THE HARD JOB

Somebody has to either remove these bricks or build something with them. If the job comes to you for one reason or another, you need to figure out how you're going to handle the challenge.

Somebody has to either remove these bricks or build something with them. If the job comes to you for one reason or another, you need to figure out how you're going to handle the challenge.

What are you going to do about it? Are you going to fold up? Walk away? Cry?

Like the song says, you can cry if you want to...but you'd better find time and place for that somewhere else.

No matter who you are or what you do, hard jobs will come in from time to time. If you're a person who makes things, from real estate deals to architectural designs for major bridges between cities, those jobs will not always come when you're well rested and ready for them. They come when the universe sends them screaming in likes comets from deep space, and if you ever want to look yourself in the mirror again (not to mention hope to get a call from your client again), you'll take it.

Then you've got it, and the only way out of the situation is to show it who's boss.

Hard jobs are not generally fair. They do not care that you're tired; they do not care that you'd rather be writing your novel; they do not care about your daughter's birthday party. They present only decision tree branches about which you can determine how much they're going to disrupt your life, and it's an all or nothing proposition. If the job is such that you know you'll have no chance to complete it on time, on spec, and to standards you're willing to accept with your name on it, you can walk away without guilt. No one can fly to the Moon with a paper airplane.

But the moment you realize that it's something you can do, that you really cannot avoid, it's yours to live with like a birthmark. You've got to deal with it. It's yours.

Here's what you're going to do, and you're going to do it right now. You're going to give up things distracting you from getting the job done. Everything. From this minute forward, there's the hard job and there's everything else. You must become a great cat stalking supper, a sniper looking downrange, an ascetic novitiate bent on enlightenment. When you ask yourself if that previously scheduled thing has anything to do with getting this new, hard job done and you answer "no", that other thing is probably have to be canceled. That's just the way it is.

The next thing you're going to do is make a plan. You're going to make a very specific plan--this isn't like baking a cake. Your plan will be systematic and ruthless. It will be pragmatic in the extreme, and it will focus almost exclusively on one thing: doing whatever it is that enables you to complete ONLY the step in front of you. Sure, you'll keep your mind open to optimization options that may enable downstream efficiencies, but sometimes optimization schemes right now just suck up time and resources you need to apply to your next step, RIGHT NOW. Focus on finishing whatever the next step in front of you, first.

Next, you're going to demand of yourself that you not add frills and filigrees to the job. Aim for your intended specs as best you can and save your new, bright ideas until you're no longer furrowing your brow.

You're going to so something that might seem counter-intuitive. You're going to spend resources, without hesitation. Time equals money, and money equals time. You will spend both, lavishly if necessary-- and you will not feel bad about this--but you will also not wantonly throw away either. Sometimes a hard job is neither about limited time or money. Sometimes it's simply hard just to figure out, and more time or money won't make a damn bit of difference. Spend what you need to spend, because not spending enough at the right time can make a hard job even harder.

Then you're going to go back to your systematic and ruthless plan, and you're going to walk the steps down again, and again, until the job is done.

And then, if you're successful, you're going to be the one who completed this hard job, and you're going to know how you did it. They're never easy, and often they're not a good time, but the creative people who often have something to say in the world are those who take their successfully completed hard jobs as externally imposed training opportunities. It's only from challenges that we actually grow and expand what we are and what we can do. This is your moment to rise up. You may not have asked for it, but it's yours. Don't blow it.

--Michael Starobin

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