Do What You Hate

I’m about to contradict everything you’ve heard in the past decade about how to really get the results you want out of yourself, your team, your company, and your world.

You’ve been programmed over and over to “do what you love” and every day will be filled with rainbows and unicorns.

Marcus Buckingham taught us to work in our strengths and move away from our weaknesses in his mega successful book, Now, Discover Your Strengths. He’s a good-looking guy with a cool accent, so we bought it hook, line, and sinker.

Tom Rath added to the strength mythology withStrengthsfinder 2.0. He’s not quite as good looking as Marcus Buckingham and he doesn’t have a cool accent, but that hasn’t stopped anyone from buying into his philosophy, too.

Doing what you love & working in your strengths is a phenomenal idea. Utopia, right? I believe in the idea 100%. I’m trying to work more and more in my strengths every day. I believe in doing work you’re good at and work that you love.

But, and this is a BIG BUT: Sometimes you’ve gotta do what you hate to get the results you want.

My flowerbeds taught me this. 

I hate weeding flowerbeds, so it becomes the last thing I do to the outside of my house each spring/summer. The problem is, I love spending time outside on my patio. And when the flowerbeds are full of weeds I can’t enjoy my time outside because they really start to bug me. I can’t even walk from the driveway to the front door without grunting “Ugghhhh!” (you know, that sound you make when you’re disgusted with something but you don’t have time to do anything about it at the moment).

I hate weeding flowerbeds, did I mention that?

I joke with my wife that weeding flowerbeds is “women’s work”, secretly hoping she’ll believe me and start pulling those suckers up. Her response every year is as predictable as the weeds themselves. She lets me know who’s boss with a single, emphatic, almost-maniacal, “HA!” And then jumps in her car and drives to Target.

Some people love to get on their hands and knees, pull weeds, plant flowers, prune bushes, and spread mulch. For some sick reason that’s fun to them. Not me. But, dang it, those weeds will ruin my summer if I don’t do something about it.

So I do what I hate. I spend a few hours pulling. I do get a tiny bit of satisfaction pretending the weeds are screaming “Nooooooooo!” as I rip them out of the ground. But it really isn’t even enough satisfaction to power a smile.

If you’ve ever weeded a messy flowerbed, you understand the difference is night and day. It’s transformative, even before you plant the pretty flowers you’ll inevitably kill because you don’t water them. It looks so much better. And you feel better. And the birds swirl around you singing a happy song like in a Disney movie. And suddenly, because you did what you hated, summer is fun again.

As I was weeding my flowerbeds, this idea dawned on me that sometimes we gotta do what we hate to get the results we want. I started thinking about the “weeds” at work that I wait too long to pull.

At work, the weeds look like work we don’t want to do and conversations we don’t want to have. And because of Marcus, Tom, and other strengths gurus, we hide behind the idea that we’re simply working in our strengths and it’s ok if a few weeds grow in our weak areas.

The problem is that a weed’s sole purpose in life is to take over. There’s no such thing as a single weed. They grow, they spread, and they steal the water, nutrients, and sunshine from the plants you intended to grow.

Sometimes you gotta do what you hate.

Today that might mean:

–  you put aside the work you love for a few hours and tackle that pile of paperwork on your desk (finally!). 

– you have a tough conversation about poor performance with a member of your team.

– you bring up a difficult issue to your boss.

– you report a co-worker’s unethical or damaging behavior to HR. 

– you take the time to plan out your day (if you’re more of a doer than a planner).

– you skip the planning today and just start doing (if you’re more of a planner than a doer).

– you make that call to ask your client to extend a deadline because you know that cramming to meet the deadline will result in sub-standard work.

– you make that call to the client you know you need to “fire” and finally pull the trigger. 

If none of these weeds are yours, just look around your life for about twenty seconds. You’ll find some weeds. You know they are there.

To fully motivate yourself, spend a few minutes visualizing the results you really want and picture how those weeds are getting in the way of those results. If you’re like me, this little exercise is usually enough to spark some action.

Even in a great job, you won’t love everything, and there will always be things you have to do that you don’t really want to do.

The most successful people really do work mostly in their strengths. But if you look closely, you’ll find that they also accept (and act on) the idea that sometimes you gotta do what you hate to get the results you want.

See you next week!

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