When people ask me something, I now rarely answer directly. Instead, I run the question through a theory in my own mind, so I know what the theory says is likely to be the result of one course of action, compared to another. I'll then explain how it applies to their question. To be sure they understand it, I'll describe to them how the process in the model worked its way through an industry or situation different from their own, to help them visualize how it works. People, typically, then say, "Okay, I get it." They'll then answer their question with more insight than I could possibly have.
A hallmark of good theory: it dispenses its advice in "if-then" statements.
The pursuit of money can, at best, mitigate the frustrations in your career--yet the siren song of riches has confused and confounded some of the best in our society. In order to really find happiness, you need to continue looking for opportunities that you believe are meaningful, in which you will be able to learn new things, to succeed, and be given more and more responsibility to shoulder.
The Balance of Calculation and Serendipity
You have to balance the pursuit of aspirations and goals with taking advantage of unanticipated opportunities. In our lives and in our careers, whether we are aware of it or not, we are constantly navigating a path by deciding between our deliberate strategies and the unanticipated alternatives that emerge.
As you go through your career, you will begin to find the areas of work you love and in which you will shine; you will, hopefully, find a field where you can maximize the motivators and satisfy the hygiene factors. But it's rarely a case of sitting in an ivory tower and thinking through the problem until the answer pops into your head. Strategy almost always emerges from a combination of deliberate and unanticipated opportunities. What's important is to get out there and try stuff until you learn where your talents, interests, and priorities begin to pay off. When you find out what really works for you, then it's time to flip from an emergent strategy to a deliberate one.
While you are still figuring out your career, you should keep the aperture of your life wide open. Depending on your particular circumstances, you should be prepared to experiment with different opportunities, ready to pivot, and continue to adjust your strategy until you find what it is that both satisfies the hygiene factors and gives you all the motivators. Only then does a deliberate strategy make sense. When you get it right, you'll know.
What Has to Prove True for This to Work?
Ask yourself what assumptions have to prove true for you to be happy in the choice you are contemplating. Are you basing your position on extrinsic or intrinsic motivators? Why do you think this is going to be something you enjoy doing? What evidence do you have? Every time you consider a career move, keep thinking about the most important assumptions that have to prove true, and how you can swiftly and inexpensively test if they are valid. Make sure you are being realistic about the path ahead of you.
Your Strategy Is Not What You Say It Is
A strategy--whether in companies or in life--is created through hundreds of everyday decisions about how you spend your time, energy, and money. With every moment of your time, every decision about how you spend your energy and your money, you are making a statement about what really matters to you. You can talk all you want about having a clear purpose and strategy for your life, but ultimately this means nothing if you are not investing the resources you have in a way that is consistent with your strategy. In the end, a strategy is nothing but good intentions unless it's effectively implemented. How do you make sure that you're implementing the strategy you truly want to implement? Watch where your resources flow--the resource allocation process. If it is not supporting the strategy you've decided upon, you run the risk of a serious problem. You might think you are a charitable person, but how often do you really give your time or money to a cause or an organization that you care about? If your family matters most to you, when you think about all the choices you've made with your time in a week, does your family seem to come out on top? Because if the decisions you make about where you invest your blood, sweat, and tears are not consistent with the person you aspire to be, you'll never become that person.
Finding Happiness in Your Relationships
If you defer investing your time and energy until you see that you need to, chances are it will already be too late. But as you are getting your career off the ground, you will be tempted to do exactly that: assume you can defer investing in your personal relationships. You cannot. The only way to have those relationships bear fruit in your life is to invest long before you need them.
If you work to understand what job you are being hired to do, both professionally and in your personal life, the payoff will be enormous.
The path to happiness is about finding someone who you want to make happy, someone whose happiness is worth devoting yourself to. If what causes us to fall deeply in love is mutually understanding and then doing each other's job to be done, then I have observed that what cements that commitment is the extent to which I sacrifice myself to help her succeed and for her to be happy. This principle--that sacrifice deepens our commitment--doesn't just work in marriages. It applies to members of our family and close friends, as well as organizations and even cultures and nations.
Planning Your Courses at the Schools of Experience
"I wouldn't ever make the decision based upon how much it paid or the prestige," he told my students "Instead, it was always: is it going to give me the experiences I need to wrestle with?"
Staying Out of Jail
The marginal cost of doing something "just this once" always seems to be negligible, but the full cost will typically be much higher. Yet unconsciously, we will naturally employ the marginal-cost doctrine in our personal lives. A voice in our head says, "Look, I know that as a general rule, most people shouldn't do this. But in this particular extenuating circumstance, just this once, it's okay." And the voice in our head seems to be right; the price of doing something wrong "just this once" usually appears alluringly low. It suckers you in, and you don't see where that path is ultimately headed or the full cost that the choice entails.
100 percent of the time is easier than 98 percent of the time. Decide what you stand for. And then stand for it all the time.
The Importance of Purpose
To maximize the value of the advice in this book, you must have a purpose in your life.
Purpose must be deliberately conceived and chosen, and then pursued. When that is in place, however, then how the company gets there is typically emergent--as opportunities and challenges emerge and are pursued. The type of person you want to become--what the purpose of your life is--is too important to leave to chance. It needs to be deliberately conceived, chosen, and managed. The opportunities and challenges in your life that allow you to become that person will, by their very nature, be emergent.
The Three Parts of Purpose
A likeness of a company is what the key leaders and employees want the enterprise to have become at the end of the path that they are on. The word likeness is important here, because it isn't something that employees will excitedly "discover" that the company has become at some point in the future. Rather, the likeness is what the managers and employees hope they will have actually built when they reach each critical milestone in their journey.
Second, for a purpose to be useful, employees and executives need to have a deep commitment--almost a conversion--to the likeness that they are trying to create.
The third part of a company's purpose is one or a few metrics by which managers and employees can measure their progress.