the sky floor

June 7, 2021

Do you know how to win at work and in life?


What is a clear win for you? It is essential to define what a win looks like for a new client, job, or hobby. 

If you can’t define a distinct success in your latest undertaking, it will be challenging to produce authentic, definable value – for yourself and anyone you work alongside. I think the tendency is to enter into new opportunities that sound interesting because we crave the fresh and novel. But without defining where you want to go, you won’t arrive there. 

It’s as if someone says, “Hey, do you want to road trip to Los Angeles?” and you say, “Sure, let’s go!” with no plan on where you will stay, how many days you want it to take, how long you will stay there, where you will live while you are there, or why you are going. Eventually, a couple of weeks into your listless experience, you and your travel companion will disagree about the undefined details – and the trip will blow up or implode.

What is a win?

I define a win as bringing something uniquely you to delivering a successful outcome in a job or task. 

You bring your history, expertise, perspective, ideas, speed, excellence and apply it in a new way that brings a value-rich victory. In other words, you do the work in a way only you – or perhaps a tiny handful of other people – could do it. 

Success measured by this standard is a definite win. 

Note: Not everything has a clear victory, but you should know that before fully diving in. Another note: work without a clear win will eventually burn you out or build resentment even when you are aware of it.

What if the work is menial?

When you are first starting, you will have to take on work that doesn’t seem to require your uniqueness. If you are assigned a job that feels like anyone could do it, bring yourself to the work in a way that no one else is doing. 

When Alan and I worked at Apple Retail, we discovered that Vinegar Windex cleaned the computers and stations exceptionally well. We would bring in supplies to reset the store before closing until, eventually, our manager ordered some for everyone to use. That was our way of bringing value to a task while other employees were happy to do the bare minimum. 

As your experience and reputation grow, you can command more pay for more specialized work. You begin to distinguish who you are and what you offer that is unique and valuable. 

When you are at this later stage, and there is no clear win based on your gifts, say no to the job, client, or task. 

Setting Goals

Here is one of those “duh” statements that are very important; knowing the clear win will also help you produce that outcome. 

If you aim for something, you are more likely to hit the target than if you aren’t aiming at anything in particular. In other words, set goals. 

Here are some tips for setting goals based on your clear win:

  • Figure out what you uniquely bring to the work
  • Define what success looks like, i.e., more leads, new customers, 50 first-time purchases
  • Create an overarching outcome goal
    • Set milestone sub-goals that get you there
  • Communicate all of the above value you are providing to the interested parties – make yourself irreplaceable. 

When you get a new job offer or start a new project, define your clear win. If there isn’t one, reconsider the opportunity or be prepared to putter along and possibly burn out. 

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