Rule 10: Find a Job that You Look Forward to Every Day
Do you have any regrets about the work you chose to do?
Yes: 0 percent
No: 100 percent
Surveys, while varied, show that up to 90 percent of Americans do not like their jobs. Many people who are very good at their jobs do not like what they do. What about people who have reached the very top? We know that invincible executives do not feel guilty about making their jobs a big part of their lives, but do they really like what they do?
The universal consensus is yes—they love their jobs passionately. As manufacturing guru Sam Fox puts it, "I hate the phrase TGI Friday. It denotes displeasure with one's job. I prefer TGI Monday. I can't wait to get back to work!" Richard Bell, chairman and CEO of HDR, Inc., feels the same way. "I literally want to run to work every day," he says. Bill Winter, chairman emeritus of Dr. Pepper/Seven Up, Inc., said to me, "There was never a morning when I got up and said I would rather stay at home than go to the office." Consistently, Juanita Hinshaw, CFO of Graybar Electric, considers liking what you do to be at the top of the list of the most important factors in achieving long-term success—and she has advised many people of the importance of picking a profession that you are not only good at, but that you enjoy in every respect.
On the flip side, one of the surest ways to failure is to enter a profession that you do not like. "You can be successful for years at something you do not like, but eventually you will become so angry or careless that you will make a big mistake," a prominent Midwestern attorney once said to me. Leading medical researcher Joshua Korzenik agrees: "You are not going to reach your whole potential unless you really like what you are doing.... You can be good and make money, but you are not going to get to the next level. One of the things that is absolutely critical to getting to the top is that you have got to love what you are doing." Moreover, according to Congressman Gephardt, even if you start out liking what you do, "you cannot lose interest" or people will notice, and your career will suffer immediate negative effects.
Similarly, when I asked former Senator Bob Dole the major flaws that cause talented people to fail, he listed "taking advantage of power" as number one, but as a close second, he said "getting into something that you do not believe in." As an example, Senator Dole pointed out what happened to President Johnson after he became embroiled in the Vietnam War in the 1960s. President Johnson, a man who had coveted the presidency for decades and finally achieved his goal, found himself deeply embroiled in an unpopular war that he did not truly support. Yet the nation was too committed at that point just to withdraw, or so President Johnson believed. This terrible situation demoralized the president so badly that he decided not to run for reelection and retired from politics.
Find Your Passion—Among the Things You're Good At
While earlier in the book we discussed the need to find your talents, we did not discuss the need to find your passion. And there is a reason why I saved the part about finding your passion for the end of the career path section of the book: because everyone says "find your passion" as if that's all you need to become a great success. I did not want the passion part to overshadow the more nuts-and-bolts aspects of the invincible career path, so I saved it for the end of this part of the book.
So, yes, you have to find something you really like, but finding that passion must be put in the context of everything else that you need to do to become the invincible executive. Passion alone gets you nothing. You need to acknowledge at the outset that just because you are passionate about a career or skill does not mean you are good at it. In fact, it is better to be talented and hate your job than to lack talent and like it. There are a lot of people who get pretty far in the world doing something that they absolutely despise. There are very few people who get far in a field they love but for which they lack ability.
However, every invincible executive I interviewed—dozens of them—said that you will never get to the very top of a profession that you do not like. "You can get pretty far," an air force general told me, "but you'll never get the star." The upper echelon requires both talent and passion.
There are skills that you have that you do not like using. I know, for example, many people who are good at math but do not like it. A couple of them were so good that they allowed teachers, parents, and bosses to commandeer their careers—pushing them into engineering and software design. One of them had tears well up in his eyes when he confided to me that he knew he would be the best literature professor in the world, but instead he is designing hydraulics systems for cars. You cannot become this person.
Find what you are good at; then, only within that skill set, do what you like.