28 Apr Love The Work You’re With
In honor of Valentine’s Day on LinkedIn, I thought I’d share a love story – between a man, and his job:
I was enjoying the game for two reasons. First, it was darn good hockey. Second, my beloved Bruins were skating their archrival, the Montreal Canadiens, off the ice, a rarity in those days .
There I was, totally absorbed when, whoosh, a bright blur of blue and yellow flashed in the corner of my eye. The blue was the uniform of Dave Kerpen, a vendor at Boston’s Fleet Center, and the yellow was the box of Crunch ‘n Munch he hurled to the guy three seats away.
While Fleet Center regulars around me smiled knowingly, I was astounded, as Dave, known more familiarly, as “The Crunch ‘n Munch Man,” began to dance and jump wildly to the sonic booming of the rock music blasting out of the arena’s loud speakers. Sometimes he would hold one yellow box aloft and swivel his hips in a manner Elvis would have envied. At other times, he would clap to boxes together with an exaggerated arm motion in perfect synchronization to the driving beat. The Crunch ‘n Munch man was in full form. The more he got into his routine, the more fans from all over the stadium loved it. In fact, Dave’s antics are regularly displayed on the huge TV monitor that hangs over center ice.
Dave was able to throw the yellow boxes to waiting patrons as many as six or seven rows away, hitting his target with the accuracy of a Super Bowl quarterback. What followed this physical tour de force amazed me. I noticed that one buyer, after “receiving” his Crunch ‘n Munch, threw it right back to Dave. I was puzzled. Were they playing catch? Did the guy change his mind and opt for the ice-cream sandwich instead? No! He threw it back so he could–get this– have Dave autograph it! Dave signed the box with a large felt pen he had already had at the ready and heaved it back.
The net result was that everyone in the area, whether they went for the Crunch ‘n Munch or not, had a great time. Dave was obviously in his glory and he moved a lot of Crunch ‘n Munch– a lot. Since having been assigned this notoriously slow-moving product to hawk in the aisles, he has increased sales a whopping 400 percent!
If Dave confined himself to his job description he would be no more than your average peanut vendor sauntering up and down the aisles, box of goodies raised, yelling “Hey, get your Crunch ‘n Munch here!” But no. He turned a routine sales job into high-flying, first-class entertainment, and in the process took arena vending to new heights of productivity and value.
“So what,” you may ask, “does this have to do with me? I’m not a peanut vendor.” Well, if Dave Kerpen proves one thing, it is this: there is no such thing as a boring job. If he can create positive results out of his challenging work circumstances, there’s no telling what you might be able to do with yours.
When I hear someone complaining about the drudgery of his or her job, I think of Dave and other happy workers I’ve seen or heard about: the singing bus driver; the flight attendant who makes announcements in a Donald Duck voice; the wildly successful baker who “falls in love with the dough” each morning; and “Dr. Shine,” who dedicates his life to helping young people feel good about themselves from the shoes up. You may not know these people, but you certainly know others like them. They are the workers who turn the ordinary into the magical, the mundane into the magnificent.
Selling Crunch n’ Munch may not be Dave Kerpen’s ultimate dream job–he graduated from Boston College with a double major–but because but because he infuses it with “dream job” spirit, it delivers great rewards. It is meaningful because he makes others happy. It gives him recognition because only he can do what he does in the way he does it. It makes him productive. And obviously, it brings him great joy.
Whether you’re a peanut vendor, or a middle manager, or the CEO of a global empire, each of us has the freedom to infuse passion and spirit into whatever it is we are doing at this very moment. Why? Because jobs don’t have spirit…people do. Like Dave Kerpen, we can break out of self-imposed or externally implied expectations, figure out ways to snap open our passion, and then pour it into whatever it is we do. When that happens, the job we have will start to seem like the job we’ve always wanted. Ultimately, it’s our spirit that delivers “dream job” rewards–meaning, recognition, productivity, and joy.
This quote, which opened the classic business book Love the Work You’re With, by Richard C. Whiteley, not only inspired his readers, it inspired me. I feel really lucky to have been profiled for loving my work at such a young age. (this book was from the year 1999, when I was just 22 years old!) It set the bar, and I can honestly say, I’ve loved my work ever since. Anytime I’ve stopped loving my work, I’ve found something new to do! Since that’s not always so easy in reality, I thought I’d ask successful leaders what they’ve done to “love the work they’re with” when times get tough.
I asked members of the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs:
When you have to do something at work you don’t love, what’s the secret to getting it done? In other words, what’s your secret to loving the work you’re with?
