Is Work a Daily Grind or a Daily Gift?

Spring is my favorite season of the year. Like many, I love the “spring green” of the tree buds and blossoming flowers. However, the other part I love about spring is playoff ice hockey!

I’m a big Dallas Stars fan. Being a native Texan, I grew up loving football. However, after learning about hockey when both my sons began playing, I so appreciate the skill, creativity and speed with which these athletes play the game. Sadly, my Stars are no longer in the hunt for the Stanley Cup after losing in Game 7, second round to the St. Louis Blues.

I’ll still be watching the whole playoff series because I just love the sport. And in watching all the highlights and glory of these games, I was struck by a video sequence at the final Dallas Stars game last Wednesday. It not only showed the highlights of the many victories but also featured all the hard work in practice sessions and off-ice training routines. Here’s an example of what I mean.

Happy woman jumping on long straight road, way towards sunset suIt also reminded me that success, in any career, doesn’t just HAPPEN. It requires hard work … each day. And you can’t get to the highlight reel without recognizing that what you achieve is a culmination of small steps – one person at a time, one project at a time, one day at a time.

The road to glory is not glorious.

For those of us who have careers in business, it’s unlikely you’ll see a highlight film of your “season” of accomplishments. There’s no whoopin’ and a hollerin’ as you spike your speaker notes at the end of a fantastic presentation.

Often, you don’t get public recognition for professionally conducting a difficult conversation, negotiating a great deal or making a courageous decision that makes good business sense. It takes time, practice, learning from formal training, observing others, testing new approaches and taking some risks.

Just like elite athletes, business professionals need to hone their skills and do the work each and every day. It’s also helpful if you can recognize your accomplishments and feel an internal reward for a job well done, without having to hear it from someone else or receive some award or bonus. Let’s face it – you just can’t count on others recognizing you publicly, so be ready to create your personal highlight reel.

Given that reality, here are a few ideas about beefing up your skills and abilities and feeling good about the small steps you make on your success journey:

  • Understand your skill gaps – You first need to know what you want to achieve and assess where you are today to see the differences between the two. This understanding can come from asking for feedback, talking to those who currently have or have had the position you aspire to, or even doing a personal self-assessment. Take notice of what others have done or the skills those promoted possess and reflect on how your skills and professional attributes stack up.
  • Identify a path to shore up those gaps – Do you need a new assignment or project that will offer an opportunity to start something from scratch or fix a problem? Is it time to get into a supervisory role or expand your scope? Are there specific skills you need to build through training or teaching others? Create a plan for how you can get the training or experience necessary to close the gaps.
  • Advocate for yourself – Don’t wait around for others to notice what you need and create opportunities for you. You are in charge and responsible for your career so take responsibility and ask for what you want.
  • Do the work – Take advantage of the training or experience challenges presented and dig in. Don’t get wrapped up in what tomorrow brings. Stay focused on the here and now and what steps you can take each day to get you closer to your goal.
  • Reflect and keep going – As mentioned earlier, don’t expect others to give you recognition. You have to take time each day to reflect on what you accomplished and feel good internally about what went well. Learn from what could have gone better and begin the next day with the intent to do your best … again.

Just like the professional athlete, they don’t achieve success without daily commitment, aspirational goals and drive.

At times, it may feel like a daily grind, but it’s a daily gift to work toward a goal.

Nothing worthwhile is easy, and embracing the challenge makes for a fulfilling life.

Martha Duesterhoft is a Partner with PeopleResults. Follow her on Twitter @mduesterhoft or connect via email at