Exams are around the corner. This is the time to take action, to make sure you have covered every page in your book. Your work ethic behind your studying sets the foundation for eventual greatness, for it is an opportunity to show leadership. Don’t let this opportunity slip by, don’t get mired by your past performances and learn to lead without a title. My article has been inspired by a lifelong study on what makes greatness and I hope it inspires you to give it your all during the 11th hour.
I. Success without reward
“ What a waste of time. “ If I had a dime for each time someone approached me confused why I’d pour my entire existence into something that in their eyes didn’t hold up to the importance of the Treaty of Versailles or the Superbowl, I’d be a millionaire.
The first time this phrase really hit me was back in high school. During the summer of my Junior year, I had decided to compete in a Bodybuilding show. Over the next 45 weeks, my body transformed immensely inside out. As the irony in Bodybuilding goes, “the better you look, the shittier you feel”. My friends saw me come in to school almost unable to walk looking as feeble as a dying patient. Being in such low body fat comes with a hefty price- not only does it affect your wellbeing but it impacts your entire life. That year, I was unable to participate in any of the festivities that marked the culmination of 12 years of schooling, and spent pretty much every waking minute by myself either studying or training. Seeing me dedicated to my goal and swallowing cold chicken breast after chicken breast, my classmates always asked me how money I’d make from winning the show? Whether it was being broadcasted on TV? I remember some girls asking me if I had an agent who was managing my career as an” athlete”.
When I told them I was competing in a local show in a high school auditorium with probably 40 people in the audience( composing of 99% friends and family) where I would actually have to pay to enter to only to win a plastic trophy, they thought I was crazy. “ Why would you put yourself through all of this just for that? “You could almost see their eyes widen with disbelief in a mélange of sympathy, anger, surprise and disbelief towards what I told them, as if they had caught me in a cold-blooded lie.”
Of course this wasn’t the first time I had heard this; having a very intense and competitive personality by birth, I was accused for being “too serious” all my life.
In the past, I had let these comments slowly get to me and define me as a person; I too came to buy in the philosophy that I was kind of “odd” and that I needen’t waste my time on things that on its face look immaterial. Soon, I started quitting things and blaming fate.
But, it was different this time; for it was the first time I felt like it wasn’t me but everyone around me that was completely missing the boat. Was I seeing something no one else was? Was it really that “bizarre” that I’d be willing to give up my entire life for something so “immaterial”?
At that time, I thought it simply had to with the fact that I was completely crazy about Bodybuilding and that my love for it blinded any sight of rationality I had with the real world. However, four years through the college grinder; I have come to understand that the answer to my questions also lay in the hardwiring of certain software deep engrained into the human psyche.
II. The formula of the 99%= Success precedes work
Before I get all deep and philosophical, I’ll try to explain the culmination of years of gathered data in a daily conversation I have with the kid who works at one of B.U.’s printing center stations. Every Tuesday and Thursday at 8 A.M. I go to the library to pick up the notes I make the night before. As I come to the printing circulation desk, John sits there almost half asleep. John happened to sit next to me in my Calculus class my freshmen year, so he’s a familiar face. The minute John sees me, he starts on this never-ending tirade of how his current job sucks and how can’t find a paying summer internship. This was the third summer in a row he would be without any summer employment and his current employer had passed up on him for a promotion. As a business student, that’s not a good sign for future employers.
What’s upsetting about John’s story is not that he can’t find a job but that he screws up my printing job almost every time. Every time I am at the library, John hands me someone else’s papers, messes up the page numbers or conveniently forgets what it means to have eye-hand-coordination that would allow him to properly staple a 10-page paper. He always apologizes with:” Dude, I am just there to clock in and out; I get paid peanuts who cares. It’s not like they are gonna promote me to being a manager.”
As I am writing this little blog, I realize that John will never truly fulfill his potential because he finds himself in a cycle that is based on the following premises (–> means ‘leads to’):
Looking at this formula, John has sucked himself in a cycle that gives him a higher chance of winning the national lottery than being successful. Why? Simple, from whichever angle you look at it, this cycle is based on inaction and leaves almost everything up to fate in a world where success is 100% related to action.The symptoms of this virus are such that in his ideal world, a guy like John conditions giving his best ONLY IF and ONLY WHEN he is already a manager or a CEO. In other words, a guy like John only get inspired ONCE HE HAS money, cars, fame and a fancy title and consequently ONCE HE IS INSPIRED will he actually work his ass off:
One of these days someone just needs to tell John: “Dude, if you can’t even figure out how to print out a piece of paper correctly, how do you even have the audacity to believe you have what it takes to run a Fortune-500 company? Have you ever thought that that might be the exact reason why you will never be successful?
