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Be willing to work

Improving Systems and Habits

Scott Miker is the author of several books that describe how to use systems and habits to improve.  This free blog provides articles that to help understand the principles related to building systems.  

Be willing to work

Scott Miker

When I was in middle school I started to play football for my school.  I had never played tackle football but was raised in a family that was obsessed with football.

This put a lot of pressure on me.  I wanted to succeed and be able to play at a high level to help my team, but I was unsure if I would be good enough to even compete.

At the time this gave me an inner drive that helped me quite a bit.  Because I felt behind the others I chose to work harder.  I would be the first one to finish my warm-up lap and would also jump into any situation to gain as much experience as I could.

This strategy paid off.  I was open to learning so I took instruction from the coaches very well.  Because of this effort I ended up winning an award that was given every year to the person who exemplified the work ethic of a former player who passed away in a tragic accident.  Since I had grown up with this individual, receiving an award in his honor meant a great deal to me.   

But this positive feedback started to get to my head.  I thought that I had enough talent that meant I didn’t have to work as hard.  For a year or so those hard work habits continued but they soon disintegrated and were replaced with an elevated ego that kept me from giving my best all the time.

By the end of my high school football career I stopped working hard.  It wasn’t just with football.  I started to take the mindset that I could get around the hard work by being more talented, or finding some secret way around a problem etc. 

I went through this pattern in several other areas of my life as well.  Looking at it at a high level I basically would start feeling somewhat insecure and use hard work and a willingness to learn.  This would give me an incredible advantage. 

Then slowly I would feel more and more entitled.  I would feel I was owed more than I received and would turn bitter.  This bitterness would result in slacking off and being close-minded.  This would result in me getting further and further away from the hard work and open-minded approach that is needed.

Once I started to realize this pattern I finally was able to address it and correct it.  I started to realize that if I started focusing on what was owed to me I would lose sight of what I needed to do to keep having success. 

It sounds easy but it was several times going through this pattern before I was able to change how I responded.  Several jobs followed this pattern and started great but ended poorly due to my ego getting too big and feeling I was owed more than what I was receiving. 

I started to realize that if we avoid trying to determine what we deserve, and keep our focus on all that we receive, we are much more willing to keep working and keep an open mind. 

Now when I start to feel this entitled attitude coming on, I do everything I can to shift that mindset.  Instead of feeling entitled, I keep working and do everything possible to keep an open mind.  I don’t know everything and many times I overlook certain elements in my attempt to justify my entitlement. 

If you find yourself in this cycle, stop for a minute and think about how your focus shifts.  Instead of focusing on doing everything possible to succeed we shift to focusing on external things that we don’t like. 

As soon as this starts to be the focus, stop and commit to doing the work.  Keep working through it and do everything possible to change your mindset.  Think of Maya Angelou’s quote, “Nothing will work unless you do.” 

This entitlement mindset can be defeated but it takes hard work and a shift back to focusing on what we can do to improve, not on external forces that we don’t like.  Keep working through this cycle until you can start to change the pattern.