A familiar story…
A friend of yours is sitting in front of you. He’s looking for a job but it’s tough out there at the moment and he’s had no luck. You ask him what he’s been doing to change his fortune and he tells you that he’s been sending his CV to countless companies. ‘It’s so demoralizing’ he tells you – and you bet it is. Ask him what else he’s done to further his chances and he tells you he’s been searching the internet for hours looking for companies who are recruiting but there’s just nothing out there. ‘It’s just so miserable trawling the internet for hours’, he tells you – and you couldn’t agree more. Ask him if there’s anything else he’s tried and he tells you there isn’t much more he can do. ‘The jobs go to friends of friends’ he proclaims, and that ‘it’s all about who you know not what you know’ – you agree that there’s probably some truth in that. Ask him what more he could be doing to get the job he wants and he looks blank. ‘What more can I do?’ he asks in return.
A colleague of yours sits down for coffee with you. She’s been passed over for promotion and just can’t understand why. You ask her what went wrong and she doesn’t know. She completed her application letter in time; turned up at the interview and performed well; she even had a letter of recommendation from her boss. ‘It’s just not fair’, she tells you – and you agree it’s not. Ask her what she’ll do differently next time to make sure the same doesn’t happen again and she tells you ‘nothing’. That she doesn’t know what more she can do. Ask her why she believes the other person got the job ahead of her and she’s convinced it’s the same old story – that it was probably a fait accompli from the start. You agree she’s probably right.
A guy you used to work with has recently set-up his own business and you bump into him in the local Starbucks. He’s feeling pretty down at the moment – none of his old clients moved with him when he left. Running his own business is ‘far harder than I imagined’ he tells you – you bet it is. You ask him what he’s been doing to try and drive a change and get things moving. He says he’s spent hours emailing old clients asking for businesses but of course ‘the economy is bad at the moment and it’s just depressing – no reply after no reply’. You can only imagine. You ask him what’s next and he tells you he’s out of ideas. It’s been three months and he’ll probably just have to try and get his old job back. ‘At least I was safe there’ he tells you. You wonder whether he’ll get close to getting his old job back.
Playing with the majority
Getting a new job – a job you really want – in a competitive environment is tough. There are a lot of bright, well qualified people out there with relevant experience. However, there are also a lot of less intelligent, less qualified people out there with only limited experience. But guess what? The majority are all doing the same thing. They’re submitting their CVs and writing splendid cover letters, getting in line with everyone else. They go to monster.com and become one of the 63 million people there looking for a job every month. No wonder it’s hard.
Getting the promotion to the job you really want is equally challenging. Standing out from the crowd without leaving a cast of fallen colleagues behind isn’t easy and requires you to buck corporate wisdom. Because that’s what the majority are doing – playing a game of ‘one-upmanship’ with the person next to them; sending in their application and ‘getting in line’. Yep, it’s crowded out there and corporate life can at times feel like the opening scenes to Saving Private Ryan. Being the best employee, the best sales person, or the best marketer in the business is hard. But take a look at the company awards dinner. All too often, it’s the same person or small group of people who win, year after year.
And finally, starting anything new and succeeding, regardless of the project or venture, is a slog which requires dedication and persistence – to say nothing of the need for it to be better than what exists out there today. The problem is that the majority of new things out there aren’t better than what’s already out there. Most are equitable at best.
What’s the good news?
The good news is that the ‘lost souls’ out there are few and far between. Individuals and businesses so incapable of doing something different occupy only a relatively small proportion of the ‘population’ out there. So the chances of falling into that group are small.
Dependent on your view point, the fact that ‘the majority’ occupy such a large proportion of the curve is either bad or good news. Bad news if you’re mindset is close to those individuals referenced in the familiar stories above; good news however if you see the crowded majority as an opportunity to position yourself differently and to break out from the rest. Those people, the top 10% are the ‘stars’, the differentiators, the ones who stand out from the crowd. They’re a small but powerful group – the ones who get the job or promotion they want, move from successful project to successful venture and who are among the top performers in their organization.
What do the ‘stars’ do differently?
If they’re looking for a job, they don’t join the majority. They don’t send CVs and cover letters in ‘on spec’, they don’t join the millions queuing in line at monster.com and they don’t search aimlessly without clarity and focus. They understand that it’s personal connections which matter and the value of a quality network and relationships. They find someone in the same industry or company they want to work in. If they don’t know someone directly, they find someone who knows someone. They spend time with them and for the price of a cup of coffee, ask them for their help – not in getting a job directly, but in helping them understand what it takes to get a job and succeed. They ask for a referral and they take whatever advice or guidance comes there way before determining what may or may not work for them – usually by giving it a go.
If they want progression or a promotion, they don’t stand in line waiting with the majority for ‘fairness’, but they set their vision out early. And critically, they don’t just focus on the next job but beyond that role to the n+1 job – the one after the next one – and develop their skillset and network to support that goal. They invest in themselves, they put themselves in front of the right people and they create an opportunity. And when that opportunity arrives, they deliver.
If they’re in sales – and everyone is to some extent – they realize that the biggest difference between them and ‘the rest’ is their mindset. That they are the ones in control of their business – that despite external circumstances, they can adapt their offering in a way that resonates with their customers. They have relationships which stand the test of time, and the foresight to create new opportunities long before others have realized there’s a need. They use proven principles and are never short of ideas.
And when they start something new – a project or venture – they look for a gap, a niche – and they make sure that it’s aligned with their capabilities. Then, they go after it, with verve and gusto. They go into it with their eyes wide open and a plan to accompany it. They accept there may be some highs and lows, but they see an end point which they keep fixed on. They get good people around them and aren’t afraid to ask for help. They’re proactive and committed to action with purpose rather than the worthless option of low quality activity for the sake of it.
How does this relate to GO NAKED?
For ‘the majority’ who stand and point at ‘the stars’ and tell tales of woe; who talk of fairness (or lack thereof); who point to the conditions on the playing field as the reason for their performance whilst others around them on the same field win; who rather than try something new for fear of failure stand in the perceived safety of the line; and who don’t ask for help or invest in themselves; then it will remain hard if not impossible.
Being in the top 10% is tough – that’s why it’s reserved for the best. But it doesn’t have to be impossible, in fact it’s not. It’s just reserved for those who step out of line, away from the majority and strip away the low quality thinking and limiting beliefs which hold many people back. To GO NAKED is to take personal responsibility, to take action, to try something new, to take risks and to ask for help without fear of rejection.
The next time you hear a familiar story, from someone down on their luck or finding it hard, ask them what they’re doing to step away from the majority. They may not be able to give you an answer, but that in itself will tell you everything you need to know.