As ironic and simple as it may sound, this type of thinking has become almost pervasive in our society. Having worked with and observed hundreds of students whether through group writing projects, leading executive boards, or managing several companies, I can’t begin to tally the amount of times people think that doing the “basics” is not important; because after all, it’s not ties with immediate gratification and a title. They feel that they should only give it their all AFTER they already have gotten the title and thus they wait to work hard only after they get a pat on the back, a bigger paycheck or validation from their peers.
Here’s some examples of this type of thinking that I have heard over and over again:
“Prady, why work out so hard, we aren’t training for the Mr. Olympia!”
“Dude, we aren’t working on this project full-time, so you can’t expect me to give it a 100%. Once we make enough money, I’ll give it my all!”
“I’ll work harder when the professor treats me with respect”
In each of these questions, there are very disturbing and pervasive themes:
- Leadership that is contingent on a title.
- An inverted logic, that pre-supposes success to working hard?!
III. The Formula of the 1%= Work Must Precede Success
The reason why successful people are able to achieve so much is because the wiring in their psyche is programmed the exact opposite manner.
Taking this formula into consideration, a successful person who was programmed this way doesn’t wait to get validation before they are motivated, but is motivated way before that. Here’s a comparison of dialogues that a person using John’s model would use versus a successful person using an inverted model would use:
A. “Why are we working out so hard, we aren’t training for the Mr. Olympia!
B. “If Mr. Olympia trains 5 hours a day, and he’s already Mr. Olympia and I am Mr. Nobody, this means that I HAVE TO work out at least six hours to even come close to his level one day.
A.“ Dude, this isn’t like a Fortune-500 company. It’s just a startup. Once we make enough money where we go full-time I’ll give it my all. I am not going to give it a 100% and sacrifice my( insert social activity) for this now.
B. In order to make this company Fortune-500 status, I need to bust more ass than ever before so that we can turn this into one. Anything that gets in my way needs to go. Once we are a Fortune-500 company, I can do those things. Now is the exact time when I shouldn’t.
A. “I’ll work harder in class if the Professor treats me with respect and gives me a good grade”
B. Shit, I have to bust my ass for the professor to respect me. The reason he doesn’t treat me with respect is because I don’t even try when it comes to the exams and I never raise my hand.
A. I don’t wanna go on some serious my diet or workout plan , my goal is just to look good,. I wanna be able to have some pizzas and enjoy life. it’s not like I am gonna be a pro anyways…
B. Because my genetics aren’t the greatest I need to bust my ass 3x more in the gym and in the kitchen. This will allow me to fulfill my potential. I plan to boycott pizzas and all other cheat foods from my life, I will delete them from my dictionary UNTIL I reach my goal.
What these answers tell you is that for a successful person it is work that precedes their motivation, and only after they have mastered both is there any expectation of power, title and success. For the successful, thus, ironically, success lies the furthest away from their current manifestations of work while for people like John, validation is the engine which will spark their motivation and work is the LAST THING that happens.
My observations remind me of an article my good friend Tom wrote about the 10,000 hour rule, in which he looked at some of history’s greats and made the observation that it takes years and hours of practice at one’s skill before one can truly master it. The difference between successful people and the other 99% is that the successful people are willing to apply the 10,000 hour rule BEFORE they are successful, whereas 99% of the population would only find the motivation to spend 10-000 hours after they are successful, ie: after they have been given some type of title. Do you think Bill Gates would have invented Microsoft if he had been willing to spend 10,000 hours only after he became held the title of the world’s richest person?
Or precisely because he spent those 10,000 hours when he was a relative nobody that he was able to invent Microsoft?
In a world where we are programmed for immediate gratification, pleasure and constant validation, it also thus makes complete sense why only there’s only 5% of your class that will every graduate with a summa cum laude, why even fewer make a million dollars in their 20’s or why only about 30 people can afford a Bugatti each year.
Tying it all together: Tips for leading without a title
By now you probably get the point and you might think this article is just stating the obvious. Every time, however there’s a few people who miss the point.
