“What do you want to be when you grow up?” One Sunday while in Sunday School class, when I was 13 years old, my teacher, who was going through a life change, presented this question in a different way. He was turning 40 years old, and having thoughts of when he was our age. He decided to use this as a life lesson for us.
Now, off the top of my head, I can remember about three, maybe four, lessons a well-meaning Sunday school teacher tried to get through to us as kids. This is one I remember. Maybe it’s because I myself am over 40 now and realize what he was going through that week. Or maybe it’s the answer I gave that week. Maybe it’s due to the fact that at age 40 his lesson finally hit home.
What he did that Sunday was go around the room, and ask each of us to give a word or short phrase to describe what our life would be at age 40. Then he addressed the good and bad of what each of us said.
My answer was Rock Star. This was in the early 80s and, in those days, many rock stars didn’t even live to be 40. The drugs and hard life took many of them at a young age. I was determined to not let that be me.
As I grew up and reached my 20s, it was a forgotten lesson. By then, I was chasing what I thought life was about: Money. By the time I hit my 30s, something else took a front seat in my life: Survival. That’s right. I was just surviving, trying to pay for money spent in my 20s, paying off debt, learning lessons I was repeating for the 3rd time. And I was still trying to come up with a solution for what described success for me in life – learning to be myself, use the tools and gifts God gave me to reach for the true dreams of what I wanted to do.
Last night I sat and watched a movie from the last decade that reflected the time period I grew up in. It also mirrors the main thoughts behind this blog as well as the book I’m currently writing. It was a Mark Walberg movie from around 2000, called “Rock Star.” First I watched the movie, then I watched it again with the director’s commentary. Afterwards, I went to Wikipedia to research the movie further. It came from a true story idea (it turns out a lot of my life lesson movies do have a true life story behind them).
In the movie, the young man so loves and respects the music of his favorite band that he devotes his life to being exactly like their lead singer. By following the footsteps of the lead singer, using his great voice, and modeling his life so closely on that singer, through a stroke of fate, he actually becomes the new lead singer for the band. That puts him into the life of a Rock Star but, after years of riding the wave of Rock Star success, he is faced with the reality of chasing a dream that is really someone else’s life. Ultimately, he walks from the band and searches for his own life.
While I didn’t want to give all the details on this movie, I do want to hint on the points I made above and how they relate to my story. I also want to show you how you can use this to better your life.
Just like the character in the movie, I wanted to be a Rock Star. I was seeking what others defined as success. When that didn’t work for me, and my life came crashing down, I still tried chasing a dream that was not truly me. In the process I learned that over a 10-year period of my life I developed my own Seven Point Plan to help me succeed wherever I am. I became the Rock Star in all the places I was at the time. I’m going to share with you now those seven steps
1. Observe your situation.
Any time I would walk into a new job or position I took, I started out by looking around. I didn’t open my mouth and I didn’t make those great claims that I can do this or that.
Take a look around where you’re at now. What kind of manager do you work for? What is his or her personality? Who are the people that control you moving forward at your job or current situation?
Right now, when you’re starting out, don’t make waves. Use it as a learning time. In every job and place you will find people who are floating in the middle at what they do. They are just trying to keep the job they have, they don’t want to lose it. But they also don’t want to rise above what is expected from them. They do the minimum required to keep a job. If you watch and learn, it does not take long to find this out.
2. Find out what’s expected from you.
So you know what and who surround you, including who controls your future at this place you are at. Now it’s time to determine what they expect from you. In that time of observing, you find out how long it really takes to reach the expectations set by those who rule over you. Learning what those expectations are and, as stated earlier, what everyone else is doing, you can evaluate how long it will take to meet those expectations by breaking things down.
For instance I worked a job as a yard attendant once, for a trucking company. My job was to fuel up the trucks and wash them. Each day we had three guys working our shift. The goals set by the company were to wash 15 trucks per night. I watched for about a month, as the other workers would do the minimum and spend the rest of the night just sitting around watching TV.
Then, one night I decided to see how many trucks I could wash myself. I reached 20 trucks. You see, by learning what was expected and what was done by the other workers, then looking at my own abilities, I set my standards much higher. And that’s how I became a Rock Star at my job.
So find out what is expected of you and use it to see what you can do. Then set goals to reach your own expectations. And exceed them.
3. Set your goals to reach and exceed expectations.
As you have found out by now, first you see what’s going on around you and know what’s expected. You now can set your goals to first meet the expectations. Remember the first point I mentioned: don’t start to brag and say, “This is what I can do.” Instead, first set the goals to meet what’s expected of you. Use this time to not make enemies. Instead learn to conform to what is expected of you. If your job has more than one person working on the same task, focus on how you will work together as a team. As a team you work to reach the company-set goals each and every day. Always do your part plus a little more. But never brag about it. If you end up doing part of your co-workers’ work, so be it.
