I Was a Mistake


My 5 year old rockstar-self and my half-siamese cat Folly (who hated to be touched)

I am out in the garden today, cleaning up after nine months of Alaska winter. I am walking around with plants I've dug up, trying to decide where I am going to put them.


I pace around for awhile, thinking I should research the optimal placement and plant pairings, look up what type of soil each plant likes and what temperature the ground should be. Maybe I should draw a detailed garden map.


Then I remember this is me we were talking about and that this isn’t brain surgery (or rocket surgery), this is just a garden that will last 100 days in the short Alaskan summer.


I walk over to a flower bed with a bare spot, glance at the plant tag to make sure it likes the sun, dig a hole with my hand and plop her in. Done. Will the plant thrive? Likely. And if it doesn’t I’ll tweak it. The chances are good that life as I know it won’t come crashing down if this experiment doesn’t work the first time.


How can such a lazy way of gardening work and why the heck am I talking about it related to your career? Because the principal of how you do things, is critical to your success.


How you naturally do things matters.


It is one of the most important things you can know about yourself when you are looking to fulfill your career goals. I’m talking about unlocking your personal potential and ensuring personal sustainability.


By nature, I’m an improviser - an experimenter. Throw me in a crazy, new situation without enough resources and I’ll give you a gold mine. I thrive there.


I’m not, however, natural at routine. Put me in an office from 9 to 5 every day doing the same thing every day for the next 30 years and I can feel the air leaving the room. I lose my will to produce a result or even go to lunch. Can I do it? Yes, but at great personal cost. Do I thrive there? No.


It took me a long time to realize that improvisation and experimentation (a.k.a. innovation) was my preferred style of working, not a personal failing.


In in a culture of 9-5, M-F, white picket fences and church socials, I felt like I was weird, or wrong or maybe I was a mistake. I spent years twisting myself into something I wasn’t designed to be. Maybe you know what that is like?


Here is the truth.


To have huge, sustainable success in your career, you have to be working in a style that is like breathing for you.


The closer your work (and life) is to your natural style, the happier and more successful you will be. The further away you get from your primary wiring, the crankier you’ll be, the more you’ll complain, the more you'll get sick, and the faster you will burn out.


Unlocking your career potential isn't about working harder. It’s about doing the right work in the right way for you.


How you naturally do things matters.

It is possible to find your sweet spot and prevent your path to burnout before you even get close enough to singe the hair off your face.


Here’s to being who you are. Even if you let the dishes pile up for three weeks.


(Hey, don't judge.)

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