Changing thoughts for changing work

“Your greatest successes are lying just outside your comfort zone.”

In my early days of wilderness hiking, back when I was escaping into the woods rather than proactively enjoying and renewing my life, I spent a lot of time wrestling with the business world.  I learned, slowly, to get comfortable, and then to get good at it, skills I would learn for a variety of enterprises later.   My “Getting Unstuck” book has a few chapters dedicated to job searches and business.  Here are some of the essentials.

Before we start looking at the business world—and when talking about a job, career, work, whatever your field or area, we’re talking about business—we need to change the way we look at business.

Three thought patterns to change

1) Are you jealous of successful people?  Do you look at someone with more fame or money and think you’re not getting your fair share?  Do you find yourself thinking, “They probably cheated, lied, stole, manipulated their way to the top”?  If you do—you will never be successful.

I learned this from Jerry Hicks, who in turn learned it from a minister friend, Chet.  “Well it’s true!” Jerry protested.  “They lie and cheat and steal!”

“You can be against their lying and cheating and stealing,” Chet explained, “But you’re jealous of their success at lying and cheating and stealing.”   There it is.  Subtle, perhaps, at first blush.   Is it the wrong-doing…or the success that’s the problem?  Is the perception that “They all do it” just a justification, an excuse for not measuring up as—admit it, if it bothers you—do you see it?

2) Next—if you think business is all about the almighty dollar, that it’s a God forsaken wilderness, that the only thing that counts is the bottom line, that people just don’t matter to these soul-less money grubbers…get over it.  The world is full of caring, committed business owners.

Suppose I run a decent size company, say 100 employees.  They’ve been with me for a long time, most of them, and we’ve grown the company together.  Now, these people have mortgages to pay.  They’ve got kids in college.  They’ve got various personal crises that arise from time to time—and they’re depending on this job to see them through all that.  Do I care about the bottom line?  Damn straight I care—these people are depending on me and this company!  See what I mean?

One company a few hours north of my home, a modular home manufacturer, had a major fire about a decade ago.  For several months, they kept their entire staff on full pay while the company rebuilt—a liability easily into the millions—even though there was nothing for them to do but sit at home.   Why?  Two reasons.  First, they didn’t need to start over looking for people and training them.  And second—what do you think happened to employee loyalty and cooperation after that?

Good businesses focus on people.  I know of one owner of a small chain of convenience stores who pointed out that he could make more money by selling the business, wholly or in parts, and put the money in bank CDs and earn a higher return, just like that.  So why didn’t he?  “I’ve got 100+ people working for me,” he said.  “What are they going to do if I did that?”

3) Finally, get rid of the word “fair,” as in “It’s not fair!”  Of course it isn’t fair.  And it shouldn’t be—it’s unreasonable for you to expect otherwise.   Consider—do you treat those close to you the same way you treat strangers?  And why not?  Do you treat a lover the same as a casual acquaintance?  That’s not fair!  And it’s not supposed to be.

A business owner’s job is not to see that life treats you fairly, but to run the company, helping customers, employees, and suppliers in the process, and often the community as well.  Whether you’re a good fit for employment depends on that business’ needs at the moment.   Learn to make this shift—people aren’t treating you poorly.  It’s just not the time and place for “fair.”

MacIntyre Falls on the trail to Algonquin Peak

A shift in thinking

Next, I encourage you to make a fundamental shift in thinking, whether as a job seeker, employee, free lancer, or entrepreneur—act like you’re running your own business.  If you’re an employee, now or potentially, you’re in the business of supplying labor, and your employers are your clients.  This shift is profound.

To begin with, “Please give me a job” is a poor strategy.   Even a relatively low paying job—say, $20,000 ($10/hr. for a 40 hour work week for 50 weeks)—costs employers quite a bit more than your salary.  Consider benefits, especially health benefits, which continue to climb in cost.  Consider training, which means somebody else stops working to show you how to work.  Consider turnover, doing that all again for another employee.  There’s the employer’s share of FICA, Medicaid, and so forth.  All in all, the rough estimate generally used is that you cost 50% more than your salary–$30,000 in this case.  So, essentially, even for a “low” cost job, you’re asking someone to gamble $30,000 on you (considering the first year they find whether you’re worth it).  That’s asking a lot.  Too much.

Instead, think like a business.  What are your clients’ needs?  What services do you provide exactly?  What’s visiting your establishment like—are clients impressed?  Or are they treated like interruptions?  Would they return to use your services again?  If not, do you have other clients lined up?  Or if they don’t want to pay what your services are worth, does the market support selling to someone else instead?  Is your business growing, or are your skills and services staying flat?