I can tell you of a job I had working at a coffee shop. I knew other shift managers who could close our stores down faster than me. I knew the expectation, but while working with other workers, I found they only wanted to do the minimum. Thus we could not make our time limit and would get done late every night.
That continued until I worked with my friend Carrie who showed me we had to do more than our job each night to make this happen. We set the example of how fast we each worked by doing more than our required jobs. While doing this we did not complain to those who were not pulling their share of the work; and we learned to do more work ourselves. Then you will eventually exceed those expectations set for you by your supervisor.
This brings us to our next step. Learning who you are working with.
4. Learn who everybody is.
We’ve already talked about learning what’s going on around you. Next you want to learn who is around you. I want to break this down into two different points.
Who is working with you? Your supervisor, your manager? Those working for you? Those who are your equals on your team? Learn who pulls what weight to get the job done. Who are the slackers, those people who always have an excuse why work is not done? How will working with this team of people affect your life?
There is one thing I always say will affect where you are in the future and that is those people you hang around now. Are your co-workers people that you will only work with? In other words, are they people you will be interested in developing a relationship with outside this job?
In all this you may find your new best friend in life. You may be working beside the one person who has the same dream as you do. It could form a partnership to start that new business that you both have been searching for. Or it could be the new mentor to help you get through this job.
In the late 90s, I worked with a man who was my father’s age. He had done the job I was doing and he became a mentor for me at that job. He helped me by telling me the things to do and not to do and letting me know the unmentioned expectations that were going to be placed on me. In fact, when Fred passed on from this earth, I was one of the first calls his family made to let me know. He was a friend and mentor as I moved on to other places.
Outside the Company Customers or Clients.
Learn who those people are you are serving. What if you knew what they expected each and every time they came in for your service? What are the little things that make their day when seeking out a product or service?
I tell the story of when I first moved to Dallas. I worked for a home theater company. When installing home audio and video equipment in a very nice home, I noticed the client had many pictures and Dallas Cowboys plaques on his walls in the room we were installing. When he came into the room to ask if we needed anything, I’ll never forget this exchange we had. I said, “You must be a big Cowboys fan with all the Cowboys things you have up.” To that statement, a very humble Darren Woodson the five-time Pro Bowl football player says to me, “Um, I play for them.” (Remember, I’d just moved to Dallas…from Philadelphia!) Well if I had done my research I would have known who he was. But I was not a Cowboys fan.
After that I learned that he, as well as another Cowboys player at the time, really liked it when people didn’t know who he was. So without knowing this about him, I treated him in a way he liked. Imagine you knowing things like that about your clients – who they are and what they like. Going the extra mile and treating them the way they like to be treated. After all, how do you feel when other people treat you the way you want? Do you give them more business? Or if your server treats you the way you like, maybe you give him or her a better tip. Bottom line: learn who people are, how you can better their life. In doing so maybe these people can help you to your success somewhere in life.
5. Follow the Rules and Guidelines set.
Each company I have worked for, organizations I have served in, positions I’ve held, have all had a handbook, or manual that tells the rules. There are a set of guidelines this organization has given they expect you to follow while working there. While this is a short thing it’s a must to be the Rock Star there. If you are the constant rule breaker, you will soon find your way out of a job. If we learn to succeed within the rules and guidelines set, the time will come for us to push the rules and do so with permission of our supervisors and management team to see if maybe it’s time to re-write the rules.
The key reasons we want to follow the rules are that once you learn all about this job or position, you will soon start outshining those you work for. And no matter how much you learn about those around you in the previous step, as humans they will not like that you are now the star when you started after they did. We all want to be the big star, and if someone beats us to it, we then search for ways to pull them down.
Well imagine you just set the new sales record in your company. If you work with, let’s just say, three other sales people, you may find that top salespeople for the past year were able to achieve that status with no effort. Well you show up put in a little more effort than them and double the sales they are doing. If you are not following the rules, they may, in a jealous way, try to find ways to prove you cheated. After all, they now have to do more work. You have just raised the bar.
A few years ago I was at a local car wash, working a service writer job. In a short time was able to take the top sales slot. Due to a new commission structure, the man who I took the number one spot from moved to a management position. Because I was tops in sales, I got to take his shifts for the week, which meant I got to work days and have my nights free. Well, three other people wanted that day shift; they had been working at the company two years longer than me.
Upset about it, one of them planted a customer situation that led me to breaking a rule. Not knowing it was a set up, I let this violation slip through. Well the results were, I broke a rule and ended up losing the job. So know the rules and follow them. By breaking the one little rule, I ended up losing my Job.
Once you know the rules and have learned to become successful in the company guidelines, now is the time to test the limits to see where you can move from here.
