How to "Never work another day in your life!"
January 18, 2022
In past articles I've established the importance of discovering your organization's core values and a clear vision for the future in order to create a "dream team" of employees that are enthusiastic, engaged, and motivated to help you build a truly high-performance organization.
These foundational elements for a "Freedom Focused" business create greater meaning and purpose for everyone in the organization.
However, there is one more important ingredient that best-selling author and consultant Lindsay McGregor says almost no businesses are focused on.
In a recently published article in Inc., she was quoted as saying, "[Our research] found that play is about twice as powerful when it comes to adaptive performance than purpose."
"That's shocking," she continued, "because we all talk a lot about purpose but almost nobody's worried about play at work."
What exactly does McGregor mean when she says "play"?
She's not talking about breakrooms filled with video games and pool tables. She means a task or responsibility that to each person, in their own way, and for their own reasons doesn't feel like "work."
Play, as defined by McGregor, would be any activity that comes naturally to you, you love, and when you're doing it, you can become so engrossed that you forget about time, hunger, or even stopping to take a bathroom break.
An example might be writing.
When you're "in the zone" at work, writing a proposal or report or article, it doesn't feel like work because you're so into it, and enjoying what you're doing.
If you stop and think about it, writing is something you do even when you're not at work.
You may write in your journal every night to capture your thoughts and/or catalog the activities of your day. Why? Because you enjoy it and it's important and meaningful to you. You're not writing because someone made you do it or paid you to do it. You're writing because you love doing it.
But there's another name for this special quality that each and every one of us has....
In 2007, I participated in Dan Sullivan's Strategic Coach program and spent one year meeting quarterly with a coach and cohort of like minded small business owners to make our businesses, and ourselves, much better.
One of the foundational concepts from Strategic Coach is identifying a person's "unique ability".
Before we describe exactly what your "unique ability" is, we first need to talk about what it is not.
Strategic Coach breaks your daily activities down into four categories: Incompetent, Competent, Excellent, and Unique Ability.
Incompetent - Activities that you're not good at--in fact when you do them, you actually make things worse--are known as "incompetent" activities.
You know what they are! Anything math related maybe, like balancing a checkbook, or perhaps organizing a large meeting or party? Disaster!
Competent - A step up from "incompetent", and perhaps the majority of the things we do in life, are those activities we're merely "competent" at doing. We're not horrible at these things, but we're not wizards either. We get them done out of routine and necessity, but that's about it.
Excellent - The activities in our life that we do very well, that we excel at, and people recognize us as perhaps even being an expert, are called "excellent."
However, despite the excellence we exhibit when doing these activities, they're not things that we're particularly passionate about, that we truly love doing.
We've all heard of the successful attorney, or accountant, or small business owner, who is incredibly talented at the work they do, but is not very happy, or passionate about, doing that work.
What they really wish they were doing, what they love doing and gets them excited, is something that may be totally unrelated to their work.
Perhaps organizing volunteers to install water purification systems in poor villages in South America, or playing bass guitar in a country western band, or building picnic tables out of recycled plastic and metal. These activities, it turns out, are their "unique ability."
Unique Ability - Your unique ability is something that you've been doing all your life, since you were a little kid in school.
Perhaps it was organizing the other kids to pick-up trash on the playground, or telling stories to entertain your friends, or playing basketball better than the sixth graders when you were only in fourth grade.
Whatever that talent or skill was, way back then, is still something you love doing today and, like "excellent" activities, you're recognized by others as a real expert.
When you're operating in your unique ability, you're actually so good that you make that activity even better. You don't realize or recognize the accepted boundaries for how that activity is done, but instead push boundaries as you naturally invent new ways to do it and make it better.
Lastly, similar to Lindsay McGregor's definition of "play", when you're operating in your unique ability, it gives you energy. You can operate in your unique ability for 20 hours straight, probably missing a meal or bathroom break or two, and likely feel tired, but more energized at the end then when you started.
Unique Ability® - "The essence of what you love to do and do best. It’s your own set of natural talents and the passion that fuels you to contribute in the ways that most motivate you. When articulated, it describes the 'you' that makes you who you are."
Your Unique Ability & Freedom
Everyone has a unique ability!
In this sense, there is nothing actually "unique" about having one.
The trick is figuring out what your individual unique ability is, then spending as much time as possible doing your unique ability activities and as little as possible doing activities that are competent and especially incompetent for you.
As a small business owner, to get the most out of each member of your team, you need to ensure that they too are operating in their unique ability. That the work they do is less "work" and more "play".
One way to determine a person's unique ability is to follow the well established process laid out by Strategic Coach.
While this process works perfectly well with people already on your team, it doesn't work as part of the hiring process to find new team members.
For that, we recommend the hiring process we teach as part of our "Dream Team Builder" course (see "Separating the Wheat from the Chaff" article and podcast).
Our process helps you to better know who you're interviewing, what their personality and leadership style are, so you can determine if they're a good fit for your team and the position you're hiring them to fill.
Hiring people who you know are working in their unique ability ensures that their contribution to the team is efficient and productive and the work they do is something they enjoy, get excited about, and makes them happy.
When you and your team are working in your unique abilities, everyone experiences much more freedom because work is less like "work" and more like "play".... that creates energy rather than sucks it away, comes more naturally to each person (requiring less management), generates more enthusiasm, and creates greater engagement.
Never work another day in your life!
When operating in your unique ability, the concept "never work a day in your life" really starts to become meaningful.
When you're doing what you love, that feels like "play", and IS your unique ability, work doesn't feel like "work".
You'd do it even if you weren't paid.
Discover your unique ability, and you'll "never work another day in your life!"
And, you will most definitely be...
Focused on your freedom!
See Podcast: #016 How to "Never work another day in your life!"