Take Control of Your Future!
I stood in front of his desk, annoyed by our discussion. “You work is valuable to us, I just need you to be at work every day at 8:00 am.” I listened to my supervisor and accepted his correction and then left his office, but in my gut, I knew I was not cut out for office work.
I just left the Army and entered the “civilian” workforce. In the Army, I was required to be everywhere at least fifteen minutes early. I spent countless hours of my life waiting while I was in the Army. The term, “Hurry up and wait!” became a thorn in my side. I knew I didn’t want to spend a career in that lifestyle, so I decided to move on with my life. The Army got me started into adulthood, now it was time to embark on a new adventure.
Now, I was in my new position and others were complaining because I was coming in around 8:30 am, when the “workday” was 8:00 am. I had only been at my new position a few months. There were several occasions when I stayed late in the office to complete my work or came in on a weekend to finish up some work. I attended functions at night to mingle with customers to make sure they were happy with our service. I was never called into my supervisors office for working long hours or on off hours. No, I was called in because I started my day 30 minutes later than what was expected.
I corrected my behavior and started my days at 8:00 am, as requested, but the seed was planted in my heart that I needed to pursue other opportunities, because I could never fit into the 8-4 world. Who decided that eight hours was the acceptable workday anyway?
I’ve come to realize that we have a distorted view of time when it comes to work. Trading time for dollars is one of the worst ways to create a life. I fully understand there are some positions that time worked is very important. Being available and open for business is of tremendous value, but what about the rest of us? Checking in at 8:00 am and checking out at 4:00 pm. We work eight hours a day or more and use time as the primary measurement of success. Why?
I knew I needed to create a lifestyle where my value was viewed from a different paradigm. I needed to create a working condition that fit my personality and desires, so I became intentional about how I spent my days.
My values may not match yours, and that’s the point. Somewhere in our society we accepted the norm of the daily grind of driving to an office at a specific time and working a specific amount of hours for a specific number of days with an agreed upon vacation schedule. We do this over and over again until someday we hit a magic number that allows us to retire. Why?
My point is simple. We are all very different with various dreams and skill sets that make us unique. Why not build a life to match who we are? That has been my goal and I humbly suggest that it should be yours as well.
Several years ago I became intentional about creating a lifestyle that fit my personality, phase of life, and expectations I set for myself, not expectations forced on me by others. So, I focused on five primary areas:
- Work environment – I decided that an office setting was not for me. I wanted to work from home. I found meetings, office politics, and the drone of the daily office life to be boring and mundane. I had the discipline and personal accountability to work from the comforts of my home, so I set out to find a job that allowed me to do it.
- Output vs. time – I hate time as a measurement of success. Instead I wanted to evaluate my value based on output. My current job situation values my output, not my time. I don’t punch a clock or fill out a timesheet, instead I update my boss on contracts and revenue generated.
- Leverage my strengths – In the book, Now Discover Your Strengths, by Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton, the authors propose that we only have five areas out of thirty four that are strengths and that we should spend our lives working within those five areas. It’s called our “strengths zone”. I identified my strengths and begin to build a career that allowed me to operate within my strengths. Today, I don’t even attempt a task or job that is not within my strengths zone, because I know I will suck at it. Working within my strengths allows me to explore the infinite possibilities where I can bring value to the world. Don’t confuse strengths zone with comfort zone. I continually operate outside of my comfort zone and push myself, I just do it from a position of strength.
- I chose my inner circle – I realized that I don’t have to work with anyone that creates strife in my life. Yes, there is always some form of conflict with some relationships in my life. Strife is unavoidable and there will be some people that seem to have it out for you, just choose to not let them into your inner circle. I have a select group of colleagues, peers, family, and mentors that I allow into my life and that shape my paradigm. They keep me honest, hold me accountable, and challenge me to be better. The rest I keep at arm’s length. I support them, I value them, I just don’t allow them to dominate and shape my life.
- Develop multiple sources of income – It’s become clear to me that my most successful friends and family members have multiple streams of income and the majority of it is passive. I was not living my life that way. I was trading time for money and living off one primary source of income. I was wrong. When you depend on one main source of income, you become a slave to it and that is not healthy. Life should be about options and those options should allow you the freedom to breathe and explore life to its fullest. I once read that the average millionaire has seven sources of income. Currently, I have three sources of income and expanding those sources of income on continual basis.
I’ve made plenty of mistakes in my life and will surely make thousands more, but one I will never make again is living a life that does not fit who I am and one that does not allow me to explore what God fully intended for me. AND by living this way, I can fully contribute to the world unencumbered by the chains of societal norms that are meaningless if I’m not engaging life from a position of strength. How about you? What time are you clocking in today? Or should you “clock in at all”? You decide.