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Winning At Working: But It Will Take Too Long
by Nan Russell

Sitting in a waiting area above the tradeshow floor, I watched the forklift drivers deliver crates and boxes to small groups who were waiting to transform their rented cement floors into inviting marketing endeavors for the next day's expo opening, hosting seven thousand conference attendees.

A microcosm of differing work styles, I found it fascinating to watch. In one area, a half-dozen people were standing around, leaning against the crates and talking, as one young woman went about unpacking the boxes and organizing the materials. Ah yes, I recognized those don't-exert-too-much-effort-until-the-boss-arrives people.

In another space, I noticed some just-enough-to-get-by folks, more focused on getting their booth done, than getting it done right. Their work contrasted sharply with two individuals, methodically unpacking and constructing their tiny allocated space, carefully transforming it into a beautifully orchestrated welcome for their potential customers.

As I watched the tradeshow floor emerge, it struck me that people handle their careers in much the same manner. Some wait to demonstrate their initiative and ability until someone with authority is watching, believing someone else is responsible for their success. Others approach work as a paycheck rather than an opportunity, limiting both in the process. Still others align their efforts with the why behind the what, owning their results and learning and growing in the process.

This latter group involves people who are winning at working. They're offering the best of who they are, with or without the watchful eyes of influential decision makers or bosses. Their work is a reflection of who they are and they feel accountable for each task they're responsible to do. They're not waiting for their career to happen when someone discovers them, anoints them, or promotes them. They're creating their successful future by every day quality performance, ongoing learning, initiative, and disciplined actions.

People who are winning at working operate with the wisdom found in the African proverb, "If you wait for tomorrow, tomorrow comes. If you don't wait for tomorrow, tomorrow comes." They understand the tomorrow they want is housed in their todays.

In one year, or three or five, they'll have mastered the new skill, written the novel, finished the degree, or taken on the next challenge. They'll be the ones with bigger paychecks, larger responsibilities, and pursued life dreams. They'll be the ones running the tradeshow if that's their desire, not setting it up.

You see, people who are winning don't think "it will take too long" to do the job right, tackle the difficult project, or accomplish a goal. They don't think it will take too long to get additional education, develop a needed skill, or make a life dream happen. To them, it's not about the time it takes to accomplish what they desire; it's about taking the first step, then the next and the next. It's about the continuous process of creating the work, and the life, they desire. People who are winning at working see the not starting, the not working towards big goals, the not achieving their life's potential as the time that's wasted.

Five years from now, these winning at working people will be five years ahead in knowledge, skills, goals, and accomplishments. Each year they're leveraging the future they want, one step at a time. What about you? In five years, it's going to be five years from now. What will you have leveraged for your future?

© 2007 Nan S. Russell. All rights reserved.

Nan Russell may be contacted at

Nan Russell has spent over twenty years in management, most recently with QVC as a Vice President. She has held leadership positions in Human Resource Development, Communication, Marketing and line Management. Nan has a B.A. from Stanford University and M.A. from the University of Michigan. Her new book, Hitting Your Stride: Your Work -- Your Way was published by Capital Books, January 2008. Nan is an author, consultant and speaker. Visit


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