Here’s what they shared:
- Take Regular Breaks
Something that I don’t love doing usually takes a really long time to complete, for some reason. I get through this time by taking breaks regularly and asking myself: “What’s missing?” every time I come back to the task. The breaks energize my brain, but asking myself the question keeps my work sharp. It helps me avoid silly mistakes like proof-reading only after I’ve pressed send.
2. Pair It With Something You Love
After completing a task you might not love at work, reward yourself immediately with something that generates fonder feelings. I typically try to work through mundane tasks in advance of a call I am looking forward to, in order to set a clear stop time and challenge myself to complete the task efficiently.
3. Use Gym Tactics
When I start to tackle a hard task I implement the same process that I do at the gym. At the gym I tell myself that I must go but I only have to stay for 15 minutes and then if I want to leave I can. More times than not once I am there, fully dressed, and starting to sweat, 15 minutes goes by and suddenly I’m there for an entire workout. I approach work tasks I’m not fond of the same way!
4. Reward Yourself
If I have something I’m particularly dreading but have to do, I put it first on my list of things to tackle. Getting it out of the way is a sigh of relief so I can focus the rest of my day or week on what matters and that I am looking forward to most. Having a reward after completing a dreaded task can help: no completed task, no reward. For me, the reward is usually crossing it off the list.
5. Build a Strong Team
A lot of tasks can be tedious, but doing them with people you like and respect is always going to make a massive difference. I work hard to keep our environment warm and friendly, and that reflects in the way that we all approach our unpleasant tasks. There’s a kind of pleasure even in doing the hard things if there’s a good degree of camaraderie in the workplace. We all know we’re in it together.
6. Begin With the End in Mind
With everything in life, you should begin with your end goals in mind, so all that you do to reach those goals becomes important, no matter how much you would otherwise dislike the task. Perspective is everything and in this case, it’s necessary in order to find enjoyment in the seemingly unenjoyable tasks. If your end goal is worthy then you should love any task you perform to reach it.
7. Enjoy the Learning Aspect
No matter what you’re working on, as long as you’re learning something new, there’s a good reason to enjoy it. You can always take what you’ve learned and apply it to something you do enjoy working on. Maybe it’s a hobby or a passion project, but at the very least, you would most likely be able to apply the skill to future jobs or to further your career. So think of it as an investment.
8. Distract Yourself
When a dreaded task is looming, don’t procrastinate or spend an exorbitant amount of time slogging through the work. Do the opposite of the traditional approach and distract yourself just enough to ensure you don’t spend too much time on your admonished to-do item. Listen to a favorite podcast, or playlist, or break every 20 minutes Pomodoro-style and watch a five-minute video on YouTube to refresh.
9. Think About the Benefits
Everything I do should be for a purpose. If I focus on why what I am doing is important and what I will accomplish by completing the task, it helps my perspective and attitude. Whether it be a benefit of more revenue, happier employees, a satisfied client or just feeling more organized, focusing on the why helps me work with more pleasure and satisfaction.
10. Outsource It
Do the work you love and outsource the rest to people who are better than you. For example, if you love designing websites but have to organize data in spreadsheets, hire a data analyst online to do a better job than you could have. If this isn’t an option, do the work you don’t love first. Get it finished and move on to the parts of your job you enjoy better, and don’t forget to reward yourself.
11. Keep the Final Outcome in Mind
The more you begin with the outcome in mind, the more you realize these tasks are stepping stones to the desired outcome. In most big projects, there are those tasks that no one wants to do, but someone has to. Being able to envision the outcome of the project (the entire reason why you are working on the project) helps you to be able to turn those tasks into progress towards the outcome.
12. Set Small Goals
Setting small incremental goals can make any tedious task become less of a chore. Incentivize yourself through identifying mini milestones and only getting a coffee or grabbing a snack after completing a certain amount of work. You will find that time passes a lot faster, and the task will feel less monotonous if you structure a plan around it.
13. Turn It Into a Positive
I prioritize everything on a to-do list. I get satisfaction from crossing things off the list, so even if the task is not something I’m looking forward to, knowing that I get to strike a line through it once it’s completed makes these tasks just a little bit better.
14. Gamify It
When I find a list of items on my to-do list that constantly gets bumped to “tomorrow,” I play a game. I break up the tasks into smaller, easy to accomplish tasks, set aside 30-minute time increments and see how many I can get done during that time. Breaking the tasks into smaller tasks makes them easier to accomplish, and adding a competitive goal gives me motivation to get them done.