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You probably know to ask yourself, “What do I want?” Here’s a way better question

Think about what you want. Photo by: (CC0 Public Domain via Pixabay/Foundry)
Everybody wants what feels good. Everyone wants to live a carefree, happy and easy life, to fall in love and have amazing sex and relationships, to look perfect and make money and be popular and well-respected and admired and a total baller to the point that people part like the Red Sea when you walk into the room.

Everyone would like that—it’s easy to like that.

If I ask you, “What do you want out of life?” and you say something like, “I want to be happy and have a great family and a job I like,” it’s so ubiquitous that it doesn’t even mean anything.

A more interesting question, a question that perhaps you’ve never considered before, is what pain do you want in your life? What are you willing to struggle for? Because that seems to be a greater determinant of how our lives turn out.

Everybody wants to have an amazing job and financial independence—but not everyone wants to suffer through 60-hour work weeks, long commutes, obnoxious paperwork, to navigate arbitrary corporate hierarchies and the blasé confines of an infinite cubicle hell. People want to be rich without the risk, without the sacrifice, without the delayed gratification necessary to accumulate wealth.

Everybody wants to have great sex and an awesome relationship—but not everyone is willing to go through the tough conversations, the awkward silences, the hurt feelings and the emotional psychodrama to get there. And so they settle. They settle and wonder “What if?” for years and years and until the question morphs from “What if?” into “Was that it?” And when the lawyers go home and the alimony check is in the mail they say, “What was that for?” if not for their lowered standards and expectations 20 years prior, then what for?

Because happiness requires struggle. The positive is the side effect of handling the negative. You can only avoid negative experiences for so long before they come roaring back to life.

At the core of all human behavior, our needs are more or less similar. Positive experience is easy to handle. It’s negative experience that we all, by definition, struggle with. Therefore, what we get out of life is not determined by the good feelings we desire but by what bad feelings we’re willing and able to sustain to get us to those good feelings.

People want an amazing physique. But you don’t end up with one unless you legitimately appreciate the pain and physical stress that comes with living inside a gym for hour upon hour, unless you love calculating and calibrating the food you eat, planning your life out in tiny plate-sized portions.

People want to start their own business or become financially independent. But you don’t end up a successful entrepreneur unless you find a way to appreciate the risk, the uncertainty, the repeated failures, and working insane hours on something you have no idea whether will be successful or not.

People want a partner, a spouse. But you don’t end up attracting someone amazing without appreciating the emotional turbulence that comes with weathering rejections, building the sexual tension that never gets released, and staring blankly at a phone that never rings. It’s part of the game of love. You can’t win if you don’t play.

What determines your success isn’t “What do you want to enjoy?” The question is, “What pain do you want to sustain?” The quality of your life is not determined by the quality of your positive experiences but the quality of your negative experiences. And to get good at dealing with negative experiences is to get good at dealing with life.

There’s a lot of crappy advice out there that says, “You’ve just got to want it enough!”

Everybody wants something. And everybody wants something enough. They just aren’t aware of what it is they want, or rather, what they want “enough.”

Because if you want the benefits of something in life, you have to also want the costs. If you want the beach body, you have to want the sweat, the soreness, the early mornings, and the hunger pangs. If you want the yacht, you have to also want the late nights, the risky business moves, and the possibility of pissing off a person or ten thousand.

If you find yourself wanting something month after month, year after year, yet nothing happens and you never come any closer to it, then maybe what you actually want is a fantasy, an idealization, an image and a false promise. Maybe what you want isn’t what you want, you just enjoy wanting. Maybe you don’t actually want it at all.

Sometimes I ask people, “How do you choose to suffer?” These people tilt their heads and look at me like I have twelve noses. But I ask because that tells me far more about you than your desires and fantasies. Because you have to choose something. You can’t have a pain-free life. It can’t all be roses and unicorns. And ultimately that’s the hard question that matters. Pleasure is an easy question. And pretty much all of us have similar answers. The more interesting question is the pain. What is the pain that you want to sustain?

That answer will actually get you somewhere. It’s the question that can change your life. It’s what makes me me and you you. It’s what defines us and separates us and ultimately brings us together.

For most of my adolescence and young adulthood, I fantasized about being a musician — a rock star, in particular. Any badass guitar song I heard, I would always close my eyes and envision myself up on stage playing it to the screams of the crowd, people absolutely losing their minds to my sweet finger-noodling. This fantasy could keep me occupied for hours on end. The fantasizing continued up through college, even after I dropped out of music school and stopped playing seriously. But even then it was never a question of if I’d ever be up playing in front of screaming crowds, but when. I was biding my time before I could invest the proper amount of time and effort into getting out there and making it work. First, I needed to finish school. Then, I needed to make money. Then, I needed to find the time. Then … and then nothing.

