Do You Have What it Takes to be King of the Hill?
Ready to attain your dream job within a couple months!? How about retire by 40 effortlessly and travel for the rest of your life? Do you want to make six figures per month while only working a few hours per week?
If the answer is yes, then you are in the wrong place. Alejandro and I will never tell you reaching your goal is easy. Don’t listen to anyone tell you the above is possible with just a little work. In fact, the odds of retiring early and making six figures monthly is incredibly rare for anyone. Yet, that’s fine because a dream career is possible, it just takes time. There is a huge difference between a dream job which is fulfilling and a life full of material possessions.
You must have a strong purpose and realize there is no immediate payoff. Also, as much as Alejandro and I are wired for entrepreneurship, that does not mean our work preferences are ideal for everyone.
Your dream job might be at a corporation. I have many friends who describe their corporate position in the same way I explain my enthusiasm for the entrepreneur lifestyle. Then there are those who could never see themselves working for a company and they want to do their own thing. Or maybe you are a hybrid who has a “traditional” job and a side gig which provides fulfillment. In any case, we are speaking to the dreamers with one main piece of advice, it takes time and there is no immediate payoff.
Alejandro and I have accepted this and keep pushing forward knowing the rewards are likely in the distant future. Are you strong enough to take this journey? It will be filled with exhaustion, failure, deferred dreams, and no guarantee of any payoff.
Read ahead if you are willing to fight for your dream job whether in a large corporation, small business, or your own company.
The Good Stuff is in the Middle
Have you ever heard of “liminality?” This will be important, but first a little background.
As an anthropologist at the University of Houston, my first long-term research was on rites of passage. We all go through these rites during our life. Each rite has three distinct phases which were initially identified by the great anthropologist Arnold van Gennep in the early 1900’s. They are as follows:
- Separation: the initiate is removed from their normal life and what is familiar.
- Liminality: the transition period where people go through acts of courage, learning, and development.
- Incorporation: the final stage when the individual is brought into the group, the key here is that each member of the group has gone through the first two stages.
Rites of passage, along with these three distinct stages, are universal across space and time. An easy example is the college experience. A student is separated from their familiar life. College is completely different than high school or middle school. Many students move away from their family, classes are different, and expectations of daily life dramatically change.
Liminality lasts for years as students go through physical, mental, and spiritual developmental changes. Then, if they have passed the requirements, they are incorporated into a wider group during their graduation ceremony. They become college graduates along with many others who have gone before them.
There are thousands of other examples including weddings, the military, quinceañeras, careers, and more.
I taught on this subject for years and would always bring up something which is glossed over. We celebrate the separation and incorporation phases but forget how long liminality can last.
Let’s say your goal is to work at a large tech company or start your own business. The easy part is separating. As a consultant, I can assure you, if you want to start a business we can do that in a weekend. Or if you want to work at Google, we can set your strategy within an afternoon. Fast forward to when you “make it,” you will celebrate whether that’s a profitable business or finally landing the job.
But what about the middle?
Working at Google might take 5-10 years of education, proving yourself at a smaller company, and/or being rejected year after year. Your business might take a decade before it’s highly profitable. This is liminality.
During this period you are tested daily and can break down emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. In fact, many rites of passage are intended to break you and only the strong make it through to the incorporation phase. Starting a rite of passage does not mean you will finish.
Why all the anthropology jargon? To make a point. You are reading this because something within you desires more. You want that amazing job, you want to start a business, you want to help others at a non-profit, you want to live out your beliefs, or you want to leave a legacy.
Those aspirations will only happen if you battle through liminality. It will not be easy, and you might never reach your goal. Yet, you will not know if your dream job is possible unless you try and walk through liminality. So might as well try.
There can only be one King of the Hill.
If you want to get there you either have to be ready to take the current King down or you have to find another hill. Most likely there will be another King on that hill too. So be ready to fight for what you want!
Not everyone has been wired with the attitude and skills to be an entrepreneur or to be a CEO. Not everyone can develop the attitude and skills to be an entrepreneur or a CEO. That’s just the way it is.
These words are not meant to discourage you, in fact, the goal is to do the opposite. Not everyone will be a professional athlete, even if they were the best at their high school or even at their university.
Not everyone will get to go to the top schools or go work for a Fortune 500 company.
Yet, not everyone needs to be at the top 1% of their field to be happy and feel that their life has a meaning.
So, what do you want out of your life?
