Most of us are waiting, wanting or wishing for something. I am. I’m waiting to meet my firstborn son in a few months. I’m waiting for what lies ahead in my career. I’m wishing for a better me.
I’m not alone. Recent research suggests that we’re all wired to wait longer for bigger rewards. When given a choice between small rewards that are immediate and large rewards that are delayed, we instinctively choose long term success. It seems waiting is natural but it’s how we wait that makes all the difference.
The 30-something hopeless romantic, the table-waiting pop singer and the self-published blogger are all waiting for a moment when dreams and opportunity intersect. They’re waiting for a chance to be someone else’s solution. Waiting for that defining moment when Morpheus offers Neo the red pill and changes life as we know it. They’re waiting to be discovered.
There’s only one problem. No one’s waiting for you. The few people doing the discovering aren’t waiting for you to show up. In fact, they don’t even know you exist. There is no American Idol for your dream or X-Factor for your future. No one holds open auditions for roles, assignments or challenges that really matter. Instead they look for people who are already doing what you’re waiting to do.
Why wait for lightning to strike when you can make your own storm? Your next big break, soul mate or dream job will find you when you start working. Simply put, there’s a right and a wrong way to wait. A wait that produces results is productive. A wait that prolongs worry is unproductive. As someone who has been on both sides of the coin and learned a little about being the waiter and the waitee, I’ll offer a few tips for things to do while waiting to be discovered.
Why wait when you can work? Work produces energy and results that just beg for attention. Get busy in a small way each day. When I started my own marketing company in 2007 I had big ideas and zero customers. Once I began to actually plan the work and work the plan, clients rolled in.
I’ve never hired the candidate who wants the job the most. I hire the one who produces results. Talk less about how bad you want an opportunity and showcase how good you already are. When your work speaks for you, people notice. Increased competition means everyone is looking for the best and they have easy access to technology and information to help them decide if you are or aren’t. Your reputation should create breadcrumbs that lead opportunities to you.
Eliminate this phrase from your human hard drive: “This job is perfect for my career because…” Same goes for relationships, movie roles or whatever else you’re cooking up. Focus on how you solve their problem rather than how they can be your solution. What pisses you off? What gets you super excited? What pains you constantly? Focus on the problems you intend to solve and the skills you need to prepare for them.
When you can’t be useful, be patient. During the course of most major endeavors you will inevitably reach your end – the point where you’re not in control. When the money, time, contacts or desire are running on “E” it’s a great time to park and be still. This one’s tough. When my business hit a wall it felt like being stuck in quicksand. Taking time to quiet my thoughts and engage my creativity was much more productive than flailing around for a quick-fix. (Note: Here’s what to do if you ever get stuck in quicksand)
It’s easier to help someone who is already helping themselves. Once you’ve invested in pursuing your path don’t be afraid to ask someone for counsel, support or even a helping hand. Oftentimes you have an arsenal of people ready, willing and able to pitch in if you’ve won their hearts.
The greatest strength is gained by waits. Though it can be hard, resist the urge to seek short-term solutions for endeavors that are worth the effort. There’s no shame in waiting for what you truly want as long as you’re doing it in a focused, productive and positive manner.
What are you waiting on? Any tips you would add for your patiently impatient peers?