Not many people are willing to put in the kind of time it takes in order to take what appear to be quantum leaps. However, for those that are willing to “do the work,” great reward is there for the taking. In this short post we will explore what is possible in short periods of time with concentrated effort, strategic long hours, and learning a valuable (and marketable) skill set.
Remember that most overnight successes are the better part of 10 years in the making.
If we assume that the average person works 40 hours per week, then at a very simplistic level we can see how mathematically it could be possible for someone that is motivated and ambitious to reach their financial/career goals in 40-50% of the time it takes most people. The math is rather simple.
Simple Math: Let’s assume it takes 2,080 hours to advance from one level to the next in your chosen career. The person who works 40 hours per week is going to take 52 weeks or one full year to put in the work necessary to get a promotion. On the other side of the coin, the motivated person working 80 hours per week could hit that milestone at week 26 or 50% of the time. And the super achiever working 100 hours could get there in 21 weeks or 40% of the time.
This simple example is not to say that all it takes is time in a position to get to the next level, nor that working 100 hour weeks is sustainable over long periods of time, rather it an example to prove out the simple math of how longer hours have the potential to get you to where you want to go much quicker. That said, it will take a ton of deliberate practice and continued learning to make sure the extra hours pay off.
It is also important to realize that the path is not linear, but instead exponential.
Assumption: For simplicity, let’s assume that effort is concentrated and focused on all the right things that lead to career advancement and the financial reward that comes with it. That is to say you have identified and obtained a skill set that is both rare and valuable in the world. This is the only way that you will be able to build enough career capital to ride an exponential curve of success (for more on the idea of career capital see “So Good They Can’t Ignore You, by Cal Newport”.
The reality is the math is actually a bit more complex than simple arithmetic. If you read my post on “The Reality of the Overnight Success,” you may recall the concept of compound effort. The concept of compound effort simply states that like compound interest, compound effort has the ability to return exponential results over time.
Most people can comprehend the idea of compound interest, but they miss the idea of compound effort. With consistency and sustained effort, the results become exponential. It is harder than it sounds, because the exponential results don’t really start showing up for years.
In the beginning there is often very little noticeable difference between the truly ambitious and average. This causes motivation and excitement to fizzle, and many that start off strong get discouraged and let their foot off the gas peddle. They give up in the middle of the dip, right before the magic of compound effort is about to become visible.
Have you ever heard of the Latin phrase “Fortitudine Vincimus?”
It translates to “by endurance we conquer.” It’s a motto I’ve internalized while building my own career and wealth. It’s a motto I encourage everyone to adopt if they truly want to experience the magic of exponential results. It is endurance (i.e. time) that makes the power of compounding so magical!
You don’t have to be the smartest or most innately gifted. I have found that any normal person can gain an edge by out working and out learning the naturally gifted. To me there is no such thing as competition. Most people are pretty lazy, that means the top is never crowded.
That said, I would be lying if I didn’t acknowledge that luck always plays a role in success. I’m not talking about the kind of luck people count on when throwing away money on the lotto. I’m talking about the kind of luck you create by being prepared when opportunity comes knocking.
How do you prepare yourself for luck?
You never stop learning and investing in yourself.
You do whatever it takes to obtain a rare and valuable skill set.
You use that skill set to build career capital.
You deliver so much value that the universe can’t ignore you.
You play the long game.
You continually reinvent yourself to remain relevant with the times.
You strategically cash in career capital by asking for what you have earned.
Do you really have to work 70-100 hour weeks to achieve Success?
That’s the short answer. Working long hours in a very strategic way is just a way for you to turbo charge your speed along the exponential curve of success. It’s works the same way a savings rate of 50% vs. 5% will get you to your financial goals quicker.
Personally, I’ve always been willing to live my life like most won’t for a few years (okay 8 years), so that I could live the rest of my life like most can’t.
That said, everyone is different. My path is not right for everyone, but it is available to anyone!
So, why am I writing this? What was the impetus?
Well, it started with the conversation with a friend that led to the post about the reality of the overnight success. In that post I shared the conversation I had with a friend about a pending promotion later this year to VP. He couldn’t believe how a year earlier I was just a Senior Financial Analyst, had been a Director (skipping multiple levels) for less than a year, and was now up for VP. He wondered how that was possible.
In short, I worked my ass off and helped many people and multiple companies get what they wanted. I built a rare and valuable skill set that allowed me to build up enough career capital to eventually cash in and ask for what I had earned.
I did the work and got the reward!
But this was only part of the story. What I didn’t share then, is that my grander ambition was to make it into the C-Suite in 2017. In negotiating my promotion to VP, I pitched the CEO the idea of creating a new C-Suite position to lead our continued evolution in becoming a data driven organization. After months of back and forth he was sold. I had pitched the Chief Data Officer role, in the end he liked the ring of Chief Information Officer better. I saw no reason to argue about the title, especially since I would be creating my own job description.
The agreement was promotion to VP in late 2016 and then CIO in 2017 as long as I could deliver on my promises.
Well, things have moved much quicker than anticipated (I may have strategically under-promised :). The company continues to grow rapidly, and all of my initiatives are well ahead of schedule…It was just announced that I will skip VP and will assume the role of CIO immediately.
I share this story to encourage each of you to be relentless in the pursuit of your goals and to leverage the power of compound effort to get you to where you want to go in half the time…or faster.
Note: I actually ended up with an even better title, one that really captures the essence of my role, but is unique to me. It’s Chief Business Intelligence Officer.
-Gen Y Finance Guy