What should I be when I grow up must be the biggest myth we fool our children with.
Sure there’s Santa, the Boogie Man and the Tooth Fairy, but those are mostly harmless. The biggest myth is the most harmful. It leaves students with unrealistic expectations and doesn’t help them focus on what truly matters.
I first remember being asked the age old question in second grade and about every year after that until I was in college. Of course by the time you are in college you HAVE to know what you want to do when you grow up… right?
There is always an aura of awkwardness when someone says “I’m an English major” and then someone replies “so…what are you going to do with that?”
In order to avoid this we begin to make up answers to make ourselves feel better.
What better way to fight a myth than with another myth?
“I think I want to be an investment banker, a consultant, or a brand manager”.
Or maybe you take the easy way out and just say you want to do what one of your parents does. “My dad’s a lawyer I guess Law School sounds cool?”
Please tell me, what exactly is the day-to-day role of an investment banker, consultant or lawyer? You probably have no clue.
Now I’m not saying we shouldn’t prepare students for careers, quite the opposite in fact. What I’m suggesting is that we stop focusing on the “what do I want to be” myth and focus on the things that actually matter.
1. Your strengths (what are you naturally good at)
2. Your interests (what things you like to do)
3. And your actions today.
The truth is your strengths, your interests, and what you do today matter in order to get to where you want to be tomorrow. Five year plans? Hah.
The world is changing so fast the jobs that are here today probably won’t be in 20 years. (or they won’t be recognizable in their current form)
The truth is there is never a day when you finally “grow up”.
Ask any successful or interesting person you know this question and they will probably tell you they still don’t know what they want to be when they grow up.
Your career path is something that unfolds everyday. The important thing is to not focus on hollow titles or job descriptions, but instead focus on what your natural talents are.
For example – I love helping others, coming up with new ideas and solving problems.
Figure out what you have to do today to put yourself in a better position to utilize your strengths and pursue your passions tomorrow.
The career path is a series of steps on a ladder. With each new step comes a new level of understanding that may have been hidden on the rung before.
Take one step today and you’ll be what you want to be tomorrow. Remember, you can own your career path.
So.. what do you want to be when you grow up?
I’ve been fortunate to read a lot of great books in my life. Every Monday I will be putting out summaries, takeaways, and critiques of today’s top business books.
To be honest I first read this book in college and didn’t get much out of it. It wasn’t until a year later when I got my first “real job” when I began to re-read and appreciate the importance of this book.
Below are my key takeaways from Execution.
“Execution is the great unaddressed issue in the business world today. Its absence is the single biggest obstacle to success and the cause of most of the disappointments that are mistakenly attributed to other causes.”
What is Execution?
Execution is a systematic process of rigorously discussing “how’s and what’s” in your organization.
Execution is not only about questioning, but more importantly ensuring accountability and tenaciously following through.
In the most basic form execution means exposing reality and acting on it.
This wasn’t a principle I learned in business school. But during my years of consulting experience I found out that most companies don’t face reality very well. It turns out this is one of the major reasons teams fail to execute.
Although this may sound like common sense (most business principles are) when people, politics, and organizational culture aren’t aligned, businesses can rarely solve problems they are faced with.
How can you execute when you don’t know what is truly happening within your organization and marketplace?
That’s where leadership comes in…
Leading for execution is not rocket science.
The main requirement is that you as a leader have to be deeply and passionately engaged in your organization adn be honest about its realities with others and yourself.
Leaders should bring weaknesses to light and rally their people to correct them.
Execution is not a program of the month. A leader who says, “Okay, now we’re going to execute for a change” is merely launching another fad of the month, with no staying power. As my former sales trainer and good friend John Hall says, “Talk is cheap.”
Two ways you can check for Execution in your company
#1 Pay attention to what the Dialogue looks like in your organization.
Dialogue is the core of culture and the basic unit of work. How people talk to each other absolutely determines how well the organization will function.
Is the dialogue stilted, politicized, fragmented, and butt-covering, or is it candid and reality-based?
If it’s the former (as it is with many companies) reality will never come to the surface. If it is to be the latter, the leader must be on the playing field with the rest of the team, practicing it consistently.
#2 Check employee engagement in meetings.
Do people sit passively watching PowerPoint presentations? Do they ask questions, and is there a true debate?
People engaged in meetings ask “execution-style” questions, search out reality, and reach specific and practical conclusions. Accountability is also discussed openly and agreed upon by those responsible.
Perspectives should be heard, even if they disagree or are temporarily uncomfortable to hear. You need input from team members and this will help them take ownership of the project’s success.
Although I love John Hall’s advice, I’d like to amend it just a bit for this article.
“Talk is cheap, but dialogue is priceless”.
Do you see execution problems in your teams? What do you think of the summary?
Would love to hear your thoughts!
In life, conforming gets you lots of C’s.
How could that be?
Let me explain…
In school you receive A’s for doing exactly what the teacher says. You’re rewarded for fitting in, following directions and not making a ruckus in class. Do these things and you’ll receive an A.
Unfortunately lots of A students settle for C jobs.
Follow directions, do whatever your boss says, and you’ll live a life full of C’s. C stands for things like cubicle, cog, and complacency.
It’s easy to settle for C’s in real life. It’s the equivalent to A you used to receive in school. People stay in “C” jobs they hate, long after they’ve outgrown the opportunity.
“I should be happy I even have a job”, is something I often hear from discouraged employees.
True you should always be grateful, but being grateful should never be an excuse for staying in a job that’s not bringing out the best in you.
Most people don’t believe there are better opportunities out there. In reality there are endless opportunities out there in the world.
You just have to hustle to get there.
Your dream job is available right now, what are you doing to stand out from everyone else?
What kind of relationships are you forming? How are you adding value to the world?
In school you aren’t rewarded for having the most friends, asking tough questions of the teacher, or making everyone laugh in class. These things are actually punished, yet they may be some of the most important skills in life.
It’s a new game with a new set of rules folks.
If you are in a C job, please know that you don’t have to settle.
But, if you want an A level job you will have to hustle.
What have you done today to get one step closer to your dream job?
I challenge you to do one thing today, and then leave it in the comments below. I’ll do the same 🙂
Do you like jobs? Are you from Ohio?
Join me, the entrepreneurship, venture capital and technology community of Ohio in support of the 3rd Frontier Program.
50% of the U.S.’s venture capital comes from California. Investment money they have used to develop companies like Google and places like “the Silicon Valley”.
We need some investment here in the midwest to create the next Google. The talent is here, the passion is here, but will Ohio provide its entrepreneurs with the capital and support networks necessary for growth?
My good friend (and future entrepreneur) told me the other day he planned on moving out to San Francisco Bay Area to get out of Ohio and into the startup scene after graduation from Ohio University (disclosure he just also doesn’t like the cold).
However that example sheds light on a much bigger trend of the brain drain that is happening in our state.
Talk to graduating seniors and they want to move to places where things are happening. Places like New York, Charlotte, and California are hot, but so is the entrepreneurship movement in Ohio. (we just haven’t made a big enough buzz yet)
Did I mention the program has a history of 22% return on investment?
Check out the video.