The Mark

 

"No Pain, No Gain."  We've all heard that.  "Feel The Burn".  Sounds horrible.

 

Here's how those worn-out phrases can help get you a job (or get you promoted),  First let's make sure we agree on what they mean; performing up to your limits, and then pushing past them through sheer will and determination because you're a badass.

 

An athlete finds her limit at the gym and then sets up a workout schedule to exceed it by a little bit every time.  This limit isn't just where she gets tired; it's the point where muscle tissues actually start to break down, and it hurts.  The body responds to the demand by growing more muscle, and the athlete has added to her mental "toughness".

 

The amount of weight doesn't matter; a 96-pound gymnast will have a different limit than a 300-pound bodybuilder, but "The Burn" - and the Victory - are exactly the same.

 

A similar process occurs when you have a difficult job to do.  A mile of fence to build, a big yard to mow, a restaurant-sized pile of dishes, a big homework assignment; anything can test you.  EVERY ONE of those real-world tests shows you who you are and forces you to decide who you will become.

 

Passing those tests - pushing through your limits - leaves a Mark on you.  Doing it on a regular basis - by habit - makes that Mark stand out.  People recognize it.  Even if they don't know what it is, they know you're a badass.  It's like a secret club; so secret that many of its own members don't even know they're in the club.  (More accurately, they just don't think about it.  Farmers, Oil Field and Utility Company workers all consider it part of the job.  Soldiers, Cops, Nurses, Firemen; they know they're on an elite team.)

 

Sometimes it means working through the pain of an injury.  CAUTION - This requires that you know your True Limitations!  You have to know when to push on, when to stop, and when to go to the hospital.  No matter how much Grit and Determination the 96-pound gymnast has, if she picks up the Olympic Heavyweight's barbell, she's going to blow her spleen out the back of her leotard.

 

How do you know your limits?  By constantly bumping up against them wherever they are.  A musician learning a difficult song, a student with an impossible math problem; staying with it until YOU WIN.

 

Old folks used to say, "It builds Character" (and for generations, young folks have hated hearing it), but the truth is that a person with "Character" is easily recognized by other people "with Character".  You WILL NOT make it to Management without some degree of "Character".  The person interviewing you for a job has that Mark, and they're looking for it in you, and here's why; because it's RARE, and…

 

RARETHINGSAREVALUABLE!

 

A person with "Character" (The Mark) walks in to a job interview with a firm handshake, looks the interviewer in the eye and says, "I'm the one you need.  You can count on me."

 

Without it, the applicant steps in timidly, hoping that someone "gives" them a job.  They don't really even want the job - just the paycheck - and THE INTERVIEWER KNOWS THAT!

 

Many people (maybe most) are in the second category.  Lots of times they even get hired, because the company needs to fill the position, and that's the best that they can get at the time.  What they're looking for, though, is that first category person.  They need the "Get the job done no matter what" Team Member, and they're usually willing to pay them more, once they know that you're for real.

 

A SURPRISING SECRET:

 

This is, obviously, an "Old School" concept.  As our technology develops, we no longer have to draw water from the well and chop firewood to heat it, so a lot of the things that tested previous generations no longer exist.  Your grandfather's life was so physically demanding that the idea of paying to go to a gym was too silly to think about.

 

So what's The Secret?

 

Most people in Leadership positions today were either IN that generation, or were raised by people in that generation.  They shake their heads at "kids these days", and wonder why one little bitty nail in the bottom of a foot can bring a whole construction project to a halt.  (Extreme example, I know, but you get the point.)  Meanwhile, the "kids these days" (the ones without The Mark) can't understand why the Boss is such a jerk about cell phones at work.  

 

BALANCE

 

I've used extreme examples here, but the Truth (as usual) is somewhere in the middle.  It's your responsibility to complete the tasks given to you.  More than anything else, your employer needs to be able to rely on you to do it well, on time, and without wasting resources.  It's the employer's responsibility to make sure you know what's expected, and that you have the tools you need to get it done.  As each party comes to trust the other, growth occurs naturally, without excessive damage to muscle tissue (or leotards).