This may at first seem silly, but it’s a powerful paradigm re-alignment.  Many people think “I’ll work hard when they pay me more money!”  But no business would say “We’ll perform well when people offer to pay more.”  That’s why promotions and raises go to those working harder (or smarter) first.  And that’s why, if you don’t get the raise you deserve, you can readily market your services elsewhere (or if you can’t, you need to re-examine the market and your business situation).

Many a job applicant recites the routine “I work hard, I learn fast, and I’m a people person.”  In fact, I don’t think many have skipped that ritual.  It’s not impressive, and it tells the prospective employer nothing.

Understand—it is not the employer’s job to discover and evaluate your qualifications, nor is it the employer’s job to sort through all the applicants to see who’s the best candidate.  It’s the employer’s job to get a qualified person hired so everyone can get back to work.  Period.   Anything else is wasting the organization’s time and money (and remember, that company is people counting on the business doing well).  It is *your* job to showcase your qualifications.  And guess what?  The employer will *appreciate* this.  It’s what that person wants to and needs to know—and only you have that information.  Share it.

This will also help you start to own who you really are.   Take stock and tell people.  Your greatest successes are lying just outside your comfort zone.


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October 2012 is a series of daily posts about “A Wilderness Hike,” taking readers through the healing of wilderness experience and glimpses of my work at Kwan Yin Healing and of my book, “Getting Unstuck.”

You can read the series from the start via the links here:

Oct. 1:    A Wilderness Hike
Oct. 2:   The Sixth Hour
Oct. 3:   Snowy Mountain
Oct. 4:   Letting Go of Baggage–the Wilderness Way
Oct. 5:   “Bear” the Thought
Oct. 6:   Mountain.  Buddha.  Impermanence.
Oct. 7:   The Rewards of Rain
Oct. 8:   Finding the Keys
Oct. 9:   “I’d love to, but times are bad.”
Oct. 10:  Attracting the Law of Attraction
Oct. 11:  We are not our thoughts
Oct. 12:  Honesty, Forgiveness, Healing
Oct. 13:  Getting Unstuck:  Feeling Overwhelmed
Oct. 14:  Money is remarkably easy to come by, if that’s all you want.
Oct. 15:  To be Time Rich, Learn to Be
Oct. 16:  Changing Thoughts for Changing Work
Oct. 17:  Finding and Sharing your Gifts
Oct. 18:  Do you want to be the boss?  Be sure you want to run the show.
Oct. 19:  Finding jobs within jobs
Oct. 20: Bright Mountain Dream
Oct. 21: Escape the Wilderness of Addictions
Oct. 22: The Importance of Spiritual Direction
Oct. 23: In Search of Enlightenment
Oct. 24: Relationship Thoughts from the Wilderness
Oct. 25: We learn in realtionships
Oct. 26: Chrysalis
Oct. 27: Self-Healing, part 1
Oct. 28: Self-Healing, part 2:  Time for a new perspective
Oct. 29: Dix Mountain
Oct. 30: The Mist-Filled Path
Oct. 31: From Wilderness to Wondrousness



32 thoughts on “Changing thoughts for changing work

  1. Pingback: Finding and Sharing your Gifts | A Healer's Cafe

  2. Pingback: Do you want to be the boss? Be sure you want to run the show. | A Healer's Cafe

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  6. Pingback: The Importance of Spiritual Direction | A Healer's Cafe

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  15. Pingback: The Mist-Filled Path | A Healer's Cafe

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  17. Pingback: The Sixth Hour | A Healer's Cafe

  18. Pingback: Snowy Mountain | A Healer's Cafe

  19. Pingback: “Bear” the thought | A Healer's Cafe

  20. Pingback: Letting go of baggage — the wilderness way | A Healer's Cafe

  21. Pingback: Mountain. Buddha. Impermanence. | A Healer's Cafe

  22. Pingback: Mountain. Buddha. Impermanence. | A Healer's Cafe

  23. Pingback: The Rewards of Rain | A Healer's Cafe

  24. Pingback: Finding the Keys | A Healer's Cafe

  25. Pingback: “I’d love to, but times are bad.” | A Healer's Cafe

  26. Pingback: Attracting the Law of Attraction | A Healer's Cafe

  27. Pingback: We are not our thoughts | A Healer's Cafe

  28. Pingback: Honesty, Forgiveness, Healing | A Healer's Cafe

  29. Pingback: Getting Unstuck: Feeling Overwhelmed | A Healer's Cafe

  30. Pingback: Getting Unstuck: Feeling Overwhelmed | A Healer's Cafe

  31. Pingback: Money is remarkable easy to come by, if that’s all you want. | A Healer's Cafe

  32. Pingback: To be Time Rich, Learn to Be | A Healer's Cafe

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