Success at work: what are you chasing?

Success at work: what are you chasing?

I recently spent a week in North America with a new client. Based on the east coast, these guys are working class individuals who have been incredibly successful and have built a great business.

But because of their roots, and their culture of caring for the other [and not big-noting or talking about yourself], they are humble, honest, and respectful. They told me about a senior executive who had recently bought a Ferrari, a flash house, and started acting like he was better than other people because he was rich and successful. They asked him to leave the company because he was “off brand” [even though he was a great biller].

Upon returning to Sydney, and reflecting on my visit, the thing that struck me most is that every person I met was a “40-something millionaire”, and I didn’t meet one dickhead. Not one jerk. Not one arrogant prick. Not exactly something you could say about the “millionaire factories” in Sydney, London, or New York.

And that’s because success for these guys comes from serving others – despite their achievements in building, and being part owners of a business that turns over $10 billion in annual revenue. For them success comes from feeding the other. “How many people have been promoted under your leadership? That’s our price of entry. That’s your legacy. All else comes second”.

Theirs is a remarkably selfless way of being, and contrasts starkly with the self-interest that characterises the corporate and business world that I know and experience. Title, rank, and status do not matter. There’s a total lack of corporate ego. As one guy said to me, “who wants to be a CEO, and why? They get divorced twice. They live 10 years less than everyone else. And they work 100 hours a week. What’s the point? I’m 6 foot tall with a full head of hair, a wife and two kids. I’ve got it made.”

On my last day, as I was being personally driven by their Global Head of Strategy back to my hotel, he told me a story:

There was a champion greyhound, who had never lost a race. Yes sir, he was a winner the likes of which no other greyhound racing dog had ever been. 

One day, just out of the blue, he hung up his racing paws and retired. He headed off to a quiet farm, and spent his time chasing through the long grass and basking in the glorious rays of the sun. 

“Why did you stop racing?”, his greyhound mate and big admirer asked him. “You were the best of the best. You won every race at every event. You were the king. You were a success. Why have you thrown it all away?”

And the champion greyhound replied, “Well, you know that rabbit we chase after at every race … it’s not a real rabbit.”

My question for you is, “what are you chasing?” Is it that next promotion, more status and importance, and more money? Or is it making a difference by helping others to realise their potential, and live their dreams?

And if it is the latter, may I suggest to you that the extrinsic rewards of making a difference are that you will get promoted, and earn more money. Assuming, of course, that you’re not working for a company of fake rabbit chasers.

More reading:

Here’s how to fire a deadbeat client
Cultural fit: how to match your skills and personality to a job
Beware the dark side of business
Fun and money – the 2 reasons to come to work
Is meaning missing at work?


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