When I first started door-to-door sales one of my biggest motivators was to gain recognition for my work and become respected as a good salesman.
I had bought into the status game. It’s easy to do, because in the hierarchical nature of humanity, seeking status has benefits – you feel more important, and your self-image increases.
But the problem with the status game is that it is a zero-sum game. To rise in the status rankings you need to overtake someone else. There’s two ways to do that: you being better or other people being worse. In my job, I was always working to overtake the salesperson above me and stay ahead of the salesperson behind me. I was hoping to make more sales than them – if I made no sales, I would secretly hope that they wouldn’t make any either, or I would be further behind in the rankings. If I was doing well, I would distance myself to try to stay in the zone, instead of offering to help the other reps with any insights that I thought would help them.
Another problem of the status game is that it is relative. You could be doing very well by your own standards, but if everyone else is better, you can feel a little inadequate. You are low status in this high-performing team but if you were in a different team you would be the best.
The key: Stop playing the status game. It’s difficult because it’s human nature, but staying humble and not worrying about status, and building others up can create a better environment to live and work in. You start to tune into others’ needs instead of constantly thinking about your own. In an odd sense, you might still end up getting the credit and recognition you were looking for the whole time.
Entrepreneur and angel investor Naval Ravikant highlights the importance of learning the foundations in life.
Put simply, it’s becoming competent in skills such as numeracy, writing, reading, speaking, and listening. The better you are at these things, the stronger your foundation and the simpler you will be able to learn anything else.
In my own life, my speaking and listening was more of a weakness so I decided to work as a door-to-door salesman in the summers – there was no way I could succeed in it unless I learned how to speak and listen to a high level. In my off-season I spend a lot of time reading books and writing on this blog, in order to become more comfortable and competent when having to communicate and understand the world through written word.
These skills are not only useful in the world of work, but also everyday life.
The problem when we get something, is that we tend to assume that the world now owes it to us. This can apply to houses, cars, jobs, friends, partners, status and wealth. When we achieve or acquire these things, we start to get comfortable and start to take them for granted. We feel we deserve these things.
But in reality, the world owes you nothing.
Firstly, complacency can take away your job and relationships, because you stopped providing the same value as you did at the beginning. Or, causes outside your control can occur – your car could get stolen, a natural disaster could destroy your home, deaths of loved ones, someone tries to shatter your reputation, market forces turn your investments sour.
Understand that all the beautiful things you may have right at this moment will not be here forever. Do what you can to make important people feel loved. But also recognize that we can decide to loosen our attachment to things, so that if they desert us we can be grateful that we were lucky enough to have them in the first place.
Most of us have been taught the importance of hard work – through our teachers, parents, mentors, and bosses. Hard work of course can lead to success and achievement.
But if you’re going to work hard, you have to know that you’re working on the right thing.
After all, is it really success if you have achieved something you weren’t interested in to begin with?
If you want to get rich you have to know what to do, who to do it with, and when to do it. Working hard matters, but hard work alone isn’t going to get you anywhere. You could work hard at being a laborer or as a cleaner but you’re not going to get rich.
On the other hand, you may find some people working in certain industries or in certain roles who are very rich, but don’t work hard. They tend to get paid for their judgement and decision-making rather than their physical output.
Before you get your head down and start working without thinking about it, think long-term. Am I doing the right job in the right industry? Not just to get rich, but does it interest me? Does it fulfill me? Do I like who I work with? Can I see myself here in the long-term?
Entrepreneur and angel investor Naval Ravikant advises that young people should be spending more time making the big decisions: where you live, who you’re with, and what you do.
These three things will pretty much determine the quality and trajectory of our lives. Sometimes we find ourselves going with the flow, entering relationships that we aren’t 100% sure of, spending a lot of time doing a job but spending so little time deciding which job would be best for us. And usually the place we decide to live in will determine who we meet and which jobs are mostly available too.
Once we decide these three things we can be much more intentional with our lives instead of being taken whichever way the wind is blowing.