Employees and Students: One Trait to Rule Them All

An Article by Keith Wilcox

When I was in high school, I was a good runner. It wasn’t just in my head either; I won all sorts of fancy awards during my junior and senior years. I was good in college, too, but that’s a different story. I had the one trait that I thought mattered in a runner – natural ability and a high threshold for pain. My coaches, on the other hand, didn’t like me very much. One coach in particular, it seemed at the time, made a special point to thwart my self-imagined rightful place on the team. I never made the varsity team as a freshman despite the fact that I ran varsity times and regularly beat other varsity runners. I thought it was the height of injustice, but in hindsight, I can see why I didn’t make it. It had nothing to do with my speed; it was because I rarely practiced and, when I did, I would make a joke out of it and spend my time distracting anybody within range of my shenanigans. It wasn’t clear to me until I got to college that the one trait that really matters in life is passion coupled with a willingness to learn. I eventually did learn my lessons, but it was a tough road. Most people never get it, and it’s one factor that makes hiring new employees painful and firing them routinely.

Get a Job, Keep a Job:

It’s one thing to fake your way through a job interview. It’s an entirely different matter to fake your way through a whole job. Do you know why people spend so much effort complaining about cubicle jobs yet almost no effort in finding alternate employment? It’s because this most common employee subspecies can easily escape detection as a fraud in its current, and comfortable, habitat.  It has the luxury to complain about a job that affords it the ability to hide behind the redundancy of a multi-tiered corporation. Why would it ever risk detection in the big bad world of competition if its every need is already being cared for, its only sacrifice being freedom? This employee would convulse if it ever had to work for a boss who actually paid attention to how little if any, daily work gets done.

Keeping a job in which your boss cares about results means that hiding isn’t an option. You’ll have to take some risks; perhaps also, when entrusted with responsibility, you’ll be required to make a few command decisions. You’ll fail a few times in the learning process. Bosses tend to be upset when screws up happen, and you might spend some time being upset with each other as a result of mistakes, but don’t worry because the thing a boss, a good boss, really wants to hear is that you’ve learned something by the mistake and are enthusiastic about trying again (it would help of course if the boss also admitted his mistakes, but don’t hold your breath on that). Anybody of reasonable intelligence can keep employment provided he/she actually cares about the job at hand. Working for a boss stinks most of the time because bosses can be assholes with enormous, unwarranted egos.  But,  here’s the thing about wanting to learn that makes this risk worthwhile for the right person: when the time comes, and you’ve accumulated enough knowledge and experience, you can become your own boss with your own company. Isn’t that a nice little side effect of passion and dedication?

Washouts Like to Complain: Inoculate with Competency

I love to complain when things don’t go my way. Did I play a bad round of golf? Oh, it was because the grass was a little moist. Did I fall off my bike? It was clear that damn rock that jumped out in front of me! I’ve even seen my kid complain about losing a tennis match because his serves didn’t go in. Serves are, incidentally, a prime ingredient in tennis; he could have been more convincing if he’d complained about a bug flying up his nose or something. Sports, academics, or whatever. It doesn’t matter — The fault for failure lies directly at the feet of the one doing the failing notwithstanding external, unpredictable influences. Losing is no great sin. Everybody does it. Making excuses, therefore, is unnecessary as long as you want to get up to try again. My boy’s coach doesn’t want to see sulking or some contorted look of dejection. Buck up, camper! Quit yer bitchin’ and try again! Competency doesn’t come as a natural right or as a union raise. It comes through actively searching for it. Good bosses, coaches, and teachers (sometimes one and the same) know that their best students are the ones who want to be in the classroom. They can do without the naysayers or class clowns who do nothing but drag down the beating heart of the organization.

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