Seriously. After all this time and experience I've stumbled upon the secret to success, and it is a three step process! That's it, just three. And it's not going to be a secret for long. But before you get overly excited it's not a shortcut, nor is it a silver bullet. But it is a simple three step process.
Why are there No Shortcuts?
As I look back on my life, I finally begin to see a pattern emerging.
You see, if you looked at my CV (resume for those of you preferring American English), it's rather difficult to make sense of all the, rather odd, directions my career appears to have taken.
If you already know me, then you almost certainly know that my first career was as a chef. Well, perhaps the term ‘chef' is a little grand for my first real job that was frying eggs and bacon, peeling potatoes, washing pots and scrubbing floors.
I did, later train as a commis chef, became a sous chef and became a head chef. I also did my stints behind the bar and waiting in the restaurant.
You see, while I had some abilities in cooking, no one was going to allow me to run a kitchen until I understood what was happening in all parts of the kitchen, and to know my diners.
I went to University to study hotel management because now I wanted more than a kitchen. I loved being front of house as well. I enjoyed running back of house too. My industrial placement, which today would be Americanised into an internship, exposed me to the delights of housekeeping and cleaning rooms after an Irish stag weekend. And many other delightful and disgusting moments.
I presided over a disastrous lunch for 3500 militant unionists at their conference that, due to my lack of leadership, was served lukewarm and two hours late. Used the wrong extinguisher on a fryer fire to the amusement of everyone who did not lose their eyebrows. I even managed to spill soup on the lap of a kindly Royal personage.
If you speak to anyone in the hotel business, they too can regale you with stories of exhaustion, disasters, drunkards and learning. Yes, learning.
But there are those who insist that it has to be easier than this.
Then I'll meet a young manager in another industry. They got themselves a degree in business, for example, and they get an Associate Director title or a Vice President title. It's an entry level position but with a fancy name and a pretty fancy salary.
They expect to be in a managerial role within a year or two and want to know what they need to know to get there as fast as possible.
The expensive shortcut that isn’t
Many have embarked on an MBA, and having spent a small fortune on their education, want to know why they haven’t gotten to be a senior manager yet.
People are signing up for courses that promise instant results even though they've been burnt more than once already.
I've fallen victim to this thinking myself on many more occasions that I like to admit.
I cast an envious eye on someone else's success and think that if only I can emulate them, I too will have that instant success.
Of course, it's nonsense.
You know that it is nonsense. You too have found out that there are no shortcuts. Or at least, according to Maya Angelou,
there are no shortcuts to any place worth going.
So now, I look back and think, if only I had cut across the meandering path of my career. There are some useful diversions but many useless ones.
And ultimately, had I known that I was coming this way, I could easily have cut across.
The trouble is, of course, that we don’t know which direction is the real shortcut.
If I had known that I would essentially end up teaching, writing and recording audio, I should really have taken a course in journalism or teaching. Or both, just to be sure.
But then my Godfather did ask me some 40 years ago what I wanted to do with my life as he watched me scrub the floor of the café's kitchen. Then, I wanted the shortcut to having a clean floor without actually putting in any effort…
I wrote the book
When I wrote my leadership field guide: “What's Better Today?” I set out to be different from all the other leadership instant success books out there. I even wrote on the cover as a warning “There are no silver bullets; no quick and easy solutions; it will not happen overnight.”
It's one of the very few times I actually agree with the Iron Lady: “I do not know anyone who has got to the top without hard work. That is the recipe. It will not always get you to the top, but should get you pretty near.” — Margaret Thatcher
Hurry up already, what are the three steps?
The world is an impatient place I know, and you are keen to find out.
Success starts with:
- deciding what you want from life and
- choosing that you are going to work for it every day
- And every day you keep on keeping on
If you’re disappointed, you’re not alone.
And if you’re young and hungry, the chances are pretty high that you’re going to forget this for a while and seek a much nicer answer and some other magic formula. But that's the thing, this IS the magic formula. It's no shortcut. It's no silver bullet; it's not instant.
As George Bernard Shaw said:
“The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and, if they can’t find them, make them.”