What CrossFit Can Teach You About Success

CrossFitIf a colleague told you a project was going to be a “slam-dunk,” you’d probably think your prospects for getting it done are excellent!! Similarly, if your manager tells you it’s “gonna take a Hail Mary” to save the business, you get that too. Even if you’re not a fan, sports metaphors are so pervasive that it’s hard to miss their meaning or lessons. Up to now, football, basketball, and baseball metaphors have been most common. There simply aren’t a whole lot of CrossFit success metaphors or lessons… Now there are! [Tweet This]

But wait! What’s CrossFit?

It’s kind of a craze. Still, if you’re not up on your lifestyle news, or if you’re not watching The Biggest Loser, here’s a quick overview. Basically, CrossFit is the “sport of fitness.” It is overall conditioning to prepare people for a high level of general (even elite) fitness. Among the activities it includes are: Olympic weightlifting, gymnastics, tire flips, rope climbing, dumbbell swings, handstands, pull-ups, box jumps, broad jumps … and oh yeah, running!!

Each day, select elements will be combined into a Work Out of the Day (WOD), which may be scored in rounds, repetitions, or time. Each group class run during the day does the same WOD, and scores are posted for all to see.

I’ve been doing CrossFit for two and a half years now, and found it more physically challenging than anything I’ve ever done. Reflecting on my progress, recently, I had the insight that CrossFit offers some great lessons for career success. Here are eight:

“Just Do It” is incomplete advice.

I’ve always admired Nike’s well-known philosophy, especially for it’s action orientation. Yet, when it comes to CrossFit, there is definitely a learning curve. Moves can be complex, so you need time to develop your skills. In CrossFit, if you “just do it,” you’re gonna get hurt. [Tweet This] Success lesson: Even though you may be eager to make your mark, success means investing time to learn. Make sure you know what you’re doing.
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Are You Defining Success By What Matters To You?

Word definition successfulHow often do you stop to think about your success? How do you define it? As you may have surmised from the name of this site, I’ve broadly reimagined success as “your career, your life, your way.” It’s a position that has guided me for a long time, and is rooted in my philosophy of personal responsibility: “It’s your life, own it.”

I’ve lived much of my life based on this idea. So, I tend to take for granted that true success is achieving meaning and fulfillment based on personal choice and self-direction. It’s my bias, and has shaded my perceptions, making it easy to see evidence for it in my work with clients, over social media, and especially in what I read.

Believing that conforming to defined roles in compliance with organizational authority limits freedom, I saw in Dan Pink’s Free Agent Nation, the dawn of true independence. Added to the mix was my work in personal branding. I saw with many clients that “permission to be yourself” resonated. It made sense in helping them map their career strategy, stand out, and gain more visibility and credibility.

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You Want To Create a Personal Brand…Really?

Focus On YouHave you ever wondered how to predict when something has outlived its usefulness? I know I have. Seems to me, though, that it’s one of those things we only recognize at some defining moment. And then we just know. Actually, the television industry has a name for it: Jumping the Shark.

The term refers to the Happy Days episode in which Fonzie shows his bravery by making a water-skiing jump over a confined shark. It stands as the moment when people realized the program had outlived its appeal. Today, jumping the shark is used to cover a wide variety of situations, and is defined as:

“…[the] …precise moment when you know a program, band, actor, politician, or other public figure has taken a turn for the worse, gone downhill, become irreversibly bad, is unredeemable, etc.; the moment you realize decay has set in.”

I think this also applies to ideas.

Now, I can’t claim to be astute in making predictions. Still, I wonder: Is the concept of personal branding at risk of jumping the shark? [Tweet This]

Ironically, what prompts me to consider this is the incessant advice to create, build, and promote your personal brand. In fact, if you google “creating your brand,” you’ll find lots of guidance on the steps you need to take to get it done.

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Career Portability & Your Future Success

Transport It always amazes me how the relevance of certain ideas changes. Have you paid attention to this too?

Whether it’s the passage of time, cultural change, or our own new circumstances, we seem to find new meaning in familiar sayings.  Take, for example, the French proverb, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” While true for some things, I don’t think it has the kind of broad application you’d want to stake your career on. Especially if it blinds you to the need to develop yourself.

Frankly, if you accept that things don’t really change all that much, it’s easy to believe things like 20 years in a given job gives you 20 years of experience. If you think it does, you may want to consider a point made by Andrew Hargadon:  “Twenty years of experience is not 20 years of experience.  It’s one year of experience repeated 20 times.”  And that’s not a good thing.

There are other ideas you should question.

Career coaches (including me) have traditionally offered a career management remedy to bolster clients’ prospects in the (increasingly) likely event of job loss. It’s the idea that skills are transferable. So, if you were, say, selling aluminum siding, your core skills could transfer to other sales jobs…you know, like pharmaceuticals. Great, in theory. In practice, not so much.  Without the industry knowledge, the prospects for transferability are slim to none.

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Play Your Part: Make “Typecasting” Work for You

CastingHave you ever imagined yourself as a movie actor? If so, what roles do you play? More importantly, how similar are your imaginary roles to who you are in real life? I ask because I think the world of acting offers us a useful lesson in career success.

