It seems obvious, right? Without effort, nothing of value happens. I’ve been batting around thoughts on focus, attention and potential in my head for quite a while now, but the thing that I believe we often overlook is how important it is to first make an effort.
What do I mean by that? Sometimes it’s an effort just to get out of bed in the morning, put on your “game face” and come to work with a positive attitude. Life is full of struggles, expected and unexpected, and sometimes the challenge of moving forward carrying those burdens can feel overwhelming. By making an effort to break that burden down into manageable chunks, it becomes easier to re-focus and get things done.
Sometimes it’s a decision to get up off the couch and go to the gym, or go out and play tennis, or go for a run. If you haven’t done those things for a while the initial effort can seem like a big one, but it’s like we have so often been told – everything starts with a first step. When you’re in that activity, putting in extra effort allows us to make progress – whether it’s an extra plate on the bar, or pushing to win a game you think is lost, or convincing yourself to run 7Km (or miles, for those of us who are unconverted measurement imperialists) instead of 5.
I was talking with a colleague recently about their role, and they said “I know I should have done this sooner, but I really haven’t spent time on networking. I’ve been so busy focussing on my team and my clients, that I haven’t done anything to develop my network.” When we discussed it further, they acknowledged the need to make the effort to network, because of the importance of having a functional network across the broader organisation in order to get anything done. The “extra” work required kept falling off the radar despite the importance of the activity.
Listening to Tim Kennedy be interviewed by Tim Ferriss this morning also brought this topic to mind. Tim Kennedy is a frighteningly intense human being (a professional MMA fighter while also being in US Special Forces on active duty). While I don’t agree with everything (or even a lot of things) that he said, he made the excellent point that “everything you want in life is on the other side of hard work”.
When I look at my own work life (no balance required, according to Jeff Bezos, just a circle, apparently), I try to think about the things that if I put the effort into would make a real difference, to my colleagues, the organisation and my family. I don’t always get to or choose to do those things, but I know I’m in the right place when I start to feel uncomfortable – when I’ve made the effort to put myself out there and push harder.