“Na na… na na na na… hey, hey, hey… goodbye…” (Steam)
Hey, let me know if this post strikes a nerve for ya.
Here’s what I’ve been thinking about: One of the reasons we old fuckers are so valuable in business…
… is that we’ve been around the block so many times, we’re on a first-name basis with many of the life situations that — when you first encounter them — are discombobulating disasters that cause ruin and despair.
However, by your third or fourth go-round…
… what was once a crisis is now pretty much a (yawn) simple and easy fix.
And you know what?
It’s a good thing to have people in your corner packing hard-core life experience to help you through the tough spots.
A good percentage of this life-experience stuff makes its way into my consulting and teaching.
Making money isn’t always about technique, you know.
A huge part of being successful is all about mastering the game of interpersonal relationships with people who are vying to control your Fate.
Some of these people are doing this consciously. This is where the high-end game of Alpha Males and Sociopath Success Freaks and Power-Hungry Sharks is played out.
And the old poker rule is in effect: If you sit down at the table… and you don’t who the sucker is…
… then YOU’RE the sucker.
It can take half a lifetime to learn even the rudimentary rules of how things get done in the smoky backrooms of elite power.
And no, you aren’t even a little bit hip to how it’s really played… no matter how many Hollywood movies about Wall Street you’ve devoured. Or how many times you’ve read Sun Tzu.
The only way to survive the Big Game… is with a little bit of guts, a dash of luck, and a whole big steaming pile of proven skill.
Consider what you’d have to do — actually do, over the next year — to be able to walk into a cage fight with a top UFC champ.
And not have your head torn off.
You better have your chops honed and tested, Bucko. A lucky punch ain’t gonna do it for you.
You better find someone with the necessary experience to help you learn, too, and hold on tight.
But I don’t wanna talk about that high-end game today.
Today, I want to dig into the OTHER group of people who are trying to control you.
The ones who are doing it unconsciously.
This should sound familiar to anyone with even a single employee.
Let’s call it the “Don’t Have A Cow” attitude problem. (Think of Bart shrugging off his destruction of someone’s life work.)
Here’s how it works: Several generations of Americans have now graduated from the education system…
… believing that a good excuse is a Get Out Of Jail Free card.
Flunked a test? Forgot to finish your essay on time? Late for class?
No problem… IF you have a great excuse.
I knew a girl in college who killed off her grandmother three times in three semesters. Got her out of taking a final (didn’t study), out of being penalized for skipping a week of class (rock concert), out of not having a paper written on time (didn’t even try).
Granny never found out. And lived a good many more years.
And this girl went on to the Dean’s List, grad school, and a Ph.D.
The lesson learned: You can be instantly forgiven… and even felt sorry for… if you just deliver a good enough excuse for screwing up.
That’s a really, really, really bad lesson to absorb.
Because once you get out in the real world, you have a very rude discovery to make: No one gives a rat’s ass about WHY you screwed up.
The fact you DID screw up is all that matters.
Your excuse will comfort no one but you, as you lick your wounds and look for another job.
This is not a mild problem out there. (I know every biz owner with staff is nodding like crazy right now.)
The hardest thing, I’ve found, to teach budding freelancers…
… is the “Professional’s Code”.
It’s very simple: You show up where you’re supposed to be…
… when you said you’d be there…
… having done what you said you’d do.
That’s it. (This is the way I have translated it, for myself and anyone who’ll listen to me. You may have heard it in other forms. I’ve never come across a better way to say it than this, though.)
The phrase “show up” includes the physical act of appearing where you’re supposed to be… as well as the virtual act of meeting your deadlines.
I did NOT grow up with this Code.
I was a victim of the school system, where few consequences couldn’t be negotiated. (Hell — the cops back then even poured out your beer and sent you home after pulling you over. I knew dozens of guys who’d been nabbed while driving with a bottle of Schlitz in one hand, and not a one of them ever suffered a DUI. Right or wrong, that’s how my corner of the generation grew up.) (I remain unconvinced that too-harsh punishment is better… but SOME punishment is called for. I mean, good grief…)
As a low-level employee with no skills — my standard gig for the first decade or so of my adult life — half the job really was just showing up on time.
However, once the idea of going solo as a freelancer took hold, I started looking seriously at how the really successful dudes were conducting themselves in business.