Despite fantasizing about this for over half of my life, the reality never came. And it took me a long time and a lot of negative experiences to finally figure out why: I didn’t actually want it.

I was in love with the result—the image of me on stage, people cheering, me rocking out, pouring my heart into what I’m playing—but I wasn’t in love with the process. And because of that, I failed at it. Repeatedly. Hell, I didn’t even try hard enough to fail at it. I hardly tried at all.

The daily drudgery of practicing, the logistics of finding a group and rehearsing, the pain of finding gigs and actually getting people to show up and give a shit. The broken strings, the blown tube amp, hauling 40 pounds of gear to and from rehearsals with no car. It’s a mountain of a dream and a mile-high climb to the top. And what it took me a long time to discover is that I didn’t like to climb much. I just liked to imagine the top.

Our culture would tell me that I’ve somehow failed myself, that I’m a quitter or a loser. Self-help would say that I either wasn’t courageous enough, determined enough or I didn’t believe in myself enough. The entrepreneurial/start-up crowd would tell me that I chickened out on my dream and gave in to my conventional social conditioning. I’d be told to do affirmations or join a mastermind group or manifest or something.

But the truth is far less interesting than that: I thought I wanted something, but it turns out I didn’t. End of story.

I wanted the reward and not the struggle. I wanted the result and not the process. I was in love not with the fight but only the victory. And life doesn’t work that way.

Who you are is defined by the values you are willing to struggle for. People who enjoy the struggles of a gym are the ones who get in good shape. People who enjoy long workweeks and the politics of the corporate ladder are the ones who move up it. People who enjoy the stresses and uncertainty of the starving artist lifestyle are ultimately the ones who live it and make it.

This is not a call for willpower or “grit.” This is not another admonishment of “no pain, no gain.”

This is the most simple and basic component of life: our struggles determine our successes. So choose your struggles wisely, my friend.

This post originally appeared on MarkManson.net. Follow @iammarkmanson on Twitter.

How To Spot An Irreplaceable Employee

Great employees and employers show mutual admiration (Shutterst0ck)

Employees and employers have a shared interest in discovering the attributes that define the all-time favorite employees. Employees want to be the most-favored, and employers seek to attract those individuals who seem irreplaceable.

Michael Gottlieb is the founding partner of Momentum Law Group – a law firm that serves entrepreneurs. At a recent meeting of his monthly CEO round table, he asked the group, “ What attributes would you use to describe your all-time favorite employees? ” The list of attributes is surprising. Even more surprising is that the group of 12 CEOs all agreed on the list.

No Drama

At the top of the list: Lack of drama. These favorite employees don’t complain. They don’t seek attention. They don’t gossip. They simply perform their jobs without a need to draw attention to their professional or personal challenges.  They don’t see a need to remind others of how challenging the task might be. They don’t call attention to the fact that someone else didn’t complete their task.

Jeff Lesher, Principal at EntreQuest, an award-winning consultancy with a vision to shift engagement in the work world to transform the real world, says, “Most highly valued employees not only perform their jobs admirably – with skill, focus, and passion – they do so in a way that demonstrates their commitment, first and foremost, to the work.”

 Jeff further explains, “ Drama is selfish ; the more selfless, low drama approach typically is a symptom of high commitment more than a direct intent.” It reminds me of the scene between Billy Crystal’s character and Meg Ryan’s character in the movie When Harry Met Sally:

Harry Burns: There are two kinds of women: high maintenance and low maintenance.
Sally Albright: Which one am I?
Harry Burns: You’re the worst kind. You’re high maintenance but you think you’re low maintenance.

Most high-drama people don’t see themselves as dramatic.

Operational Focus

The next item is commitment to operational execution. Top employees don’t just talk about ideas or identify problems. Rather, they always focus on how to accomplish the task at hand.  These talented individuals know that there is a big difference between having intention and getting things done. The most valued employees know that nothing matters until it is implemented and achieving results.

Top employees know that their commitment to customers and accomplishment can help to grow the business and engender customer trust. These superstars always follow-through and don’t need reminders of what is important .

Initiative: Confidence And Internal Motivation

Top employees don’t wait around to be told what to do. Once they know the goal and they are self-motivated to move toward that goal each day. Nothing will get in their way. Some might see them as stubborn. Most see them as possessing superpowers.

Their greatest superpower is the ability to receive and internalize feedback. They have sufficient confidence and self-awareness to accept constructive criticism as a way to improve, without seeing the input as negative.

This superpower only surfaces in work environments where employees are not punished for taking risks. Confident self-starters will happily take constructive feedback. If you punish them for taking initiative, they’ll sit back — probably while searching for a new job where they can unleash their initiative.

