Prepare yourself because I’m going to make an enormous (yet obvious) claim about life itself:
No one who means anything has ever become successful without a struggle. Anyone who has isn’t worth your time.
There are many people throughout history who are remarkable in some genuine way. Whether through social reformation (Martin Luther King, Jr. or Clara Barton) or technological advancement (Marie Curie or Steve Jobs), there are people who have left a permanent imprint on the world.
All those people listed above, indeed every person worth knowing, shares a common trait—they worked and grew into their prominence. Every one of them had a first step to take on their road to making a difference.
If there’s one thing I want you to keep reminding yourself as you grow and develop your business it’s this: no journey begins at the end.
I’m going to join you in trying to remember that because I’m as much a human with dreams and goals as anyone else. It’s also hard for me to remember that success (whatever that word means for you) is not something that’s won by accident. Success is earned through hard work.
How does success start?
There are three simple tenets that I have always done my best to uphold in anything I set my mind on doing. Whether it’s beginning a project of my own or working with someone who wanted to pay me for a service, being a good example of these three ideals is important. I’ve seen them work for others and they’ve helped get me to where I am today.
Without further ado...
1. Be on time
There’s a common saying that I’ve heard on so many film sets (and elsewhere now) that it’s just been burned into my brain forever:
I feel that saying is important for two reasons.
First, if you can’t be trusted to show up on time, then how can you be trusted with bigger and more important responsibilities? You lose trust other people have in you every time you’re late.
Second, how much respect are you showing those around you if you don’t value their time enough to show up when you’re supposed to? That’s an easy answer: you’re showing them no respect at all.
This tenet extends beyond just arriving at a location when you’re supposed to. If your clients aren’t able to depend on you to finish their big project on time, then what incentive is there for them to speak well of you to other people?
Punctuality in all cases is a virtue, so make sure you’re where you need to be when you need to be there.
2. Do good work
Consider the humble couch, supporter of butts around the world. Many people spend a decent amount of their time on a couch, whether watching tv, reading a book, or taking a nap. Like a bed, a couch is a piece of furniture that becomes the defining factor of a room. A living room without a couch is mostly just a box with a tv propped up against a wall.
I recently spent a weekend at an AirBnB house up in the mountains. In its living room was the worst couch I’ve ever had the misfortune of sitting on. The thing was a sleeper sofa that never seemed to close all the way. It perched me forward, forcing my legs to keep my body from sliding off the front. There was no chance of getting comfortable on the stinking thing.
Whomever made that couch did a terrible job. I’ll forever remember their work as being unpleasant and pointless.
Spending time up in the mountains was wonderful and restorative, but there’s a point to be made if one of the most memorable parts of that trip was a terrible couch.
People appreciate good work, but they never forget the bad things. In fact, people will go out of their way to disparage bad work or an unpleasant experience. Satisfied customers don’t have much motivation to speak out when their project is done; they’re happy and moving on to the next thing they’ve got to do.
Anything done poorly or without as much effort as you can possibly put into it is going to breed resentment.
3. Be kind
Seems like an easy one, yeah? Everyone’s generally nice. Most people don’t want to be terrible or stuck dealing with angry people.
When up against a deadline or adversity, however, it’s easy to forget this tenet and resort to frustration. It’s understandable. I’ve certainly found myself feeling upset with difficult clients in the past, but a challenge in any form is no excuse not to remain civil.
Running headfirst into adversity is the exact time when remaining calm and level-headed is most necessary. These are the moments when you’re being tested the most. Making it through the tough times with your head up and a smile on your face is going to make you stronger.
To continue growing into the sort of person people love to collaborate with, remember to:
- Keep a patient tone of voice under pressure
- Be proactive in figuring out solutions for your clients
- Save the complaints for when you’re hanging out with your family or friends
- Be as accommodating as you can
- Not let yourself be walked on by anybody
That last one sounds like it might be counterintuitive, but you need to be respected, as well. There’s a reason why people are coming to you to solve their problems—they don’t have the time or experience you do. If keeping a client on after all your efforts is only going to harm you or your business, then remember the power of saying “no.”
Without kindness, you will do a good job of alienating everyone around you. Nobody wants to work without a surly grump or a bully. People want pleasant experiences in their lives. Why do you think ice cream is so awesome?
Kindness has a habit of attracting kindness. Being a good person will make other good people want to work with you. When you’re in that position, then everything is delicious gravy.
These three important principles took form in my younger years when I began working, but I’ve come to realize that they’re the same qualities that make up a good and meaningful life.
Being late to your appointments, being careless in your work, and not being someone others want to spend time with is the quickest way to upset the people who may want to hire you.
The math is easy with this one. Finish on time + kick butt + be groovy = sweet new business opportunities. Follow that formula and I can just about guarantee that your name will be the first one anyone gives out for a referral. Be a jerk face and you’re only going to be ridiculed by clients you’ve lost as they sit around having a drink after work.
Do well, cats.