When Bob got married, he and his wife decided that it would be Bob's responsibility to take out the trash. But what he didn’t know was that he and his wife had different ideas of what it meant to do that simple task.
Bob's wife expected the trash to be taken out after every meal. Bob, on the other hand only took out the trash when it was completely full—compacted 3-4x. He was overlooking the fact that even if he just took out the trash before dinner, he needed to take it out again after dinner because it was stinky. This created problems.
In a blog post about what it means to own your work vs. just doing it, Bob, CEO of Faithlife and author of "Fire Someone Today: And Other Surprising Tactics for Making Your Business a Success," told this story—one that has significant implications about how you approach your daily work find success. I wanted to share it here with you.
Here’s the story:
“When my wife and I got married, we quickly agreed that taking out the trash was my responsibility.
We brought different expectations to this task, however. Being an efficiency expert (that’s code for ‘lazy around the house’), I believed that the right time to take out the trash was when the trash can was completely full. And not just ‘full’, but ‘full and I pushed it down a few times before adding more.’ This minimized trips from the kitchen to the garbage can and — green bonus! — minimized use of plastic trash bags.
My wife believed that the trash should be emptied a lot more often. Before weekly trash pickup, even if the kitchen can isn’t full. After disposing of smelly garbage or tuna fish cans. Any time you’d have to press it down to fit more in.
So I had to be ‘assigned’ the task of taking out the trash 100% of the time, since she wanted it taken out more often than I naturally would. And I took it out, as assigned. I got it done. I believed that my job performance was 100% satisfactory in this area. And, technically, it was.
I was an idiot, and not moving ahead very quickly in the ‘husband’ career track.
Skipping forward 20 years of marriage (and the very instructive period during which I was the task-assigner and my son the assignee), I now do things differently.
I empty the can if I can see trash near the top. I empty it after every meal prep. I empty it if fish was present or even discussed in the kitchen. I put a new bag in before the old bag goes out the door. I double-bag messy / smelly bags. I take the recyclables out too, and then I rinse any drips from cans and bottles before putting the bin back in the kitchen.
I own taking out the trash.”
When you own something, whether that be your work, the laundry, or even the trash, you don’t just take care of it when it’s in shambles. You constantly look for ways to make it better. When you own your work, you don’t wait for someone to tell you to fix it or assign it to you because you’re already on top of it.
In Bob’s case, his wife was always thinking about the trash because he would only take it out when it was completely full. She had to supervise him closely to make sure he’d actually take it out when it needed to be done.
If your story resonates with Bob’s, you’ll want to start thinking more about growth and ownership in your work and life.
Here are 4 fail proof strategies to help you own your work and be more successful:
1. Don’t wait for opportunities to knock, find a door
Most employees sit around until they are assigned a project. In case you didn't catch on, there's something wrong with that.
Sadly, I think one reason for this mindset is because of undergraduate university where homework and procrastination dominate students lives for 4, 5, or dare I say it, 6 years!
In college, you get assigned homework tasks from your professor. Then you do the work, and after a few years you graduate and move up in the world. Except not really, because at work, if you just take assignments that are given to you, you will get absolutely nowhere.
If you don’t own your work, you won’t move up.
Help other people with their projects, ask for more work, and look for opportunities where you make a bigger impact on your company. And in turn, your career.
2. Your middle name is hustle
Hustle is not just work, it’s hard work. Hustle is doing what you know you need to do when you need to do it, and more. It is doing the work that no one else wants to do, but has to be done well.
Gary Vaynerchuk talks about hustle in every single one of his Ask Gary Vee shows. When he was starting up a wine business, he knew that if he wanted to find success, he had to hustle. At the time, that meant he had to visit every store in town, talk to the owners, and share of a set of business cards and coupons for his store. So that’s what he did. Gary literally walked down the streets of New Jersey selling his business to every retail shop downtown.
Sure, hustle looks different for everybody. Maybe you’re not selling door-to-door, but the truth is that you know if you’re hustling or not. If you’re pushing yourself to the line and putting yourself out there every single day, then you know you’re going to be successful.
3. Be where you are
Be completely where you are. If you’re at work, focus 100% on what’s happening at work. If you’re home, focus 100% on what’s going on at home.
For me, this means having a laser focused schedule and sticking to it. It doesn’t always work out perfect, but I have an ideal daily schedule that helps me stay on track. Here’s how I setup my day:
5 am to 7 am: I’m writing blog posts, checking email, building my businesses, and doing client work
9 am to 5 pm, I’m working my day job at Logos Cloud
6 pm to 10 pm I’m eating dinner, playing with the baby, and helping around the home
For you, this may look different. If you don’t have kids or aren’t married, your schedule may be a more flexible than mine with the majority of your work hours tacked on at the end of the day instead of the morning. The goal is to find what works for you, set an ideal schedule, and stick to it.
It’s also a goal to be focused where you are. Be 100% on or 100% off. Be laser focused. Be where you are.
4. Be a lifelong student
The most successful people are always looking for ways to learn something new from the people around them. The understand that their education does not stop at the last educational institute you attended.
For me, the my commute is reserved for learning. If I’m not podcasting, I’m recording blog headlines and business ideas on my iPhone, all the way to work. If I’m not alone, but carpooling or driving someone else around, I’m asking them questions, digging into their life, learning the things they know and I don’t.
After I get home from work, I’m still learning about those around me. I seek out relationship with my wife and learn about what she did during the day. I watch my son to see what cool things he can do today that he wasn’t able to do yesterday. It’s remarkable how one day he can just look at his toy frog, but the next day he’ll be able to throw it across the room! You think I’m kidding, but I’m not.
5. Just do it
You can’t build a life on what you’re going to do. —Henry Ford (paraphrase).
You can’t build a life, make a name for yourself, get a job, or get a promotion based on what you’re going to do. You can only be more successful by doing those things you set out to do. And don’t just do, own it.
Own your work. Own your life. Be more successful.
Are you thinking of someone who would benefit from this advice? Send it to them and let them know you care.