Who Is Your Real Boss? Some Perspectives on Career Success

Let’s get this straight right out of the chute: your real boss is you.

“Yeah, right,” you might be saying to yourself. “Easy for you to say. You’re self-employed. I’ve got a boss that’s constantly breathing down my neck and a pile of ridiculous demands on my desk.”

Here’s the scoop: you’re making the choice to exchange the time and energy and ideas and patience you’re giving to that job in exchange for the money and the implied promise of more money in the future.

You could, quite easily, walk out that door and work as a gas station cashier or at some other job where you just turn your mind off for several hours, then walk away and just forget about the job when you leave. You’ll earn less money, but you’ll have a lot more energy and patience and ideas for yourself than what you hand over to the company.

“But I need this income!”

Then, in the end, it doesn’t really have much to do with your job, does it?

It comes back to your spending choices. In order to have that house, to have that car, to have that television, to have that furniture, to have that Netflix subscription, you’re trading in your energy and time and patience and ideas.

My belief is this: the people that succeed are the people who invest that energy and time and patience and thought a little differently.

What do I mean?

Option A Let’s say you go to work each day and leave it all on the table. When you leave work, you’re so drained you can barely make it home. You sit on the couch, vegetate for a while, eat dinner, vegetate a bit more, then hit the sack. Or perhaps you’re a parent and you leave work with just enough energy to get through your parental requirements in the evening.

Option B On the other hand, let’s say you go to work and intentionally keep half of your energy for yourself. You give the company 50% of the gas in your tank. After you leave, you spend that 50% improving yourself. You go to night classes. You go to the gym. You go to the library. You go to meetings of professional growth groups, like Toastmasters.

At first, in the workplace, Option A will be the winner. You’ll go to work, set an impressive standard, and produce well for your organization. Option B will look like a bit of a slacker in comparison.

Over time, though, the production of Option B will slowly catch up. The skills and growth that Option B is constantly bringing into your life makes the time you spend at work more productive than before. You know more people. You have more energy. You’ve learned more skills and acquired more knowledge. This all adds to your productivity at work.

At the same time, the production of Option A won’t really change too much. Yes, Option A will hone your specific work skills, but it will lead straight to burnout as well. When you go home at night an empty shell, it’s hard to recharge whatever it is that drives you to success at work.

Eventually, Option B will catch up to – and eventually surpass – Option A in the workplace. Because of the constant addition of skills, energy, contacts, and ideas, the 50% given by Option B will eventually add up to more than the 100% of Option A.

More importantly, Option B’s additional value is tied to the individual, not the company. The successes found through Option A are all tied to the company that the person is working for. The successes found through Option B, at least in part, are tied to the individual. They’re building a wonderful resume for themselves. They’re building a powerful collection of contacts.

The end result is that when Option B moves on to the next step in their career, they’ll be vastly more prepared to find their next step than Option A ever will be.

What’s the moral of the story?

The next time you think to yourself that you don’t possibly have the time or the energy or the focus to do something to improve yourself, rethink what you’re doing. An improved you is a better asset for the company you work for. Dial things back just a touch at work, giving yourself the energy and time you need to improve yourself. Because of that improvement, it won’t be long before the “dialed back” version of yourself is more valuable to the company than the “full bore” version of yourself.

Not only that, you’ll be more valuable as an asset, either to your organization or to another. This leads to greater earnings and more career freedom.

Grow yourself and your career will follow.

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