Dear Me: Work Hard

This is part 2 of my Dear Me series, see the first here.

While you’re young, work hard, work a lot. Work/life balance is really important, but that balance can be what you decide it to be. Don’t be afraid to work more than 40 hours. Work doesn’t have to be “billable” work, or what you do at your job. You can work on side stuff, new technologies, other interests. But keep busy, keep working.

When I was young, I worked a lot at my job. Many years working 50, 60, even 70 hour weeks. I remember the few 80 hour weeks, those were rough. I was young. I was able to do it, and glad I did (kind of).

Learn Hard

While we’re young, our brains are spongy. Some say in our late 20s is when our brain stops being cool, and learning gets a little slower and harder. Why waste those years doing things like socializing and exercising? I joke, of course.

Working allows us to learn. We try and we fail, we practice, we do over and over again, we win, we succeed, we figure out what works well and what doesn’t. Working isn’t bad. We shouldn’t be afraid of working. In the younger years, cherish it, keep busy and work hard.

Push yourself, sign up for work you can cut your teeth on, that you may know you’ll fail on. Try it all. Don’t be afraid to mess up, don’t be afraid to fail. You’re too young. All the best stories of successful people have speed bumps in them. I have may fair share (ask me about the power strip in the 911 call center).

Generally, most people in their early 20s have a lot of extra time in comparison to older folk. However, you may be married, may have a kid (I had my first when I was 23), or have an active family life, social life, etc. That’s all great. Find ways to leverage your spare time to work. Not for the money, but for the ability to learn more (faster).

But work/life balance…

Work/life balance is real and it’s important. I’m 40 now, and my work/life balance is more about spending my time with my family, friends, volunteering, reading, and pursuing new technologies I want to learn. I love this phase of my life. My “working hard” now looks different than my “working hard” 20 years ago. My “working hard” looks different than yours.

Work hard, purposefully

Don’t work hard for the sake of working hard. Certainly don’t work hard because some blog post tell you to. Keeping your work/life balance in mind, work intentionally, work with the goal of learning and growing. This type of work reaps great rewards! Your sense of ownership, your pride in your work, and improving yourself goes a long way, it can get spread throughout your life. Do it on purpose, don’t stumble upon it by accident.

So work hard, then play hard?

Meh, yes and no. This phrase is misleading. I think it’s supposed to imply if you let yourself work hard, then you can let yourself play hard. Why can’t we do both? I’ve spent most of my career loving what I do. I thought myself lucky until I joined Slalom and found many many other genuine people who love their jobs too.

Work hard and play hard, at the same time. If you’ve had a chance to work with me, you know I may play more than work, but I promise I’m working. If you’re miserable working hard, then you’ll hate your job, obviously. You can try the “chin up” approach, grin and bear it, and see if you can learn to love your job. This may work, but you’ll grow weary of it pretty quickly. Sometimes we do what we don’t like to make money, to feed ourselves, to have a roof over our heads. That’s okay, but make a plan to move out of it, don’t let life live you.

You can also seek out what you love to do. But ask yourself why you love to do it. What about it do you love so much? Is it the people? Is it creating new things? Is it helping people realize their vision? I think we can find passion and purpose in almost any circumstance.

This should go without saying: WORK! Don’t be that person that doesn’t work because you can’t find a job you love so you sit in your parents basement all day. WORK. Go be a barista or flip burgers. Get your head in the game and seek any job you can find. Get paid first, then decide where you want to head. Don’t be a burden on those you love.

Over the course of my 20-year career, I had 1 client, 1 project that killed me. I was on it for about a year until I was taken off due to it being an unhealthy work environment. I did everything I could to be positive, to find areas that interest me, but ultimately, my passion is people, and the people I worked with were impossible. Thankfully, I rolled off.

Be Intentional

I thought this would be a challenging topic to cover. There are many other points, other views, other arguments, that I could talk through. There are books about how to work hard, being happy, etc.

I spent too many years working hard because that’s what I knew to do. That’s how I was raised. It wasn’t until much later in my career that I readjusted and decided to pick when I wanted to work hard and pick what to work hard on. I stopped working a ton of hours on things that didn’t excite me or challenge me. I slowed down, thought through what I wanted to do and I did what I wanted. I picked the side projects and internal work projects that I wanted to challenge myself on.

This has benefited me greatly as I got to see growth in my own life in many areas. I don’t just pick development or techy things to work on. I also pick people things. One of the benefits at Slalom is we have a very large and healthy corporate citizenship culture. I’ve been able to grow on the people side by leading teams and working with others I normally wouldn’t. Those long days of putting everything I have in have been the best days.

My biggest tip is simply work hard and be intentional about it, don’t do it for the sake of being busy. What makes you happy? Don’t be afraid to ask yourself this from time to time, our interests change, our personalities morph. Your reason now may not be the same in 2 years. I used to be soly focused on development, now I find myself pushing towards people and developing those around me. Find what gives you umph to wake up, dare I say your purpose, and see if you can work hard while accomplishing this. I bet you’ll see you can.

What about rest? That’ll come. I do recommend rest, next post ;)

Continue here: Dear Me: It’s about Margin

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