12 Reasons Your Hard Work Isn’t Making You Successful
Hard work sometimes pays off. Smart thinking combined with smart work will always pay off in the long run even if you stumble in the short term.
You work hard. You put in the excessive hours. You work tirelessly on personal projects. How often have you wondered why you’re not further along in your career or life? How often have you wondered why this project is taking so long?
Let me share 12 reasons your hard work isn’t making you successful.
You think brute force will help you overcome intellectual laziness.
I always preach a moving object is easier to redirect than a stationary one, but constantly working on the wrong or minor tasks won’t help you advance in the right direction.
You must consider any goal or project strategically and with major doses of love and desire. “Little thinking” breeds little results.
You think making mistakes is part of the learning process.
Thomas Edison, bless his heart, remarked this when asked if he was discouraged by his lack of successful attempts when inventing the light bulb, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
I hate to break it to you. Failing is just failing. No one actually progresses by failing. All failure does is show you what doesn’t work.
Once you’ve made a failed attempt, you still need to figure out what actually does work. At your moment of failure, you don’t know that yet. Ask any golfer and he or she will know exactly what I’m talkin’ about.
Plans generally let the past drive the future. This stands to reason because people prepare plans based on what they learned—in the past.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for planning. I, however, believe in the planning process, not the plan itself. I believe in making frequent, smart adjustments based on what I’m feeling and what the outside world is telling me. Listen and you’ll hear it. Then, adjust smartly and quickly. By the same token, don’t overreact.
You insist on seeing the entire picture before you take the first step.
Think about building a house. Do you think the architect who’s preparing the blueprint cares about what tile you’re to using for the kitchen backsplash? Complete the sketch and get moving. You can figure out the moldings later.
You don’t quit fast enough because your logic is faulty or your ego is too big.
I wrote an article a few months back titled Are These Biases Killing Your Decisions. One of those biases is the sunken cost bias. You stay with something because you don’t want to abandon the time or money or effort you’ve already expended.
You need to think differently. Every dollar or moment already spent is just that—spent. It’s gone. Choose whether you’d start this project or career today knowing what you know now.
And, if you quit, no one will care how you “look” as much as you do. In fact, next time you want to quite something that doesn’t matter to you anymore, imagine me holding up a big sign for you. The sign says, “Welcome to the Town of No One Cares. Population 7 Billion.”
You don’t impose proper deadlines.
Deadlines are amazing. They keep you on track. They have a way of making you feel guilty or perhaps sweaty. There are all kinds of goodness that come with deadlines when they’re set properly.
The ones that are set too far in the future are bad. You’re as bad at estimating as I am. Set short, frequent deadlines. That way, when you miss one it’ll be a minor miss.
This will also help you discard any initiatives that are no longer worthy of your time (remember the sunken cost bias?). Think of your life as a continuum of deadlines instead of one big one far out into the future.
You don’t have sound judgment because you work too much and are too tired.
I think I just fell asleep writing this line. Get sleep. Change it up. Stay frosty.
You don’t curate properly.
Most people who fail have bigger regrets regarding what they said yes to versus what they said no to. (See My Favorite 8 Ways to Politely Say No.)
Repeat after me. Addition by subtracting feels great. Value the acts of purging and curating.
I once took nine thousand words out of a book to make it better. Get rid of excess. Get rid of people. Get rid of anything that’s holding back your progress.
You spend too much time fixing inconsequential details.
Some parts of the whole are irrelevant no matter how important you think they are. Sometimes it’s the way you stapled the paper (horizontal or vertical anyone?). Other times, it’s recoloring the pie chart for your presentation to the executive committee.
Constantly ask yourself, “Would this matter to anyone else but me?” If the answer to that question is yes, then ask yourself, “Is it worth my time or expense to add it or change it?”
You think the bells and whistles are just as important as the main ingredient.
This is a huge time suck. Get out version one of whatever it is you want to “launch.” Then you can go to version 1.1 or version 2.0 or whatever you want to call it.
Most people spend ten percent of their time getting the first draft to ninety percent complete. Then, they proceed to expend the remaining ninety percent of their time getting the last ten percent complete. It’s ridiculous.
You’re not motivated because you don’t love it.
You might have loved it once. That love might have been genuine or misguided. Either way, if your motivation or love of something is waning, take a breather and reevaluate.
A few minutes of critical thinking might help you gain clarity. Take a peek at Out of Reach but in Sight: Using Goals to Achieve Your Impossible to help you figure this out. For a limited time, I’m giving it away—free—if you sign up for my blog here.
You don’t think ahead because you’re always thinking behind.
I laugh when I see companies constantly trying to keep up with their competitors. I feel sad when I see individuals trying to “keep up” with their peers or friends.
Companies and people are constantly looking at what has already been done! Think about it. It’s the only way you can make a comparison. You have to see what’s been done to know how far behind you are.
Forget that nonsense. Stay true to yourself and what you want accomplish. Go where your heart tells you to go. I promise your heart never lies. Just be ready. You will need to ignore a lot of criticism if you want to see the unseen. It’s all worth it. Trust me.
As always, I’d love to hear from you: What are the biggest reasons you don’t feel you’re getting ahead in life?
- Want to know about your skills, experience and education.
- Want to know how these apply to the position.
- Want to hear that you understand what the position is all about.