What The Experts Say

According to HeliosHR’s CEO, Kathy Albarado, “The fact that CEOs cite a desire for ‘No drama’ could point to a gap in hiring practices. With the right screening and interview process, you should be able to spot those most likely to be valuable members of the team.”  Kathy encourages employers to seek similar attributes that the Girl Scouts of America teach young women:  Courage, Character and Confidence.  The courage to take risks, the character to follow through,and the confidence to take feedback.

Gabe Muller is the COO of Glassman Wealth Services, named “Best Place to Work” in the Washington DC area by Washingtonian Magazine and the Washington Business Journal three years in a row. “I love the three attributes of 1) Solution orientated mindset, 2) Adaptability; and 3) The ability to receive feedback and collaborate with others.”

Notice that the themes are consistent with the CEO round table that Michael Gottlieb assembled. Also take note that nobody is listing skills, educational background or certifications. While those capabilities are important, nobody said that their all-time favorite employee had the best technical skills.

The best employees get stuff done with passion and results. If you don’t value your employees who demonstrate those attributes, rest assured that another employer is anxiously waiting to meet them.

It’s Your Turn

What do you think makes for favorite employees? Share your thoughts in the comments or join the conversation on LinkedIn- https://www.linkedin.com/groups/4499329 or Twitter.@winerycareers.com

Bestselling co-author of Same Side Selling, Ian Altman is a popular keynote speaker, and host of the Grow My Revenue Business Cast. He has 2 children, a dog, and a wife he doesn’t deserve

Instead Of Looking For Your Purpose Or 'One Thing', Try This

When talking about their careers, there are two stories I often hear women telling themselves:

  • “Unless I figure out the one thing I’ve always wanted to do, I’m going to be miserable.”
  • “I’ve invested so much time striving to be successful in this industry, if I transition to something else it’ll have all been for nothing.”

Women (and men) often feel an urgency to find their ‘one thing.’ Or, they stay in the same industry longer than they’d like because they feel obligated or stuck. To discuss finding purpose and getting unstuck I talked with Nicole Antoinette, the host of the Real Talk Radio podcast. Antoinette is a self-described “recovering self help addict” and a queen of reinvention.

nicole-antoinette

Nicole Antoinette Photo Credit: Foxes + Wolves

With a resume that includes highlights such as camp director, owner of a web design firm, goal setting coach, and cookie shop owner, Antoinette says the theme of her career has been change.

This is a dramatic juxtaposition to her husband, an engineer at Twitter whose path has been pretty linear. She says, “He’s taken the more traditional or ‘recommended’ path that was put on a pedestal when I was younger: pick your thing and become really good at your thing.”

Around the time she turned 30, Antoinette struggled with shame and guilt that she hadn’t found her ‘one thing’ like her partner. Without her ‘one thing’ all the choices she had made in her 20s felt like a waste. She asked herself, “What’s wrong with me that I’ve had all of these seemingly unrelated careers?”

Paths Aren’t Always Linear, But Skills Are Transferable

Antoinette felt badly about this pattern of behavior until she had a realization. “The model of pick one thing, get better and better at that thing, and always be continually interested in that thing is actually pretty rare.” Stories of achieving greatness through perseverance in the same profession (picture Michael Phelps) are the ones celebrated in the media, she argues, which causes us to falsely believe that kind of career consistency is the norm.

In addition to craving an idealized ’one thing’, people are reluctant to lose all the opportunities they’ve created for themselves in their industry. Antoinette, who’s had at least 4 careers already, says if you go to do something else, all the experience, skills, and relationships you’ve developed come with you. “ It’s not like you leave a job or an industry and someone comes and ‘Men in Blacks’ your brain ,” she explains referencing the memory erasing technology from the popular film series.

For example, the same organization and communication skills that made her a good camp director were a tremendous asset when she ran her own business. As I started my consulting practice, a woman I’d met in my last role, managing a political campaign, became my first client.

Ask Yourself Good Questions

When it comes to her own transitions, Antoinette says the best advice she’s ever gotten is to ask yourself good questions, such as:

Referencing her own experience, Antoinette says, “If you’re actually willing to go back and ask yourself again and again, eventually you just get sick of yourself,” and get to the answer.

Asking herself those questions relentlessly, she realized she didn’t care about having a big flashy career. She says it took all of her 20s to accept that a “capital C Career” wasn’t important to her. She challenged the idea that there was a finite destination to reach, and she’s not looking back. Or as she says,“F*ck, I’m so much happier now.”

Whether you’re just starting out in your career or decades in, consider giving yourself permission to explore what kind of work is fulfilling rather than searching frantically for your ‘one thing’. Who knows, maybe cookie shop owner is in your future.

Lelia Gowland helps women negotiate and navigate their careers. Learn more about her e-courses on negotiating a raise, a promotion, and a new position at gowlandllc.com.

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