Lately, I run into many people who constantly have the same refrain: “I’m so busy!” or “It's crazy here!” or “I never have the time.” I hate to be critical - but it tells me a lot about you, your personality, and your work habits.
I read a wonderful article in Newsweek the other day — "More Senior Americans Are Working Past Retirement, Willingly" (link). There was a powerful quote from Dr. Leonard Bailey, a 74 year-old heart surgeon who still puts in 80-90 hour weeks and has no plans to retire, "There’s no reason to stop. If you’re constantly thinking new thoughts and dealing with new problems, it refreshes your brain cells and makes new connections."
I LOVE IT. That's the way I am. Even my Dad, who retired after 40+ years working for Electrolux, was asked back by management to keep working because they couldn't find a replacement who knew his job. So he worked an additional 10 years (7 AM-12 Noon) and deftly stayed out of my Mom's hair.
Let's break Dr. Bailey's quote down to not only understand it, but to apply it to our own lives:
"There’s no reason to stop."
There really isn't. Retirement is a societally imposed situation that rips out a major part of our life. Work is a part of our life, our personality, our being and it contributes to the 'adequacy' of our being. I constantly tell clients — you generally sleep 8 hours, you work 8 hours, and you spend 8 hours on personal time. Work is a big part of your life for many, many years. Why stop?
I'm not saying keep putting in 80-90 hours per week, but you can power-down slowly. Ask to only work 4-day weeks and reduce your pay accordingly. Then 3-day weeks. Then 2-day weeks. You get the picture.
"If you’re constantly thinking new thoughts and dealing with new problems"
When was the last time you really sat down and brainstormed about your career or business? Really separated yourself and 'thought new thoughts' about your situation, your position, your industry, your client base and all the people around you?
When was the last time you stopped thinking about your 'problems' and started addressing them as 'challenges'? Carlos Casteneda said, "The difference between a warrior and an ordinary man is that a warrior sees everything as a challenge, while an ordinary man sees everything as either a blessing or a curse." Start being that warrior in life.
"It refreshes your brain cells and makes new connections"
If you keep the flow of new ideas, new challenges, new people, and new activities in your life, it will refresh your brain and make new connections. If you exercise the muscle — it will get stronger.
Keep working, keep meeting new people, keep stretching your comfort zone, keep learning, and most of all keep making it happen.
"If the the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, it’s time to water your own grass." Stop trying to compare yourself to others if you always make yourself feel inferior. Stop trying to yearn for a better job, if you don’t first try to make your current job better. Stop making the same mistake again and again because you focus on others and not on yourself.
Stop trying to keep up with the Joneses in your career. Here are some simple tips to help:
How would you rate how effective you are at your current job?
Not how hard you work, how smart? Remember high school . . . do you get straight A’s? Do you do extra credit to ensure that your GPA is at the top? If not, you won’t do any better at your next job. Take night classes, read books, surf the web for knowledge . . . Start watering this lawn.
How many important people do you know in your company?
Outside of your company? Every lawn needs it’s fertilizer – in addition to watering, you need to add a healthy sprinkling of important connections to make your career grow strong.
Are you adding ‘pizazz’ to the current responsibilities you have?
Take a concerted interest in growing your own lawn first. Take work home and see how you can grow your own plot of land first – who can you influence, who can add fertilizer?
Maybe you need to trim your lawn.
Where can you cut? What activities or tasks can be dropped to focus on the more important responsibilities? Who can you delegate to? Hand off some responsibilities that others might want to do?
Are there old cars or rusting play-sets on your lawn?
Time to brush those errant tasks and hangers-on that tend to waste your time and affect the growth of your lawn. Clear out and retire the obsolete activities and the non-essential meetings that take your eye off your lawn.
Are there idiots at night driving on your lawn, making deep ruts with their truck?
Investigate, isolate, and take care of errant peers, bosses, and subordinates who are sabotaging your efforts to grow a strong and healthy lawn. Shut them out of meetings, don’t talk to them and if need be, escalate to the appropriate areas. Also, put up an electric fence around your property — if they decide to go driving again, they will get a real shock!
Try and take care of your own lawn first . . . you might have the best piece of property on the street and not know it until you take action.
It's Monday! Time to hit work after a wonderful weekend . . . check your email . . . get ready for all those wonderful meetings . . . and make sure you schedule for all the work coming down the pike this week. Whoops! Forgot to tell you something . . . Most executives tend to forget that their job isn't supposed to crank out work (okay - that's part of your job - but just follow my thinking for a bit).