I read an inspiring article recently about a young NBA basketball player who told the story of the first time he met Michael Jordan many years earlier. The young player recalled how Michael Jordan explained that to be a great basketball player you had to truly love basketball. To be a truly special player you had to eat, sleep, and breath basketball. These words inspired this young NBA player to the point of making it to the NBA. Sound advice from the greatest basketball player of our generation. It goes along with the adage that if you love your job you’ll never have to work a day in your life.
There’s only one problem: we all can’t do what we love doing for a living. So, this begs the question:
“Can we be great at our job if we don’t actually love our job?”
Or even more important:
“Can we be happy if we don’t actually love our job?”
The short answer is yes, of course you can. To be great at your job even if you are, at best, ambivalent about it, you do have to love something. You don’t need to try to fool yourself into loving your job. You don’t need to search for redeeming or altruistic qualities about your job. You simply need to be in love with an idea.
“Fall in love with the idea of excellence and you’ll be surprised how quickly excellence will find you.”
When it finds you you’ll be surprised at the doors it opens for you. And they’re not the doors you’re expecting. This concept should be taken seriously because so many people are in the position of feeling dissatisfied with their current employment. And if you’re not sold and are writing this concept off as fluff, let’s just take a second to look at the potential benefits of falling in love with excellence.
1.Pride in performance: Think about something you can’t stand doing. Maybe paying bills, mowing the lawn, doing the dishes, cleaning your bathroom, or washing your car. Think about how badly you procrastinated before you actually bit the bullet and knocked it off your to do list. Then remember how great if felt when you were done. Remember how satisfied you were and how you swore you wouldn’t put it off so long the next time. Until, of course, you did. Now, what if you consciously decided to fall in love with the idea of excellence. You must still bite the bullet and do that dreaded task, but now you do it when it needs to get done. No more stressing over putting it off. No more nagging from the whoever is nagging you to do it. None of that. Just simply pride in getting something done correctly, on time. It feels really good, especially when it’s a task you could do without. When did we stop taking pride in the little things? So, what does pride in performance lead to?
2.Performance excellence: It’s a natural progression. When you take pride in getting something done correctly and on time, eventually you are going to start paying more attention to the details. When you start to pay attention to the details, excellence happens. Doing something really well, or excellently, also feels really good. Now we’ve just begun to feel good about two things, pride in performance and performance excellence. I’ll take that, especially over the alternative of procrastinating, stressing out, and being generally unhappy. What’s more, we don’t have to limit this idea to physical tasks. What if our responses to conflict were laced in excellence? How about an excellent display of empathy? Excellent selflessness? Excellent displays of gratitude, love, and affection? So, what’s next?
3.Opportunity: If you take pride in your performance, and then perform with excellence, opportunity has no choice but to follow you. I won’t waste your time with the clichés about getting noticed at work and the potential for promotion. Although it may be true, I’m talking about the opportunity for something far greater. The opportunity for peace of mind. The opportunity to look yourself in the mirror with pride and be able to tell yourself you did the best you could today, at everything. The opportunity to set an example for your children, nephews and nieces, spouses, brothers, sisters, friends, parents, or anyone else who needs a little inspiration from someone who says, “I love excellence, therefore I’m happy.” The opportunity to leave a mark as a human being who simply does the right thing, and does it the right way. Heaven knows we could use more of this.
Fall in love with excellence in your life and an excellent life will follow. Yes, you can be great without loving your job.
Errol Doebler is the founder of Ice Cold Leader, a leadership consulting firm. After successful careers as a Navy SEAL Platoon Commander and FBI Special Agent, Errol founded Ice Cold Leader to realize his passion of empowering great leaders and better human beings. Ice Cold Leader provides executive coaching, keynote speaking, and corporate retreats to individuals and teams across the world.
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