Yes, it is a big question. Let’s narrow it down to what do you want out of your professional life? An easy way to figure out if you should go an entrepreneurial route or a corporate route is by picking between certainty and freedom.
Yes, it is true that nowadays there is not a lot of certainty even in regular jobs. Still, nothing compares to the uncertainty you will face when being an entrepreneur. Also, they are a lot of companies that are giving more freedom to attract entrepreneurial-minded individuals, yet nothing like the freedom of working for yourself.
Once you know how much you value freedom vs. certainty you will be able to make better decisions for the future of your professional career.
Now that you have a better idea of what you want out of your professional life then you need to figure out 2 things:
- What does it take to get there?
- Do you have, or can you develop, what it takes to get there?
Like most kids, I wanted to be a professional athlete. At a young age, I played state level, traveled internationally to play in tournaments, and also played competitively during my college years. But by college, I already knew I should use my time and energy in something else.
Growing up I would always check the profile pages of white point guards of the NBA, and check their height. I was always staying up to date to what it would take to get there. Of course, height is not the only variable but is a very important one. I stopped growing at 5’11’’ so I had to study. I couldn’t develop several inches, and it would’ve been a waste of time to try to develop other skills to diminish the height weakness. I wasn’t able to develop what it would take to get there.
Like most college kids, I wanted to have my own car. Not one given by my family, but earned so that I could do with it what I wanted to. Yes, as you can see I value freedom ;). So I did the math and with a recent-grad salary, in Venezuela, it would take me 10 years or more to save the money to buy a car (keep in mind the economic context in Venezuela is very different than anywhere else in the world).
At this point because of several other more important reasons, and because I wanted to have my own car, I decided to quit college to start working as an FX Trader. Long story short, in less than 1 year I made enough money to buy the car and decided to go back to school.
I knew exactly how much money I would need to buy a car, and I knew that a recent-grad salary would not get me there. I planned another way to get there and built the necessary skills to do so over the course of a year.
Again, do you know what it takes to get to where you want to get? Are you able to build the skills to get there?
There are many exceptional individuals dedicated to studying excellence and the way to replicate it. Malcolm Gladwell, Tony Robbins, Tim Ferriss, are just the tip of the Iceberg. They use the available knowledge, get results, and share it with the world. The foundation of those processes of excellence took many years of studies, and lots of research, from great minds such as K. Anders Ericsson, Lewis M. Terman, Daniel Kahneman, Dan Ariely, Phil Zimbardo, and many others.
The good news is that others have done it before. You can copy, or even steal (as Picasso would say), their methods and tools.
The bad news is that you have to do the work. There is no shortcut. Excellence is earned, not given.
Go Earn It
In essence, Matt and I just talked about the exact same thing. We just used different words.
Before taking action, before setting a goal, understand the liminality.
Everyone loves the rags to riches stories, especially the overnight successes that take 3 or more years to make happen.
Everyone sees the books, the followers, and the awards. But nobody sees the weekends working. Nobody sees the hours reading books and doing work, while everyone else is traveling.
I am not saying this in a negative way. THIS IS EXACTLY THE POINT. Some of us love the grind. We are made for it.
It might sound crazy to you but anytime the end of a semester is coming I am just thinking that I will finally get some free time to read a couple of books that I’ve been wanting to read but couldn’t because of all my course load and extracurricular activities.
Give me a challenge, where the odds are against me, and tell everyone around me to tell me that I can’t make it… and then sit down and watch how I do it. Multiply that by 2, and that’s why our team works so smoothly even at a very high speed.
Go do some research on the rites of passage related to the goals you want to achieve, and pay close attention to the liminality. Nowadays there is no excuse for you to not know, with great accuracy, what it takes to get where you want to get. A great first step to do so is to conduct informational interviews with people who are in that path that you want to take. (If you don’t know what an Informational Interview is you can learn now by clicking here).
Start having conversations with people that can give you insights about what it takes to get where they are. Do so until you have a clear understanding of what it takes to get there.
Then have a serious conversation with yourself. Are you willing to do what it takes? Can you actually do it?
Once you decide so then don’t look back, don’t rest until you get there. Also, don’t pay attention to the spectators. Is it you who is in the arena, they don’t know what you know. If anything, only pay attention to those that are with you in the arena or those that have been there. Anybody else is just noise, they are the crowd.
Now go be the hero of your story. But most importantly, never be the crowd in someone else’s story. Help them or get out of the way, or you could get run over.
Alejandro I. Sanoja & Matt Avery