This review first ran in the Oct. 22 edition of The Hamilton Spectator.
Ten Speed Press
Ask how my day’s going at work and I’ll tell you that I’m living the dream.
Now some folks think I’m being sarcastic. But it’s the gospel truth.
At the midway mark in my career, I’m in a job that lets me play to my strengths, be in the company of great people and make some meaningful contributions.
So how about you?
Are you a happy camper at work?
Or has your career stalled? Are promotions passing you by? Are you overwhelmed with work and burning out? Do you have a nagging and foreboding sense that there should be more than this?
Do you spend all your waking hours and sleepless nights trying to find a way of spinning your favourite hobby into your dream job? After all, we’re constantly told that if we do what we love, the money will follow.
Don’t tender your resignation just yet.
“It’s just plain bad advice,” says author Patty Azzarello about the follow your bliss mantra. “The number of people who make a lot of money doing what they love is so insignificantly small that it’s an unrealistic and useless thing to model. The most unfortunate thing about this is that it makes people feel like they are failing when they don’t achieve it.”
Azzarello says that when you do the thing you love full-time, the effort to make it a viable business that keeps a roof over your head quickly turns your labour of love into nothing but hard labour.
“They end up turning their love into a job they don’t like, one that generally doesn’t pay very sell. They end up not loving life after all. And they waste time that they could have spent earning money.”
So here’s the alternative work / life strategy Azzarello recommends to her clients.
“Do what you love for free. Work for money. Change how you do your job to feel less tortured about it – and maybe even feel pretty good about it. Spend the money you make on doing the things you love when you’re not at work.”
So how can you feel less tortured? Start by recognizing that your job description isn’t a life sentence. You can change it. Find the sweet spot where you what you enjoy most and do best overlaps with the biggest business needs facing your employer.
“It’s up to you to tune and renegotiate your job over time to better suit your strengths,” says Azzarello. “If you simply leave this to the natural course of events, it will not happen. Jobs don’t rewrite themselves just to suit you. It’s a negotiation. Figure out how to align your strengths with something the business needs and then make it happen for yourself over time.”
If you want to move up the ladder of success, you need to appreciate the critical difference between outputs and outcomes.
“When you are a manager, the value you add to your company is no longer based on the hours you spend at work,” says Azzarello. “It is based on the value of the outcomes you create.”
While it may be tough to hear, know that no one really cares that you work 16 hour days and haven’t taken a vacation in four years. Workhorses don’t get promoted. Career advancement goes to those who find and deliver more effective, efficient and productive ways to get the most important jobs done.
To focus more time on value-added work that’s good for you and your employer, Azzarello recommends setting ruthless priorities. Chances are, everything on your forever expanding to-do list seems really important. But with each task and project, ask how bad it would be for your organization if you failed to deliver. The handful of tasks where you absolutely must succeed become the ruthless priorities where you devote most, if not all, of your time and attention. Do that and your superiors will also start to pay attention to your potential and future career path.
All of these strategies are part of Azzarello’s three steps for advancing your career, standing out as a leader and liking your life. Step one is about doing better and producing exceptional results. Step two is about looking better by building your personal and professional credibility. Step three is about connecting better with a broad base of supporters who can offer you a ton of help on your road to success.
You’ll find a wealth of common sense and some counter-intuitive advice in this book. Azzarello , who was 33 when she became the youngest general manager at Hewlett-Packard, 35 when she ran a billion dollar software business and 38 when she became a CEO, shares all her secrets and lessons learned. This is essential reading for anyone looking to join or move up the management ranks.