- Want to know that you have done your research on the position, organization, industry
- Want to hear about your results and accomplishments
- Want to hear how you found solutions to problems in the past
- Want to hear how you helped the organizations/work groups you have worked for
- Want to hear examples of how you are a problem solver, or team player
A Competitive Process
- There can be hundreds of applicants per position
- Candidates will bring a wide variety of experience, skills, education and successes to the table
- The hiring manager’s goal is to select the candidate that most meets his/her needs and is the best fit
- This is a highly competitive process, where everyone must “bring” their best
- BE AT THE TOP OF YOUR GAME!
- Don’t be discouraged!
A Snapshot of Attributes
- Think of the interview as a short sales presentation
- You have a short time to demonstrate to the hiring manager how your attributes can be utilized to meet his/her position’s needs.
- Success Traits
- Prepare, prepare, prepare
- Change your mindset about the real purpose of interviews
- Realize that hiring managers have a need
- Interviews are conducted to go beyond the lists of skills and experience applicants have
- Interviews are conducted to help the hiring manager choose the solution to their need
- Managers who have open positions are balancing the responsibilities of maintaining the current workload while searching for a new employee; make it easier for them to pick you!
It is up to you to show them how YOU can help THEM to be successful!
- Interviews are designed to discover:
- Candidate’s knowledge of the position
- Candidate’s understanding of what needs the position fulfills
- Candidate’s understanding of the “big picture”
- How the candidate will help to meet the goals of the position/organization
- If the candidate is a good fit for the position
- If the candidate exhibits desirable personal characteristics (Success Traits)
- As a candidate it is also important that you know:
- The details of the position
- What needs the position fulfills
- Expectations of the position
- How you can be a good fit for this position
- What you can contribute to this position
Step 1: Research
- Read the job posting carefully; highlight key areas:
- What is the hiring manager’s need?
- Review your resume/work experience. Highlight areas that correspond with the key areas on the job posting:
- How does your experience/skills meet these needs?
- Research the overall functions and goals of the work unit:
- Have an understanding of the “big picture” for the position and the overall work group.
- Explore resources that are connected to the position:
- For example: UI Claims and Tax system, tools used in the work unit.
- Know the goals of the Division and vision of the Department:
- Employment Services goals
- NMDWS Mission and Vision
- Try to have a short conversation with the hiring manager or any other key people, if possible:
- Learn more about the position from the hiring manager’s standpoint. This is also an opportunity to show them you are interested!
- If possible, observe the position or work unit:
- The more you know about the position, the more confident you will be in the interview.
- Prepare hard copy examples of your work, if relevant to the position or to demonstrate the overall quality of your work.
Step 2: Anticipate
- Anticipate the types of questions you may be asked.
- Typical questions for the type of position
- Typical behavioral interview questions
- Draft answers to these typical questions.
- Anticipate any challenges you might face in the interview-know and prepare for your “weaknesses”
Step 3: Rehearse
- Practice your responses to questions.
- Practice for several days until you can provide fluid, unrehearsed sounding responses.
- Role play with a friend or by yourself.
- Practice speaking at a moderate pace and volume.
- Practice sounding confident, but not brash, aggressive, or pushy.
- Get a good night’s rest the night before. Allow yourself plenty of time to get ready and not feel rushed or flustered.
- Dress professionally, even if that is not the typical way you dress for work.
- How do you dress or present yourself day-to-day?
- Pay attention to grooming.
- Be on time, arrive at your appointment a little early.
- Be polite to any staff members that work in the interviewing unit.
- Bring with you a few copies of your resume, a pen and tablet, a copy of the job posting, and any hard copy samples of your work that you have selected to bring.
- Be aware of your non-verbal behaviors:
- Handshake; firm, clean hands!
- Don’t fidget or gesture with hands too much; it can give the appearance of nervousness
- During the interview:
- Pleasant, sincere manner; this is not a time to grind any axes!
- Listen attentively, don’t interrupt
- Pause before you answer. Take your time and ask for clarification if needed
- Make eye contact with the person asking the question, also with others on the panel
Interview Etiquette –Avoid These Mistakes
- Do not arrive late. Allow extra time just in case of any hold ups.
- Turn off your cell phone before entering the interview area.
- Do not “talk up a storm”. When we get nervous, we tend to speak very fast; slow down and speak at an even pace.
- Watch your body language.
- Don’t criticize others to make your point; you will only end up making yourself appear negative.
- Don’t behave too casually, even if you know the interviewer. The interview is an important, professional meeting.
- Stay “on” for the whole interview
- Be sure you have an updated resume
- Target your resume to the position
- Check spelling and grammar
- Have someone proofread your resume
- Attend a resume workshop if you are not sure how to create a professional resume
- Bring several copies in case of a panel
- If it is not asked for, leave behind after the interview
- Come prepared to ask one or two relevant questions about the position.
- Be sincere!
- Try to show your knowledge of and genuine interest in the position.
- Ask forward thinking questions, such as, “What are your goals for this position?” or “What do you want to see in a candidate?”
- This time is still part of the interview.
- Thank the interviewer(s) for their time today.
- Summarize your interest in the position and your confidence in your ability to really make a difference!
- Refer to their ideas of where they would like to be in the future.
- If applicable, leave behind your samples and offer to answer any questions they might have after the interview.
- Make eye contact with each person as you thank them (shake hands if it seems appropriate).
- Leave with a smile.
- Thank you note or follow up email.