“Yep, I get it; the people who succeed work hard, those who don’t fail.“
Cool story Bro. If you think that, you’ve missed the entire point of this article and I’ve just wasted previous minutes of both our lives philosophizing about the obvious. Don’t worry, I’ll give you the cliffnotes:
“The concept behind Leading without a title is that leadership should take place in all aspects of your life and that success comes from showing leadership when you don’t have a title.”
- Don’t wait until you are making six figures before you put on your “thinking hat”
- Don’t say you will not “take your diet and training as seriously” because you aren’t a pro
- Don’t wait until your professor makes you her pet student before you go out of your way and become a gunner
- Look at the things you are doing right now in your life that you think aren’t really that “special” and make them special. Make your bed everyday, clean your dishes, be the best librarian possible, outdo yourself as a son, brother or daughter. These types of activities will go a VERY long way in exuding leadership and success in other areas of your life
- Successful people have the ability to lead without a title; and aren’t afraid to do work for things that most of society would deem “immaterial” and “useless.” What makes these people successful is precisely because they have the ability to then turn these “useless” activities into million dollar enterprises.
Parting words and daily exercises
As this article probably hit home to you, I believe in action. Thus, instead of leaving you with a few words and rambling, I’ve combined a few things you can practice in your daily lives:
1. Work for Free
One of the best ways I have been able to be successful in my professional career at a young age is because I was never unwilling to volunteer my time, no matter how straining it was on my life. As a matter of fact, since I have been 10 years old, I have held a minimum of two jobs aside from my school time. And yes, I have not shied away from “bitch work:” Made sandwiches for my congressman, picked up dry-cleaners, and even been the “spot boy” for some local weightlifters, just so I could learn a bit of the trade.
Sure, it cost me a lot of fucking sleep and maybe I couldn’t get beers with my buddies and never really got to play video games all day or party during college, but I was able to network and learn from the brightest minds in each of my areas of interest. Since I was willing to bust my ass and work completely free of charge, by the time I was 16; I had a three page resume at three Fortune 500 Companies while most people in my class didn’t know what C.V. stood for. By the time I went to college, and these employers needed paid interns or someone to help them in their business guess who they called?
2. Show leadership in your daily activities
One of the few things that I always look for when working with others is how well they do the basics. I believe strongly in what one of my mentors called the “transfer effect”; namely a person’s habits reflect the way they will behave in the classroom and lead in the workplace. I always think, if you can’t make your bed every day, make time to clean your dishes or even rack your weights, how can you expect to organize your school work, lead a business or even your life?
So from now on, make it a deal with yourself to clean the dishes and make your bed every single morning. Try it for one month, and see how it helps organize your entire life, inside out. (Especially during finals, having a clean desk will work wonders, trust me)
3. Work your ass off in whatever you do.
Whether you are a waiter at the dining hall, a guy working the facilities management or sweeping classrooms in the evening, work your ass off doing it. For one month, stay extra late, work extra hard and make it your goal to be the best fucking( janitor/librarian/cleaner) the world has ever seen. Try to be so good, that if they would teach your job at a school, you would be the person they’d ask to write a whole fucking book on it. This is the definition of leading without a title. People will notice you, they will be forced to. You will be surprised where this road will lead you.
The message is simple: What separates leaders, entrepreneurs and the truly successful is that they are willing to grind it out when the stakes are high and when no one is willing to get dirty. When 99% of people see immediate pain, they see the life-long pleasure that lies at the horizon, when most see a dead tree, they see the tree in relation to the coming sunrise. It is finding “opportunities” in people and in things when most people would simply walk right past.
While my classmates belittled me and never understood why I would sacrifice my health and social life for a plastic trophy, it is precisely because I was able to see the “reward” when no one else saw it that I could lay the foundation for the first steps of what would be a life-changing endeavor. That day, at age 17, while I was able to walk away with some cool trophies, I was able to learn a skill that has completely transformed my life in every aspect. If I had never competed, and taken leadership without a title. I would never have been able to understand my true potential, neither would I have ever been able to make a platform such as The Campus Elite to share my knowledge with the rest of the world.
So, now that exams are on our way, take leadership in your studies. Stop looking at your current GPA to justify while you never will amount to anything or that your elementary teacher thought you would be a bum and think like a leader; envision the opportunities that can be afforded to you by a ball-busting, gut-wrenching work ethic.
Be your own motivation. Lead without a title. Be Elite.