Wednesday, April 8, 2015

In Search of the Perfect Career

I have read several published opinions on the subject of "Mastery", or the ability to become completely dominant at a given activity.  When I first read about Mastery it was in the context of becoming an Olympian.  In a book titled, oddly enough, Mastery by Robert Greene, he states that a person (you) has to practice something at least 10,000 times to become a master.  That means you have to play 10,000 games of Pacman, drive a car for years, or throw a frisbee until your hand falls off if you want to be great.  One of the greatest Orators of all time, an Athenian by the name of Demosthenes, practiced giving speeches with his mouth full of pebbles.

Many of us would agree that to achieve a "perfect" career, one must be a Master or at least approach mastery.  So what does that mean and how does it apply to business or the CIO profession?  There are many answers but one thing remains a certainty.  In order to become perfect you must first embrace numerous forms of imperfection.  And that's where the problems set in.

Think about not only your career but those of the people who surround you.  Through empirical observation I can say with certainty that most individuals I've seen are exceedingly (deathly?) afraid of making mistakes.  I've actually seen so many examples of people opting to do nothing rather than take a risk on making a mistake that I could write a humorous book reflecting on all of the instances.

The whole concept of Mastery and its achievement is based on learning through failure.  I guarantee that if you attempt something 10,000 times you will fail on at least 50% of your tries.  Truth be told, that percentage is probably much higher.  Put into practical terms, if you want to be a great leader you MUST make many mistakes.  It is the only way to determine the nature of perfection while learning to avoid imperfections along the way.

A common misconception that people have concerning a Perfect Career is that, if you attain that status, you will be respected and admired.  With possibly one or two exceptions, the opposite is going to be true.  If you aspire to be a leader, a CIO, you will be charged with making very important decisions day in and day out.  For every decision that you make, some people will love you, some will hate you, and the majority of people won't care one way or the other.  Let's take a look at the last eight United States Presidents (Obama, Bush 2, Clinton, Bush 1, Reagan, Carter, Ford, Nixon).  The general consensus, at least today, is that Reagan was the most popular of the group with Clinton right up there.  Would it surprise you to know that each and every man in this group had a negative approval rating during at least part of their presidencies?  President Abraham Lincoln is considered by many to be one of the greatest presidents of all time.  Yet did you know that he was first elected with only 39.8% of the vote and was despised by many people during his term?

Mastery, Fame, and Respect, and Love are very rarely gifted to any great leader in a combined form.

So do you want to be a great leader in the technological world of today?  Do you want to be a revolutionary CIO who can reinvent the role and possibly earn the CEO chair?  If you do you'd better become comfortable with embracing failure.  You see, that's whole purpose of doing something 10,000 times in order to achieve Mastery.  Only by failing in every conceivable way, multiple times, can a person hope to understand the nature of perfection, how to attain it, and what to avoid.

For the very reason that perfection demands failure most people will fail to reach their goals or even maximize their potential.  To make mistakes and better yet, to embrace and learn from them, is not a universally shared human virtue.

And now the best part - reaching perfection means that many people are not going to like you.  Don't take my word for it - think of a person who is considered a Master and then review the data that references how they are viewed by the public.  Whether it's a sports star, actor, politician, activist, soldier, or parent, are they universally admired?  Don't just look at yesterday's news; look at all of the data.

If you search for the Perfect Career you now have a better understanding of just what it will take for you to achieve your goal.  What do you think?  Can you handle the work, dedication, and fortitude that it requires?  Are you willing to embrace failure and the disfavor of your neighbors?  Good luck to you and may your path be difficult.

1 comment:

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