I have been told my entire life that I am a "workaholic." My insatiable drive to work harder and push myself further has stuck with me as I changed industries, careers and cities, and has brought with it special triumphs as well as challenges. My first job was in the events and marketing industry in New York. Endlessly fast-paced and unrelenting, there were times when I felt like I was on a hamster wheel, where I worked both day and night and still wasn't sure what I was working towards - or for whom. As I began to burn out, exhausted by the cyclical "stay ahead" culture I had endured for five years, I began to think more deeply about what I truly was passionate about and what I wanted to accomplish in life. It was at that moment that I realized my problem was not hard work; it was hard work without purpose.
Despite a lack of security or a clear, comfortable path, I began to apply the rigorous work ethic I had honed in the New York event industry for causes that I believed in. I started saying 'yes' to projects that weren't going to make me money, but would help me discover and refine my passion while putting me around people excited about changing the world. Sure enough, I realized that my background in events and marketing could be leveraged in a way that would help brands articulate their social impact, and I founded my company, CatalystCreativ, in 2012. From my formative years working long days in NYC all the way to starting my own company, I have learned five lessons for developing a sustainable work ethic that has changed my career, my life and the way that I look at the world:
1. Set accurate expectations. I am a huge dreamer. I think it is so important to manifest, to believe in the impossible, to create visions that are bigger than any one person. However, it takes hard work and a strategic plan to make dreams a reality. It's really important to have monthly goals, to recognize what is in your reach, to identify the people and prospects around you that will pay you for a service rendered so that you can eventually reach those intangible dreams. It's always good to set realistic goals for yourself so that you don't let yourself down all of the time, but also reach for your highest potential in the long run.
2. Value integrity. As you launch a career in any industry, you will be faced with the opportunity to 'get ahead' by withholding information, avoiding tough conversations, or speaking badly of others. While these options promise immediate benefit - getting the client, the promotion or the approval of your boss - you will always end up paying for them in the long-run. Building up trust and goodwill between yourself and others is the best strategy to make progress towards your career goals. By proving that you can be trusted with little, you have paved the way towards being trusted with a lot.
3. Don't cut corners. Take the time and energy to go slow before you move fast. This especially goes for hiring the right people, and dealing with the "not so fun things" like finances, legal details and decisions that will have a long-term effect. When you cut corners or assume something has been done the right way without ever asking the right questions or assessing all of the circumstances, you are doing yourself and your company an injustice. This is just as true for a CEO as it is for an employee. It is as simple as double checking your work before handing it in, updating your team on the progress of your projects, or slowing down to say thank you to your colleague. The more you can take pride in your work and go the extra mile, the more rewarded you and the people you work with will feel.
4. Use your setbacks. Sometimes, no matter how much effort and excellence you have displayed, someone else will get the promotion we've been working towards, the client you wanted or the credit for the work you have done. These situations are inevitable, but you cannot let them slow you down. Instead of seeing these setbacks as demoralizing, use them as motivation to discover new opportunities, develop skills you didn't know you had or cultivate a relentless attitude towards work and achievement that no setback can stop. Let them be the catalysts that drive your creativity, and commitment to excellence.
5. Take time for yourself. When you don't invest in yourself, then others will not invest in you. If you do not take care of yourself, have an exercise routine, eat well, meditate or develop hobbies and interests outside of work, you will resent everyone that asks anything from you and they will start to resent you. To master the art of hard work, you need to know why you make certain choices, why certain fear comes up and how to confront anything that comes your way. Just remember, that while you want to make sure you make time to take care of yourself, you must balance this with a humble recognition that it's not all about you.
Hard work is the difference between your dreams and their fruition - in life as well as work. The same work ethic that leads to success in the workplace, has the power to transform your personal life, and broader attitude towards the world. Ultimately, when a relentless work ethic intersects with passion, vision and purpose, the result are companies, leaders and movements that change the world. In this light, the question is not "can you do it" but rather, but "will you make it happen?"
So, will you?