“The question isn’t who is going to let me, it’s who is going to stop me.” — Ayn Rand
So many people I know are really struggling with their motivation, stress, and their work-life balance.
You can quickly change your career whether you are in a job, looking for a job, or transforming your career.
I’ve mentored a lot of people at Microsoft over 25 years in work and life, so I’ve learned some things that help people hit higher levels of performance and make their jobs more meaningful, and transition through amazing career changes.
You own your career, and your career can be a platform for your greatest adventures and personal growth.
Your career is also your portfolio of experiences and series of adventures that you get to create as you write your story forward.
I’m going to share with you 3 career hacks you can use as an employee, entrepreneur, or even simply for personal growth.
Here are 3 ways I’ve found to make career changes, make your career more meaningful, and to change how you work…
1. Change the Problems You Solve
The value of your career in the market is the value of the problems you solve.
I remember one day asking myself, “What problems am I solving?”, and I wasn’t happy with the answer.
I was busy solving a lot of problems I felt anybody could solve and that would better be solved by other people.
I realized that my personal and professional growth was directly related to the quality of the problems I solve each day.
I challenged myself to focus on better problems. Bigger problems. Ambitious problems.
So, I shifted gears. I went on to solve more complex problems in the security and performance arena. I wanted to help customers put the Legos of Microsoft together.
By asking myself each day, what problems am I solving, it helped me correct course whenever I wasn’t solving high value problems. And by focusing on higher value problems, I created a simple North Star for my career path.
This is such a simple, but healthy check, especially for aspiring entrepreneurs.
If you aren’t learning enough or aren’t inspired enough or find yourself becoming irrelevant, to get back in the game, change the problems you solve.
2. Change Who You Spend Time With
Pay attention to whether the people you spend time with are catalysts or drains. Do they grow you better, or just wear you down and suck the life force out?
This is huge.
Sometimes you are just one person away from a brand-new world of opportunity and excitement.
Just like it only takes one bad apple to spoil the bunch, it only takes on amazing person to be the catalyst that breathes new life into your day to day and inspires you to grow better in ways you didn’t expect.
You don’t have to change it all at once, but by being aware of this, you can start to find creative ways to spend less time with your drains, and more time with your catalysts.
This is a way to make your network more meaningful, too.
Inspire your network. Help the people you know achieve their dreams. This will pay you back in ways you can’t predict.
By fixing your social energy, you compound what you’re capable of.
Human potential is amazing when people are surrounded by people who inspire them and lift them up.
It’s not just the energy, too. It’s opportunities. As a mentor put it to me long ago, “It’s what you know and who you know.”
If you are connected with people where the action is, the serendipity factor goes up by a lot.
As Vinnie Paz put it:
“Luck is when skill meets opportunity.” — Vinnie Paz
So up your luck by connecting with movers and shakers that bring out your best.
3. Change Your Mission
I save perhaps the best for last. Nailing this actually helps you with #1 and #2 above.
You probably already have a mission you support through your job. You may or may not feel connected with it. Hopefully, you feel a connection with it, or you might be in the wrong place.
Either way, you need to have your own personal mission. A mission that gets you out of bed in the morning and lifts you up when you get knocked down.
You need a mission that lights a fire in your belly that is inextinguishable motivation no matter how dark things are.
Bill Gates wanted to empower everybody with the power of a computer. Elan Musk wants to save the future of humanity. Bold ambitions create breakthroughs.
My most fundamental mission when I started at Microsoft was:
I want to improve the quality of life for as many people as I can, as long as I can.
And so I used Microsoft as a platform for changing lives and living my mission, while also supporting the Microsoft mission to empower people and businesses to achieve more.
But I found that by changing my mission from time to time, I could renew my inspiration and drive, and take on bigger and bolder things.
Here are some of my simple examples:
I want to change how the world does productivity.
I want to change how the world innovates.
I want to change how the world wakes up.
Each of these ambitions and meaningful missions creates an unstoppable force of nature, a relentless drive, a fire that blazes.
When people ask me my mission, or something along those lines, I tend to say, “I help leaders change the world”, or “I help entrepreneurs change the world”, or “I help innovators create the future”.
Dream Big, Start Small
You can start small with your mission, but don’t start with a small mission: Dream big, start small.
Your mission needs to feel meaningful, and it needs to feel real for you.
Changing the world feels real for me because I’ve shipped articles and books and frameworks that reached millions of people.
Anything less doesn’t feel real for me.
And if you think you’re too small to make a difference, remember these famous words from the Dalai Lama:
“If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.” — Dalai Lama
Best wishes for your becoming the greatest version of yourself.
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