I vowed, going in, that I would meet all deadlines, no matter what. And BE that guy who could be trusted with delivering the goods to anyone who paid me.
I saw what the alternative is, in gruesome detail, during my time in a catalog art department. There were multiple deadlines for photo separations, camera-ready art boards, and every word of copy… and anything that wasn’t done by the printing deadline…
… wasn’t gonna make it into the catalog.
The printing presses were in Nashville. They ran 365 days a year, and you booked your slot 6 months in advance. You missed your deadline, too bad. You paid anyway for the time and manpower.
And you didn’t get your catalog to mail.
This happened to another catalog in the area… and they simply vanished soon after.
Missing a hard deadline literally was a mortal wound to their ability to continue doing business. They had nothing to mail. No money came in. Clients wandered away. Banks were not nice about outstanding loans coming due.
That’ll sober you up.
In 25 years of writing for clients, I have never missed a hard deadline for copy.
Let me repeat that: 25 years, zero violations on my deadline record.
My dearly-missed pal, Gary Halbert, used to consider that criminal… cuz it made guys like him look bad. (He didn’t make a habit of it, but he did miss some very important deadlines on occasion. The chaos that ensued was often costly.)
This concept of never missing a deadline is the hardest thing to teach rookie freelancers.
It’s almost like you gotta experience disaster first… and it’s gotta make a deep impression on you… before your mind can shift into Professional Gear.
This is why surgeons endure such rigorous training. Saying “Sorry, I was distracted” after botching an operation doesn’t cut it.
Pilots, too. Accountants. Snipers. Astronauts. Film editors. Lead singers.
You screw up… you disembowel the entire gig.
And your fabulous excuse doesn’t fix anything.
No one wants to hear it.
Because of you, other people now have an emergency on their hands.
Entire kingdoms have crumbled from screw-ups by people who thought they had a great excuse. (“I had that 3-penny nail right here, sir… I dunno, it must have slipped from my hand back there. My arthritis has been really bad, you know, and…”)
In school, a well-crafted excuse will get you sympathy and a do-over.
In real life… not so much.
And yet… I am NEVER surprised when confronted with a fresh case of someone I’ve put massive trust in… screwing up.
And offering an excuse.
It’s the default brain setting of almost everyone out there.
And yet… it’s really not that tough to adopt the Pro Code. It takes a committment, and requires the skill to tell others “no” when faced with tough choices.
And to tell yourself “no”, when your very natural urge to flake out and bail on your responsibilities flares up.
Everyone would rather party, or even veg out… instead of buckling down and finishing the job you signed up for. That’s the easy path.
Being a true rebel, nowadays, means embracing responsibility with gusto and energy.
The last rebellious act in business, really, is to commit to success.
No matter what.
Your social life will suffer. The family will get mad at you. No one will understand, and you will toil without immediate gratification from outside sources. (Your rewards must come from your own heart and sense of self-respect.)
And it all rests on a simple foundation.
If you take on a job, you do it.
You kill the whiny beasts in your head, wrestle your ADD into submission, push through pain and grief and disaster to do what you promised you’d do.
That’s how that US Airways pilot saved all 150 passengers and crew in that emergency landing in the Hudson River today.
That’s how all professionals worthy of the title treat every responsibility they have.
It’s hard to do. It’s kinda lonely at times.
But committing to it will instantly change your life forever.
And remember: It’s no crime not to have this code already in your bag.
But once you’re made aware of it, you lose big by choosing to ignore it. (So, yeah, it’s a dirty trick on my part to throw it in front of you like this.)
Today — in business, and in conquering the mounting ills of the world — we need professionals more than ever.
The hardest and most rewarding jobs will not get done through excuses.
What do you think?
Love to hear your comments, below.
P.S. I do not yet have a site to send you to…
… but I’m letting slip the news that, at the end of February, we’re hosting a small, super-intense Hot Seat event in San Francisco. I’ve packed the room with experts and know-it-all wizards.
If your business needs a “marketing intervention” because of falling sales, new competition, or any other problems interfering with your pursuit of fat profits and happiness…
… then you need to seriously consider this event.
The seats will go fast. We only have room for a handful of folks, because of the intense personal attention given to each attendee.
So seriously — stay frosty.
"11 Really Stupid Blunders You're Making With Your Biz & Career Right Now."
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