Apr 172011
  • And the winner is…!?

“Well I’m sure I don’t know dahling.” (said he, unashamedly stealing a line from Edna Mol in The Incredibles :-).

It’s been, up until now, a rainy dismal weekend in Johannesburg so I’ve put the time to good use reading ‘Outliers’ by Malcolm Gladwell.

A fascinating read for sure. Summarised as follows:

  • No one, no matter how genius, gifted etc, does it on their own.
    • “Success” = f ( Talent, Hard Work, Opportunity, ability to risk or take the opportunity, Blind Luck )
  • World class is, in the beginning, not so much about being sooo much better than others, it’s about being good enough and then getting the opportunity to get in the hours
    • “World Class” = f ( >10,000 hours )
  • “Happiness @ work” = f ( Meaning; Effort vs Reward; Autonomy )
  • We are a product of our upbringing and culture more than we care to admit, often going back 300-400 years.
  • Once you have a certain level of skill, talent or proficiency, then it doesn’t really matter how much better or more talented you are than your peers. Then, all that matters is that you put in more effort / practice than they do.

He doesn’t attempt to address the philosophy of man’s happiness. This book is a pure study of the worlds “successful” people (eg Bill Gates). He doesn’t attempt to widen the defintion of “Success” to include happiness or quality of life.  Nearly all, no actually every single one, of his “success” stories involve people working 70-80 hour weeks for years on end to get to the level of “success” as regarded successful by the world. All the successes related corroborate the formulae above however. In the Bill Gates example, it’s not that he’s a superhuman. If you trace his history, you will see that his “success” contains all the above elements of luck, family background, hard work, opportunities taken etc.

Some will read this book and say “Cool, see. It’s not my fault I’m not successful like Bill Gates. Luck just didn’t favour me” or “my circumstances” or “my family did it to me” but, but, but……. That would really sound like the cop-out world we know – “As long as you can blame someone else its OK!”

Others will use it as a motivator to justify why they are addicted to work, to climbing the corporate ladder, to sacrificing “Life” striving for something better, even though they don’t really know what that “something” is.

So the question is “Do you have what it takes to meet the world’s definition of “world class” Project Manager? Would many would look at you and consider you abounding in or lacking in ambition and drive and qualities essential to grabbing the prize of “Best PM in the World” ?

So success is really an individual thing right? You’ve heard it said that only you can determine if you’re successful. It doesn’t matter what the world thinks? OK, so the answer is yes and no! The world has to value your contribution or else you will struggle to eat, but ultimately the definition of success lies with you right? Sure! But then again, if success can mean anything to anyone, then it really means nothing doesn’t it? The real question should be “Are you happy with the path you’re on? Are you living well in the world, contributing to others and community, engaging in pursuits that challenge and stimulate you?

So back to the topic at hand – How does one become the best PM in the World? The world is full of people doing what you do. Sure, you’re already differentiated from the diggers and heavy lifters by your degree and your PM experience, your PMP, but still, there are huge numbers of competitors in the PM game, like many other career fields. Millions of project managers! What makes you remarkable, head and shoulders above the rest?

The world is like this in every sphere of life. The information age – which maybe should be called the instant gratification age – is all about having everything now. You can have anything you want now, with the greatest of ease. But, you often have to settle for the same thing that millions of others have. And so I believe that there is a huge drive within us to be different. You see it with the person customising his ride, the guy wanting to have the best caravan, mountain bike, 4×4; no cost spared to just have the coolest and most radically different look. So maybe, in this day and age, you become remarkable by being different. Not being different in an obstinate in-your-face kind of way, like getting a tattoo on your forehead that reads “F%$& the System”. That’s more about notoriety than about being remarkably different. No, being different in a way that differentiates who you are and what you do from the mediocrity that surrounds us in this modern world. 

So often we’re in search of the holy grail, being the best, head and shoulders above the rest. I think we loose sight of the fact that being the best takes a lot, and I mean a lot, of hard work, the ability to bounce back from experiences that some call failures and of course, just a little luck. But consider this. Being the best is possibly only a goal, the end destination in a long >10,000 hour journey. There’s no point in one day being the best if all the years of practice and effort leave you broken and miserable. Maybe the road to being the best starts merely with being remarkable doing what you love today.  Not by telling people or yourself that you’re remarkable and better than the competition, but just by slowly, habitually doing more than the competition – adding more value than people expect on a consistent basis.

That is, I think, the journey to being ‘the best’. Being remarkable, consistently, each step of the journey! Will it pay off financially? Who knows. But certainly, whether it does make you the richest man in the world or not, whether it does win you the accolade, fame and fortune that goes with “Best PM in the World” or not, it definitely should help you to live well in the world, being happier each step of the way and adding remarkable value to those around you. And that maybe is priceless!?

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