6. Know the limits and test mildly.
Up until now, we’ve been listing rules. Now I want to talk about the limits. There are limits you have on yourself and your company has limits. You have to learn these in both cases. If you live a life over the limit, any success you have will be short-lived.
I started this blog with the story of me talking in Sunday school class about being a Rock Star, to which my teacher replied how so many of them did not live past 40, due to the fact they lived over the limits. Most of them pushed the limits that the human body just cannot hold. While we think all the time that living like a Rock Star is about partying as hard as you can. It may work for a while, but it ends in complete destruction. Now you hear the stories of so many of those 80s and 90s Rock Stars in rehab, dealing with health issues and now having to radically change the way they live. But if you learned to balance things in life and not take them to excess you might be able to enjoy your success longer.
In 1992, as a result of an accident at a truck loading dock, I now have a form of epilepsy. It is something I’ll have to live with for the rest of my life. However I still tried to push my limits. In 2001 that changed for me. I was working a job in which I needed to hide it from my employers. I was exceeding in my job, but was doing something I hated, and it was really time to move on. Still, I tried to stay, but lived life to excess, not eating right, and spending my weekends drinking with all the extra money I had.
Well that came to a halt that December with one day to go till my vacation. I came to work, and, while sitting at my desk getting ready for the day, I had a seizure. This resulted in me being given a different position and in me having to take a cut in pay. I could no longer perform all of my duties due to restrictions that my health condition had put on me, regulations of my company, as well as laws regulating the industry. So while it was fun to live over my limits, the extra money was now gone. My job was now restricted, all I had worked for was now back at ground zero. I knew I should have left this job six months earlier. Funny thing, so did my employer. If only I had accepted the limits of my personal health, my limits of knowing when to quit and move on, I could have avoided the expensive ambulance ride, and kept my good name at my place of employment.
Also don’t spend more money than you make. Learn to live within what you are making moneywise. Don’t push your credit limit to afford what you can’t. Focus on learning things like saving and using money to work for you. Then no matter what happens you can learn to live on whatever money you get. That way you build success because you do not have to worry about money. Too many people live over this limit in America today. If we learn to live on less and don’t always push to keep up with what others say we should have, how much easier it would be to endure whatever job we have to! Then when you get to live and work your dream, you can then have the extra money to spend on a real life.
So with all of this we only have one more thing: Accept the success we have and use it to move to our next step.
7. Reap the rewards, move to new levels.
Well now if you have moved through all of this, you have a proven track record that will help you show those you work for that you are able to exceed where others are just getting by. Now, if you remember, at the beginning of this story, we had a Sunday school teacher turning 40 looking back on his life and asking each of us what one word or phrase we wanted to define our life at his age. Well we all said the wrong word as you can imagine. And yes I was 40 myself when I finally got this lesson, with a little help from the movie, Rock Star.
My phrase at age 13 was that: Rock Star. The word he wanted me to say, – and I hope you want to say it too – was SUCCESSFUL. That was his lesson that Sunday: no matter what you choose in this life, choose to be successful at it.
I’ll end this story today with telling about my friend Troy. A few years ago he sold his company for over 50 million dollars. His life changed instantly. He now was able to do things he wanted to. Spend time with his wife. Go to see his kids’ ball games. Take family trips to events that we can’t get off work for. Troy lived well.
Each week I would go and visit him and he would say to me, “You don’t know how good you have it. You get to do what you love to do. Money does not control your life.” At this time I was struggling in my life, just learning to live these steps and define success to me. Week after week, he was living with having investors call him, looking for a loan. Many people called looking to have him bail out their mortgage. But Troy would tell me, “You learned to live at a lower level than what you make. And for that I admire you.”
So bottom line from the Rocker Life Coach: you need to define success where you are now. When you reach that success, use it to move forward to the next level. If you have proven to your boss that you are the person for the job, now is the time to take the promotion, get the raise. It’s success time.
Let me share with you some examples of how these seven steps helped me in jobs I had working for other people: 1st job, I was given a raise, and promoted to run my own team; 2nd job, I was given a 20% raise, bonus and free healthcare; 3rd job I was promoted to take the shift I wanted; 4th job I was given a choice of the days I wanted to work and days I wanted off; 5th job I was offered a management promotion and choice of store I wanted to work in. While this is what happened to me, I encourage you to use the place you are at, succeed at where you are at now. With each new opportunity that leads you to your dream or destiny in life, you will always be able to “bloom where ever you are planted” as Joel Osteen says.
I’m Tim Gillette, Rocker Life Coach. I’m here to help people reach the stars from where they are. If you need a coach or mentor to help you be a success where you are, look into one of our coaching plans. All our clients become Rock Stars in their world or their money back….. That’s a fact.