Last weekend, I enjoyed a very inspiring and motivating two-hour long chat with one of the prominent and very senior business directors in town. He was kind enough to allow me to share his story in this column, but without necessarily revealing his identity. For purposes of convenience, we shall call him Joseph (not his real name).
During the early years of his career, after his graduation, Joseph worked in an academic institution. Together with his peers, he was lucky to get a government scholarship for studies leading to his master’s degree. Upon return from abroad, his peers were already contented with the postgraduate academic qualification. They had now become quite comfortable and they were already enjoying their career and they didn’t really aspire for more advancement in their career.
But Joseph wanted to do more. He was fully aware that for him to rise and shine at the top of his profession and the top league of business leaders, he needed to advance on the professional side in addition to his advanced academic qualifications. But Joseph was different. He still held on to the ambition that he had harboured since college time – to become professionally certified in his field, in addition to the advanced academic qualification.
At his place of work, there was an arrangement that professional staff had to deliver an exact number of hours of work per day. Any extra hours of work beyond the target attracted extra income at a very generous rate. As a result of this, all his peers made quite substantial amounts of money every month. However, Joseph was still not attracted to the short-term gratification or benefits. He was still focussed on his long-term career development. He was ready to sacrifice as much as it would take to build a solid foundation for a colourful long-term career path.
Joseph’s peers bought fancy cars and he still walked to his workplace for some 30 minutes or more, but this did not deter him from his vision to further raise his qualification standards. He knew very well that he had a choice to make between maximising immediate gratification at the expense of long-term achievements on the one hand or to forgo immediate gratification for the sake of long-term sustained success. Joseph wanted to have as much time as possible to study towards his professional qualification. He did this for two years. He kept passing all the required modules and kept inching towards his ultimate prize. As he was narrating the story, he kept telling me that he was never motivated by making money – a principle he still holds to date. “For me, money comes as a by-product of my zeal to excel in life,” he said. This tied in well with what one missionary priest once told us when we were in school: “Never target making money as your goal in life. Aim to be brilliant in what you do. If you do that, even if you need money, it will come on its own.”
When Joseph got fully qualified, it did not take him long before he got a bigger job, with much bigger responsibilities and with benefits many multiples of what his peers were getting even if you factor in the income from extra time. Joseph’s long-term view had paid off. He had worked for a couple of years while his peers bought flashy cars, but now his new employers were able to place him miles ahead of his generation. From then onwards, he climbed many career ladders.
A lot of young people today find themselves in problems when their career stagnates because they invest very little in growing their skills, developing their career or deepening their knowledge. Once they find a job, many young people want to immediately work on maximising money making, often at the expense of long-term growth and sustainability of their career. Good luck as you begin to implement the tested and proven tactics of Joseph!