First In, Last Out

Businessman checking watch in office by clock
Businessman checking watch in office by clock

Being a successful executive is incredibly gratifying and like everything in life it comes with its own load of inherent challenges. Most individuals who find themselves in A-type competitive worlds all strive for the same thing; success. In these circles, be they investment bankers, lawyers, doctors or Hollywood agents such as myself, success is most often defined by the accruing of certain success quantifiers. Most simply they tend to be number of deals closed or cases won, professional milestones being met and met quickly... and MONEY. We all love that trusty old scoreboard.

I discovered early on that the biggest impediment standing between me and these badges of success was time. I recall a long time ago, when I first forayed into the professional world, my father dropping wisdom on me when he stated "the best thing about money... is that you can always make more of it." I only realized the power of that statement when considered against something finite and irreplaceable like time. Time is in actuality far more scarce and valuable than money. However, we live in a corporate environment that often places great importance on the "First In, Last Out" philosophy with the real underlying danger resting in the fact that most members of these competitive fields never attain success due to mismanaged time or more simply, burning out. Ironically, we are most often at risk of this pitfall not because of upper management expectations, but because of our ambition and passion for our respective fields in that never-ending pursuit of success. We hinder ourselves by getting sucked into inefficient work-wormholes and placing competitive pressure on our peers and ourselves. This danger is self-fabricated, our professional Achilles heel.

In my rookie year as an agent I found myself grappling with this very issue. I had always been a work-horse, obsessive in my mission to be master of my domain. I become consumed in every way and found myself relating everything back to work -- articles I read, people I'd meet, ideas that would pop into my head -- all would tether back to work and how I could use them as source material for more business, more success. To that end, I spent a massive amount of time in the office, often burning the candle on both ends in an effort to win, win big and win often. I was putting points on the board but not always in a strategic, longterm success manner.

Through all this my one release to counter-balance the work life was always physical activity mostly in the form of Crossfit. It's a great way to stay in shape while also providing a much needed break from the job, allowing me to exist in an uninterrupted extracurricular environment. And yes, even my workouts contain a huge element of competition, it is after all that which drives me and I always aim for the win. Yet in order for me to work on this other craft, I had to train daily, precious time had to be expended. Finding time to train when you work in a profession fueled by evening social activities forced me to look to my mornings to fit this in the schedule. This already elusive morning regiment would become even harder to lock down because it worked completely against my efforts to win the prized "First In, Last Out" award which I gunned for daily.

I struggled to find any balance, often sacrificing rest and sleep in the pursuit of personal success in everything all at once. I would start cutting a corner in the gym, a half hour from the work day, an hour of sleep that I needed, all to fit it in. The result was compromised results in everything stemming from my effort to stay contender for "First In, Last Out" which was also sliding on certain days. On the days that I would manage a morning workout I would find myself slinking secretively into the office, trying to get in undetected. I didn't want my colleagues to know my "dirty secret" and when I'd occasionally get busted, I'd hate it with all my heart, making all sorts of justifications. This carried on for a while until I began to notice an inverse correlation between those marginal extra hours spent at work and ass kicking results. The days I would skip the gym and show up an hour or two early I would win the First In award but I'd also spend the first hour caffeinating and getting on my A-game. I wasn't at maximum output.

One morning things crystalized for me; I had made it to my morning workout session with massive intensity, immediately heading into the office later than I would need to in order to win First In. When I got to the office I went straight into a contentious, big money bigger stakes talent negotiation showdown with the same ferocity that was in me earlier that morning. I channeled it, no coffee needed, A+ game from the first second in. Later that day, I would set a personal record and likely a new industry precedent in the aforementioned negotiation, though I did not hold title of First In that day. Success, it seemed, didn't have some magic formula requiring a fully punched imaginary time-card, results were the only thing required. To that point, everything is circumstantial and if there's something that requires staying at the office for a full 24 hours, myself being a goal-oriented pragmatic, I'll do it and do it to the bitter end while sneaking in a few burpees, push-ups and stair runs just to keep myself on point. Either way, only results mattered and efficiency, coupled with a well-rested killer instinct, was the way I got mine.

My epiphany had not come as a result of one singular event but rather after a holistic survey of my own overall performance. Being a true pragmatic playing for constant success made me realize that to get frequent and meaningful wins, I needed to be well-rounded, channeling intensity in whatever task was at hand. That meant being sharp, fulfilled and energized which wouldn't work if I'm only aiming for "First In, Last Out", a self-fabricated and meaningless title, or any other singular success quantifier. There would be no more sneaking into the office on the days that I had a morning charge-up, this wasn't something to hide or be ashamed of but something to be owned and embraced. I went for the 360 fulfillment and the sum of the parts let the scoreboard reflect it- deals got closed, milestones met, money made. I'll take the success, everyone else can be "First In, Last Out".