Hard Work Beats Talent That Doesn’t Work Hard

Be better, not just bigger
Be better, not just bigger

I never missed a meal growing up…ever. As the oldest of six kids you can tell who made the dinner table a priority. Our family has five skinny kids and me, the guy who never met a menu item he didn’t like. Along with it came all the stupid big kid nicknames like Moose, Big Poppa, and BigUn. One thing you get told over and over again when you are always the biggest kid is to be careful not to hurt the other kids. Of course it wasn’t all bad and being a bit bigger helped me get recruited by schools and pay for college, something that was otherwise going to be a challenge.

As I’ve gotten older and taken up jiu jitsu as a means of staying in shape I’m still often the biggest guy which still means being careful not to hurt people. It also means focusing harder on technique and the proper way of doing things. One thing that is easy to do when you have a 100 pounds on the guy you are working out with is to become focused on the outcome and use size to ensure you win. This may make you feel a little better about yourself in the near term but it is a surefire way to slow your development. In fact it completely ruins any feedback loop you may be trying to establish that would enable you to measure your progress. One thing I have done because of this is to really try to focus on proper execution over results and ensuring that I’m doing things correctly so that I can compensate for some of the natural advantages that size and strength bring, so that I’m prepared should the day come when I don’t have those advantages. I’ve also made it a habit of finding people who are better than me that can expose my weaknesses despite any physical advantage.

These are the same challenges that many of us face in developing new skills as managers and executives. Its sometimes hard to tell if we are getting better because the power of the position makes the feedback loop a bit more fuzzy. Nobody really wants to tell their boss that the new skill they are working on really isn’t hitting on all cylinders. Because of this is is critical to focus on your execution and really try to build your own ability to gauge your progress. It is also critical to identify and encourage those that are willing to provide you with constructive feedback to be forthcoming. As we move through our careers and advance it becomes harder and harder to get feedback on our performance because there are fewer opportunities and individuals that can provide that feedback. Contrary to the popular belief that things get easier as you advance in your career, increasing your skills often actually gets harder. Figuring out ways to ensure that you continue to progress means improving your internal capability to critique your performances and cultivating relationships with others that are willing and capable of providing this feedback to you becomes more and more critical as you refine your skills and advance in your career.

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