Slow & Steady is quicker than you think
The grind is the shortcut
As I’ve entered the dark and mysterious world of content creation, I can’t help but notice the enormity of the Life Hacking industry. Spend a few minutes on LinkedIn and you’ll soon be promised that you can supercharge your career in Five Simple Steps. In checklist format, no less.
While some shortcuts may deliver near-term benefits, relying on them is like building a house on a foundation of sand. In the long-run, slow & steady always wins the proverbial race.
It’s also a lot quicker than you think.
Do you have The Right Stuff?
When I was 22 years old, I worked in investment banking. Fresh out of college, I was certain that I knew what I wanted out of life and how I’d get it. And I’d get it fast.
One of my colleagues was 36. Practically ancient. Mr. AARP was a decade out of business school and had spent the last ten years at the firm climbing the banking ladder. And now he was within striking distance of becoming a Managing Director.
At the time, I thought he was insane. How could he grind for so long when there are so many other jobs out there that he could do? Why not take a little risk? Why not start a business?
But the exuberance of youth blinded me to the bigger picture. For one, my colleague was already a multi-millionaire. How many 36 year olds can you describe this way? How many actual old people even fit that bill? Calling what he did a “grind” was missing the point.
What’s more, he made it to the mountaintop before middle age. Managing Director with plenty of runway ahead of him. The world became his oyster.
What many people fail to understand, particularly as they’re beginning their career, is that the first 10 years actually fly by. In part because the stakes are low by definition. A decade seems like a huge stretch, but it’s a fraction of your working life.
It’s the time to put your head down and learn, focus on adding value, and build a network. You’re given serious leeway while you’re still learning the ropes. The better your effort, the higher and faster you’ll eventually climb.
Looking for a way to fast forward this process is a fool’s errand. You don’t run a marathon before you learn to walk. You don’t throw a party before you make a few friends.
I’m sure my old colleague had opportunities to take other roles or ideas to start a business while he was on “the grind." But acting on them would’ve been short-sighted. By avoiding supposed shortcuts, he built immense credibility in his field. And after a little over a decade in the banking biz, his work was paying off in a big way.
Major opportunities started coming to him.
A few years after he was promoted, a competing bank gave him a contract to launch a new business under their umbrella that he would lead with a partner of his choice. They made a bet on him because of the reputation, experience, and network he’d built.
There was no need to start a company out of his garage or take a flier on a role with a startup. He launched a serious business with minimal risk and top-notch backers. Little downside and tremendous upside built on the rock solid foundation he formed through a decade of work.
So much emphasis is placed on finding shortcuts to avoid "the grind." As though you can speedrun experience. But as I've seen time and again, whether with my former colleague or the 1,000+ executives I've interviewed through my recruiting business, the grind is the shortcut.
With the right approach in the early days, your career will feel like an inverse endurance race. The more energy you expend at the outset, the easier (and more lucrative) things become down the road. Ladder climbs turn into elevator rides.
Just look at what my old colleague accomplished.
When I was just starting out, his ten years of experience sounded like a lifetime. But in the grand scheme of a career, it was no time at all.