you want is to be good enough, then you are not doing the work that you need to do. You need to be doing something that you have the possibility of becoming great at. And if your work is simply not a possibility, then you need to become involved with something that you are passionate about. Something that you can help to make great. So why are you going to spend your working years – the best years of your life – doing something that you do not love?
I am not sure what the next great technological advance will be. Nor am I sure of how long into the future that this advance will occur. But I am certain when it does happen, new companies will rise, rushing to be the first ones to get to market. And they will fall. Because ultimately, these companies are built with the wrong people. And that includes the founders. Because these founders are not trying to build something great. They are just trying to build their personal fortunes. When you have the right people working for your company, you can count on them to carefully consider new technology instead of jumping on bandwagons. You can be sure that any technology adopted will fit within the company’s long-term strategy. The great companies, let by the right people, will adapt. And they will continue to be great.
The things that make a start-up so awesome in the beginning are the very things that cause so much trouble once the company achieves some level of success. A small, dedicated team of individuals becomes a large, unwieldy troupe of employees. Hierarchies are established, managers and executives are brought in from the outside, processes are standardized. And that core group of dedicated individuals looks around at what the company has become and realize that work is not fun anymore. So they leave, taking with them their innovative, entrepreneurial spirit that helped the company become what it is. Bureaucracy kills innovation. Instead of creating a bureaucratic system to manage a few wrong people, focus on getting and keeping the right people for your organization. The right people are competent and disciplined. They do not need, or want, a bureaucratic system to work in.
You will never have the success that you envision, you will never be great, unless you can get passionate about the things you are doing. Whether you are a small business owner or a mid-level manager in a Fortune 500 company, if you cannot get passionate about your work, you are not going to achieve the success you desire. Nothing is going to impede your success quite so much as hating your work. If you survive Monday through Friday with visions of the weekend, then you are probably not going to be the next Rockefeller. Instead, find something that you love doing. People who are passionate about their job love being there. They love the work that they do. They love the people that they work with. If this is not you, stop wasting your time and find something that you can get passionate about.
Those who adorn rose-colored glasses are destined to live a life below their fullest possibility. Why? Because the ability to see things as they really are and face the brutal facts is necessary to make a good decision. And yet one good decision is never enough to achieve the success that you so desire. People and organizations become successful by not making just one good decision but by making a series of good decisions. This succession of good decisions builds upon each other, accelerating you on your success journey. Even if you do not always make good decisions, bad decisions will not be detrimental, as long as you truly accept and understand the brutal facts. How do you get the brutal facts? Surround yourself with honest people. And create an environment where those people respect you and know that you desire their brutal honesty.
If you have employees that need an incentive plan to work, then you probably have the wrong employees. The best organizations understand this basic concept. In Good to Great, Collins conceptualizes this concept as getting the right people on the bus in the right seats and getting the wrong people off the bus. The importance of this process is greater than the direction of the bus. The right people will help decide the direction that your organization needs to go. And they will do this naturally. The right people will take your bus to awesome places. But the wrong people will not, regardless of the incentive system. The compensation of your organization should serve to attract and retain the right people for your organization. Once the right people are hired, incentive is unnecessary. The right people will do their best, simply because they are not capable of doing anything less.
Some people are in the right place at the right time. Others, not so much. Those unfortunate enough not to be in the right place at the right time are destined for mediocrity and failure. That is how most people see the world. But is that reality? Certainly not. Yes, we observe people who achieve monumental greatness due to their circumstances. Think about the Industrialists of the 1800s or the Technologists of the late 20th Century. Yes, they were born at a time where they would have a significant advantage in these emerging industries over those slightly older or younger than themselves. But so were a lot of other people. The difference? They chose greatness. They chose a life of hard work, constant learning and improvement, and sacrifice. That’s reality. So, instead of lamenting your personal circumstances, remember you have the power to choose greatness.