One of my friends is an actor who is carefully building his career. Fortunately, he has a great day job and an award winning film to his credit.  Recently, during dinner in LA (where else?), we talked about personal branding for actors. During this and a subsequent conversation in Atlanta, I learned some things that seem to have broad application to pursuing success in other industries.

According to my friend, getting started in acting is often based on your type; specifically:

“… typecasting … [or] the process by which a particular actor becomes strongly identified with a specific character; one or more particular roles; or, characters having the same traits or coming from the same social or ethnic groups.”

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Putting Yourself “Out There”

Social MediaI know I can sometimes take myself too seriously. How about you? Yet, I actually do make an effort to “put myself out there,” on social media, by showing the fun parts of who I am. What about you? Do you put yourself out there? Are you willing to share who you are as a person? To show some of what you enjoy in life?

Let me explain why I ask.

The other day, I posted a LinkedIn update to a Chris Brogan post, leading with, “If you take yourself seriously, this is not for you. But it probably should be.” Part of the reason I said that was my sense that, as a social media platform for business people, this update might not fit LinkedIn.

Since posting it, I’ve been thinking about what made me think people take themselves so seriously. Part of it, is the nature of LinkedIn as professional platform. It’s where people present who they are as a business people. Yet, I also realized that besides sharing their experience and a summary of what they do, there was something else contributing to my sense of their seriousness. Then it hit me. I realized it came from their “passion” statements.

By passion statements, I mean the way people prop up their image by saying what floats their professional boat. You know, statements like,  “I am passionate about…

  • Helping my clients get that loan…
  • Empowering others to have their say…
  • Achieving growth for businesses…
  • Building customer engagement.”

When I see these statements in profiles, I often think, “But what are you silly about?” No, seriously!

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Frame Your Career Story: The Pixar Pitch

LampIf you had to describe the bigger story of your career, what would you say?

No, I don’t mean the information that would normally find it’s way into your elevator pitch. Rather, I mean the bigger story that frames what you do – and propels your career. That is, the backstory of conditions that exist before the hero (you) even show up, and the flashforward to show the bright future your work brings about.

Sounds complicated, right?

Well, actually, there are career-related story frames that can guide you. Yet, I have a new favorite that I learned about from my friend Carol Ross. It’s the Pixar Pitch. Described by Dan Pink in To Sell Is Human, it goes like this:

Once upon a time _____. Every day, _____. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.

 It’s powerful. In fact, I’ve already used it to help people identify the words to best convey their vision, tell the story of their business, clarify their mission – and of course, quickly uncover the why of their careers.

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Achieving Happiness In Your Career

Achieving Happiness

Does your career bring you the kind of meaning and fulfillment that supports your happiness?

I ask because I so often receive inquiries from people who tell me they’re not happy. They say things like,  “I’ve struggled to find a career I’m truly happy in, and feel discouraged.” Or, “Unfortunately, I’ve made too many decisions based on money but not happiness.”

I could share more, but you get the idea.

Frankly, while career choice matters, finding happiness is journey that involves some more fundamental habits. In fact, I would even go so far as saying, and I’m not alone in this, you need to choose your happiness first. Still, in my coaching work, I find the happiest people are the ones who are able to connect what they do to a deep sense of purpose in pursuing a vision for the world. And for these folks, the true measure of success is not the size of their office or paycheck. Rather, it’s the achievements that regularly result from their determined effort to fulfill their purpose.

Take Sean, for example.

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Career Success in the “Thank You” Economy

Businesspeople having a lunch break.Has it ever seemed to you like running your career is same old same old?

Certainly, it seems like that to me, especially with so many people believing career management is the same as it ever was. Frankly, as I’m sure you realize, there’s been a social media revolution, but are you really clear on how much that changes how you now need to manage your career?

One significant new reality is that career sucess increasingly requires always-on engagement with trusted members of your professional community. We’ve entered a time where social media is quickly reshaping expectations for how we engage with others whether on line or face to face. It’s a relationship economy, or as Gary Vaynerchuck has dubbed it, The Thank You Economy.

So, how is this economy different? Here’s Vaynerchuk’s view:

“[Business] … happens in the small, personal interactions that allow us to prove to each other who we are and what we believe in, honest moments that promote good feelings and build trust and loyalty.  When given the choice, people will always spend their time around people they like. When it’s expedient and practical, they’d also rather do business …[with]… people they like.”

So, how does this change things? To successfully manage your career today, you need to:

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The One Thing You Need To Know About Networking

ConversationWhen is the last time you told your boss that you weren’t going to attend a meeting because you’re too shy…or an introvert? How often in your working life have you refused to attend a professional conference because you didn’t know anyone? And when have you ever turned down an opportunity to meet with new business prospects because you didn’t know what to talk about?

I would guess that your answer to those questions is probably never.

And yet, if you are taking steps to advance your career, especially if you’re in job search, you may find the prospect of networking to be daunting. I say this because as a long-time career coach, I’ve been on an epic crusade to get people in job search to make networking their priority. Unfortunately, they resist. In fact, they resist even knowing that some studies show more than 65 per cent of people land new jobs via networking

To be honest, there is nothing tougher than having to do something once you’ve reached a place of desperation. It’s like being on a tight rope and looking down. I get that. Yet, an ability to connect with people is a prerequisite to building trust.

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