Stupid or Lazy?
Is the following scene familiar to you? “I'm swamped. There are files all over the carpet and my desk. No matter how hard I work there are always more emails to answer, more things to do and more events and meetings to attend. I know I should be doing more strategic stuff, but I never get around to it because I don't have the time. I am getting no job satisfaction.” (Source: Accountancy magazine, January 2006- simplified). Here is a personal coach's solution. “Take three items from your to do list. Do them. Tick them off. You will now feel much happier.”(!?)
This guy needs to get a job done, not to feel happy. His goal is to get rid of the clutter so that he can focus on his priorities, i.e. satisfying his client's needs. He has to accept that being successful is tough going. He needs a wakeup call, not advice from a ‘happiness hugger'. He is not stupid but lazy. He knows that he should be strategising and delegating. But these activities require energy. Working without thinking and planning is being stone lazy.
An American researcher spent a lifetime tying to discover what makes some people successful and others not. He concluded that successful people do what others avoid. I would put it differently. Successful people are not lazy. They accept that if you want to get something out of life, you have to put something into it. Investing in life is not for sissies, it is tough. But the rewards are worth it. If you really want to experience happiness, try experiencing success.
An armchair psychologist once said to me that being mediocre is normal and it is okay to be normal. I have no argument with this thinking. But who wants to be normal? I believe that, deep down, most people want to experience the euphoria of success. The problem is: “How does one make the transition?” I believe that there has to be a spark, something must hit you on the forehead to wake you up to say: “Hey, I am tired of this mediocrity, I want to be different!” Can you just imagine how much money we could make if we could find the secret to this spark?
The problem is that different sparks work for different people. A few years ago I was fascinated by a young lady in one of my workshops. During coffee break I asked her where she was from and what her qualifications were. She told me that she grew up in a township during the apartheid years and that she was a mathematician. I was stunned. I asked her what sparked her to achieve this success and she said that one day she overheard her teacher tell her mother that she was bright in maths. (Every time I tell this story I get the cold creeps.)
So the first step to success is the SPARK which results in a positive decision to go for it. Step two is STRATEGY. This does not have to be complex: the simpler the better. Try this: Strategise, organise, prioritise and energise (SOPE). When our lazy CA gets into the office, instead of opening the computer and starting the daily grind, he should get into the following habit:
Strategise, scheme, think: What am I trying to achieve, what are my goals and objectives, what is the best way of achieving them, how should I best be spending my day, etc.
Organise your work area and your time schedule. Clutter confuses and clouds clarity. Find a place for everything and put everything in its place. Design a proper filing system! This will initially take time so spend a weekend or two on this activity.
Prioritise your objectives and projects: Fire the clients that give you grief and do not pay. Focus on the successful clients with the right attitudes.
Energise yourself: You cannot be full of energy if you eat badly and do not exercise. Get with a programme.
Step three is ATTITUDE. In my opinion, attitude easily trumps intelligence. Success will be totally out of your grasp if you are emotionally bankrupt, i.e. constantly negative and critical about everything and everybody, do not take responsibility for your own actions, closed minded to new ideas, not prepared to learn from your mistakes, etc. Analyse your mind habits and get rid of the negatives and excuses.
Last year I was doing my professorial duties at the University of the Free State. On the first day of my finance lecture I covered the basics of time value of money, portfolio theory, financial analysis, etc. At the end of the day I said: “Tomorrow you will be tested on today's work.” The next morning I gave the group of over 100 students a basic test – no catches, just five simple questions on the work we did the previous day. The average mark was 35%. One delightful character scored 100%. When I asked him how it was possible that he got full marks he said: “I went through the stuff the night before.” What did the rest of the students do the night before? The Dean tells me that Sibongile was one of the top ten students at the university in 2005. He had the spark, sound strategy, the right attitude and took action.
So the fourth step is to GET WITH THE ACTION. Number five: UNDERMINING others does not make you productive – it exposes your stupidity.