My friend started a new job recently, and I asked her if I liked it. Her answer wasn’t what I expected, in an amazing way.
She said, “Well, I’m in it for the long haul, so I don’t really think about whether I like it or not. I’m in it, so it doesn’t really matter.”
So what did she mean? Does it really not matter if you like your job?
Playing the long game
These days, as a culture, we spend a lot of time thinking and talking about whether out work fulfills us or not. Does it bring you joy? Does it inspire you?
But this is the wrong way to think about it.
Instead, my friend — and other people who are crazy successful like she is — doesn’t look for their job to provide them with happiness or joy. Instead, they look at their job and ask how they can be as successful as possible.
When you are playing the long game, there is no room to wonder if this job makes you happy. If you’re committed, there is no point in asking those kinds of questions. You aren’t leaving, so your only next question is: how do I make this work the best it can?
You focus on being successful, productive, and a superstar. You focus on making an impact. You remove doubt from the equation; you don’t wait to find out if you’ll love this job or not. You go in and your only option is to be as successful as possible.
Your success (and the benefits of that success) is what will make you happy.
Looking for a job to fulfill you is the wrong strategy
In his amazing book, So Good They Can’t Ignore You, Cal Newport argues a similar point. We have been taught lately that we should seek out a job that fulfills our greatest passions — that we won’t be truly happy until we have a job that makes us truly happy.
But this is false. A job can’t satisfy you. It is what you bring to the job that will satisfy you.
Instead of looking for a job that will make you happy, or that you will like to do every day, you need to be thinking about what YOU can do to make your job work for you.
The simple fact is that even a great job won’t make you happy all the time. There will always be things you don’t like about it: bad days, tricky clients or coworkers, and a million other factors that keep us from being blissfully happy every second we’re at work.
On top of that, few people are working a job that “fulfills their true passion”. Does that mean these people are just doomed to have unhappy lives?
No. Of course not.
It’s not about your job. It’s about your life. Your job is just one part of your life.
So it is time to start thinking about how YOU will create a life that makes you feel like you are living the best life you can. Here is how taking a “long game” mindset at work makes it possible to focus on success, and get the things you want out of life from your job.
How you can adopt a long game mindset and do anything
It might be a little bit scary to adopt a long game mindset, especially after years of being told that your job should be your fulfillment.
Here are some steps to take to adopt this new, more effective mindset.
1. Know what you want
A key component of the long game mindset is knowing what you want out of life. Do you want money? Do you want influence? Do you want flexibility? Do you want community?
It is by knowing WHAT you are working for that will allow you to choose the right job to go all-in on.
Let’s say you’re committed to having a job that allows you to be at home with the flexibility to go to every single one of your children’s activities. You’re going to need to look for really different kinds of jobs than someone whose goal is to make enough money to be able to retire at 40.
We love this idea put out by Ramit Sethi of I Will Teach You to Be Rich: what does living a “rich” life mean to you? This means, what are the things that will make you feel like you are getting what you want and need out of life?
For some people, that means having the ability to travel at any time. For others, it might mean owning a home. For others, it might mean being able to grocery shop without checking prices.
Get clear about what really, actually matters to you.
Knowing what will make you feel like you’re living a rich life will help you choose a job that has the greatest probability of giving you what you want out of life.
2. Develop the skills that make you indispensable to the people with the keys to your job
Okay, so let’s say you want flexibility at work. Well, so does everyone! If we could all have jobs where we could leave work whenever we wanted, we would.
The thing that is going to make it possible for you to get that flexible job you want is to be desirable to the people holding the keys to the job.
So what will make you the best, most valuable, most hireable person for your job?
First: stop thinking about yourself, and start thinking about the people who have the power to give you what you want (your manager, your investors, etc). What matters to them? What is the one thing you can do that means the most to their goals?
You need to get crystal clear on what skill you have to offer, that you do better than anyone else, and that makes the biggest impact.
And what’s the best way to find out what that is? Ask! Talk to your manager about what is most important to be successful, and then hone that skill or part of your role.
If you’re looking for new work, talk to people who are already successful in that field. What do they think sets them apart and makes them so successful? Ask people who work above them and below them. Find out what truly matters and makes an impact.
You can also ask your current manager and team about your skills. What is your greatest skill? What makes you a superstar? Once you know what you’re amazing at — better than anyone else — you can look for roles where that skill is paramount.
3. Make an impact in your first 100 days in a new role
Instead of spending the early days at a new job figuring out how *you* feel about your new job, your goal from day one should be to figure out how to make the maximum impact and add the maximum value.
Working hard is only worthwhile if you’re working on the right things. When you do this, people cannot help but notice the impact that you’re having. You don’t actually have to brag or show off; simply by being consistent about making an impact, your value will become known and appreciated.
I have a friend who started a new job as a VP and noticed that one of her fellow VPs almost never interacted with his team; it seemed like he couldn’t be bothered. So people went to his subordinates when they had questions, which meant that most of the time, the VP was completely out of the loop when it came to what was going on with his own team.
This made it hard for him to get people to listen to him or trust him, which of course, are critical things you need when you are a VP of a big team trying to set direction.
If you want to be successful, people need to be invested in your success. The way that you get that is by being a superstar who knows the people around you (and invests in relationships) and who is known by those people for getting important things done.
4. Calibrate constantly with your manager
As you go through your day at work, if you’re focusing on adding value, then you’ll be seeing opportunities left and right. Particularly if you are new, you’re bringing fresh eyes and knowledge that will allow you to see things people within the organization may not see or may not know how to fix.
But how do you know which opportunities will have the biggest impact? How should you be spending your time?
The person who knows the answer to these questions is your manager. So ask them!
It doesn’t make you look stupid to ask which priorities are most important; it actually makes you look smart, because it shows you care about understanding the big picture goals and aligning yourself with them.
This is for big goals, mostly. If you see a small win, it’s often best to just tackle it and get it done. (Remember, you are looking to add consistent value, and small victories count!)
Talking to your manager about bigger goals can be as simple as saying, “I’ve noticed opportunities in ___ and ___. Which would be a better thing for me to tackle first — or is there something else that is best?”
For people who are leaders and influencers, like you want to be, the flow of ideas for what to work on never stops. Your employees, your customers, your teammates…everyone will have their own priorities that they think are most important for you to tackle.
But the person whose opinion matters most for your success is your manager. They have big picture insight that no one else (besides their manager) has, and by aligning with their biggest goals, you are aligning yourself with the organization’s goals.
Plus, checking in regularly with your manager is one of the best ways to make sure you are visible, trusted, and on their radar as a superstar.
Let your success guide how you feel about your job
When you are amazing at your job, you get the benefits that really matter. Money, autonomy, influence… the things you want most in life are yours for the taking. So who cares if you “like” your job? The real question is: do you like your life?
Change your mindset, and change your life.