Previously, I worked for a national mall developer. My job was to handle the local leasing (basically short term deals and kiosks) for three malls in my market. Initially, it was a great job, but soon the excitement wore off. I eventually ended up complaining about not getting promoted as others around me moved up in the company.
I blamed my geographic location for my lack of success. If I was in a major metropolitan area like Los Angeles I would certainly have been promoted, I reasoned.
I blamed the malls I handled. If the malls were updated, they’d have a better occupancy rate and I would get recognized.
I blamed my boss. If he would only give a good word to his supervisors, I’d get a shot at a promotion.
I believed I was working my butt off but not getting the recognition nor the reward for my hard work.
It’s Called Work for A Reason
Sometime in my thirties, I started reading self-help books in search of being a better person. They were all roughly the same and they reinforced the same basic messages: You’re a good person. Keep a positive attitude. Work on making small modifications in your life that will result in incremental changes.
I would read these books, think “Yeah, I’m a decent guy,” and then not make any real, substantive changes in my life. I wasted hours reading these books which have long ago been donated to Goodwill for their lack of any continuing impact on my life.
Though I read these many books the depression about my work situation continued.
That’s when I stumbled upon Larry Winget’s It’s Called Work for A Reason while browsing through books at Barnes & Noble. The book’s tag line was Your Success is Your Own Damn Fault.
Huh, I thought. That’s a bit different than anything I read before.
I bought the book, took it home and was in for a bit of a shock.
Early on in the book, Winget writes: “Your life is your fault. You created it. You made it the way it is. Your thoughts, your words and your actions caused it. It’s your fault. Deal with it.”
Then Winget delivered the big roundhouse kick to the gut.
“If your life sucks, it’s because YOU suck.” - Larry Winget
I’d never read that before in my life and it didn’t sit well.
I didn’t suck. I was a great guy. I did a good job.
Except I wasn’t and I didn’t.
Most days, I didn’t give 100% effort. Hell, I wasn’t even giving 50% at times and yet I wanted to be promoted. That’s the height of arrogance.
Winget was pointing a finger in my face and telling me to knock it off and quit whining about it.
I couldn’t point the finger at any else, but me. I couldn’t point it at my boss. I couldn’t point it at my co-workers. I couldn’t point it at my assistant. I couldn’t even point it at the janitor.
The truth was I really was the only one to blame for my work life sucking.
“You aren’t paid to like your job. You are paid to do your job.” - Larry Winget
It’s stupid to admit, but I was under the false assumption that most employers want you to like your job. Of course, it’s better if you do, but at the end of the day, it’s not a requirement and they really don’t care.
What they care about is results.
And my results were average.
I wasn’t the best and I wasn’t the worst. I was plainly in the middle of the bell curve. You’re not going to get promoted out of the middle of the pack. You’ve got to hustle your butt to the winner’s end or stop working to drop to the loser’s side. Either way, just hanging around in the middle is going to get you what everybody else is getting.
“Superstars make their own rules. Don’t like it? Not fair? If you think that, then you obviously aren’t a superstar.” - Larry Winget
This ended up being my favorite moment in the book.
For my whining and moaning, it soon became clear to me why I wasn’t getting promoted.
I wasn’t a superstar.
I thought I was, but I wasn’t behaving like one. The vice-presidents of the company also didn’t consider me a superstar so I was deluding myself. There was only one thing to do. Shut up and prove what I could do.
I cleaned up my act and put my head down. An opportunity to cover a second market popped up and I jumped at it. Soon, I was covering seven malls in two markets. Every other week, I was on a plane and staying out of town for four nights. This lasted for eight months and during that time I was the third highest producer in the company.
That period was one of my favorite in my career. I was so active that every day felt like a sprint. It got me noticed and soon the promotion I had wanted so long came my way.
The company needed help in its Colorado market. I took a promotion and moved for what I thought was a temporary relocation.
“When it quits being fun – quit.” - Larry Winget
In the book, Winget told a story about giving a presentation to a small group of employees where he made the statement, “When it quits being fun – quit.” An employee broke into his presentation, announced he was quitting the company and left. All he needed was the permission from someone to leave his job.
That story stuck with me after reading the book.
While living in Colorado, I was soon faced with a dilemma. The guy who did the same job in my home town was promoted which meant his position was now open. The move I had taken was supposed to have been temporary until his position opened.
On a trip to the company headquarters, I approached the senior vice-president who held the keys to that position. I asked about returning home to the other job. “It’s not going to work,” she said. “We need you where you are.”
I tried arguing my point for a few minutes, but it didn’t matter. There was no changing her mind. I wasn’t going to get the opportunity.
That night in my hotel room, I pondered my situation. I enjoyed my job, but the goal was to always return to the Pacific Northwest. I’d only done eight months so far in Colorado, but it was clear that the company would fill the open position with someone else. In my mind, I could either be pushed around or I could push back.
Winget’s quote, “When it quits being fun – quit,” ran through my mind.
In the morning, I returned to the corporate office and gave notice.
Word traveled fast. No one could believe I quit on the spot and several people tried to talk me out of it. However, in my heart and my head, I knew I was right and that I made the correct choice.
My life would be radically different if I stuck it out in that company. I don’t know if I would still be employed there or not. However, where I am today can be traced back to this book.
I’m immensely happy in the work I do today. It’s my dream vocation and one I will continue to practice for myself when I’m retired from helping clients.
I would never have found it if I had played it safe and waited.
There’s no one to blame (or praise) for my life except me. Every day I wake up and know that I control my own destiny.
When I was down on my sales production earlier this year, I grabbed It’s Called Work for A Reason and read some passages of it again, including the chapter on sales. It helped me focus. I wasn’t blaming anyone as I knew it was all within my own control. There are times everyone needs a little coaching.
I’ve recommended this book more than a dozen times over the past decade and will continue to recommend it. If you find yourself dogging it at work or wondering why you’re not getting the promotion you deserve, take some time and read this book
You might find the problem has been with you all along.
How about you? Have you found a book
that had a profound impact on your life?
I'd love to hear you story.