After many years of being the boss is several workplaces followed by a career teaching school, I’ve established three simple rules for success. These three rules are simple to remember, easy to understand, and they always work-whether you are trying to make your way up the career ladder, or get good grades in school. These rules are the first thing I teach my students each year.
The rules are like the three legs of a milking stool; the stool is as solid as a rock with all three legs, but take one leg away, and the stool tips over. I’ll explain each rule later on-although they don’t need much explaining-but for the impatient, here they are:
- Show up.
- Pay attention.
- Do the work.
They couldn’t be more simple, could they? But I have seen so many employees and students fail to achieve success because they drop the ball on just one of these rules. Let’s look at them one at a time.
Be there. Whether it is work or school, you must drag yourself out of bed and be there. This means there may be a few days each year when you’re a little under the weather but you tough it out and show up.
You probably know some people who, for one reason or another, seem to be “out” as often as they are “in.” Any little bump in the road throws these folks off course. In most school situations, 98 percent of the learning happens during class time. If you aren’t there, you can’t get the information and you won’t achieve success. It’s that simple. So simple in fact that it should be a “no brainer” but I can’t tell you how many students operate with the attitude of, “I can miss today, no big deal.”
I was just talking to a former student of mine. She wasn’t the most brilliant student in school. In fact she was the good-looking blond cheerleader who had more than her share of “blond moments.” But she was always there. She is now working on her degree in nursing. We were reminiscing about some of her classmates and she told me about one, who in fact is quite brilliant, but who has spent most of her college career in Starbucks.
Showing up is equally important in the workplace. To advance in your company, you must be seen as an absolutely rock solid performer. Why would I put someone in a position to supervise others if that person seemed to miss a day or two every couple of weeks? Here’s a good rule of thumb: do you watch to see how many sick days you have left so you won’t “waste” any? If so, shame on you.
I tell my students and employees to “be where you are.” In other words, have your mind focused on what is happening around you at any given time. In the classroom, this will enable you to naturally pick up the information the teacher is trying to convey and greatly aid your success. You will discover that if you pay good attention during class, you won’t have to “cram” so much before tests. Teachers don’t test on material they haven’t covered in class.
At work, the rule is just as helpful. Seeing what is going on around you as you do your job will put you in a position to prevent problems and come up with solutions. Be aware. Look for the next thing that needs to be done and do it without being told. Again, this seems simple. But too many employees today let their minds wander while they are at work. This is especially dangerous if you are in a position that allows you to surf the web while at work. Don’t do it! You are wasting your employer’s time and even worse, you are wasting your time. This habit never leads to success.
Do the work
If you have followed the first two rules-show up and pay attention-this one should be easy. If you are a student, do every assignment, big or small. If you have followed the first two rules, you should be in good shape do follow the third. In school, smaller assignments prepare students for bigger assignments and tests. Don’t be eyeing your grade and figuring out which assignments you can take a zero on and still pass. You are developing an attitude that will lead to failure.
The same principle applies at work. Do every little task that comes your way, even if you think it is “stupid” or a “waste of time.” If you can’t be trusted with the small things, you can’t be trusted with bigger responsibilities. You will develop a reputation of being undependable; not the label you want if you are looking for success.
I’m sure by now you see how simple these rules are. Don’t think that just because you believe you’re smarter than most people around you, you can ignore these rules. I have seen many “smart” students fail and many “average” students earn straight A’s. I’ve worked with very smart employees who ended up being “too smart for their own good.”
Make these three rules part of who you are and you will be well on your way to success.