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The most important thing about art is to work. Nothing else matters except sitting down every day and trying. — Steven Pressfield, The War of Art

For years, I have struggled to write with any semblance of consistency.

I have started more book drafts than I care to admit and I would need an extra hand to count the number of my failed blogs that litter the internet, each with a scant few posts.

Failing to write consistently isn’t really a problem like say, failing to brush my teeth or go to work every day. “Not writing” wasn’t physically unhealthy. It didn’t hurt my income. …


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Photo by Benjamin Davies

This morning, I dragged myself out of bed at 530 am so that I could go swim laps in a pool before the rest of my family woke up.

If you’re wondering why in the world I would do something like this, it’s because my friend and I have talked each other into entering a triathlon and I would prefer to not drown during the 1.2 mile swim.

(If you’re wondering why in the world I would do something like enter a triathlon . . . I don’t have a great answer for you.)

Walking to the pool in the cool predawn, I found myself alone with nothing but my thoughts and the rhythmic thumping of my flip flops echoing through my neighborhood. …


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Photo by Quino Al

As I sat in the back of the meeting room, trying to mentally prepare myself for the day ahead, I started to sweat.

A lot.

I could feel my breath shortening and my hands started to shake. I kept looking to my notes for comfort, but none of what I had written down seemed to make any sense in that moment.

I was panicking.

I was 5 minutes away from kicking off a leadership seminar that I would facilitate for the next 8 hours. …


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Photo by Nikolas Noonan

Does your career success or failure ultimately depend on the things you do?

Or what the world does to you?

Your answer will depend on your “locus of control”, the degree to which you believe you have control over the outcomes of events in your life.

If you have an internal locus of control, you believe that you are in charge. You take the credit when things go well and you blame yourself when things go poorly. If you get a promotion, it’s because you earned it. …


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Photo by Danielle MacInnes

For as long as I can remember, I have been jealous of anyone who has mastered the art of the morning routine.

I have always wanted to be the kind of person that rolled out of bed at daybreak to mediate with the sunrise before enjoying a green smoothie while I wrote in my journal. Or the kind of guy that gets in a workout (yoga, obvi) before drinking some yerba mate and taking a cold shower (which is apparently good for you) before anyone else in the house is even stirring.

The specifics varied, but my goal was the same: become a morning person. …


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Photo by Viktor Kiryanov

I was brushing my teeth the other morning, lost in thought about the day ahead, when I realized something was off.

My wife was out for a run and neither of my kids had asked me for anything or hurt each other in the last ten minutes.

I stopped brushing and listened, trying to discern where they were or what they were up to, but it was quiet.

Too quiet.

When I found them, they were in their bathroom “making soup” in the sink with toothpaste, floss, soap, toilet paper, leaves, grass, and God knows what else. When I appeared in the doorway, I startled them so badly my son dropped my wife’s hairbrush (It’s a ladle, dad!)


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Photo by Tim Mossholder

Learning how to do new things is fun . . . at least at first.

Pretty soon though, you realize you aren’t all that skilled at the thing you are trying to learn and that feels quite a bit less fun, so you quit.

This is why every single child loves to dance while most adults refuse to partake — unless forced to at their own wedding or emboldened by liquid courage. After dancing virtually every day of our childhood for no reason at all other than it’s fun, we attend our first organized dance and watch the popular kids dancing and think to ourselves, “Oh wow, I am actually really terrible at this thing called dancing. …


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Photo by Denys Nevozhai

I recently had lunch with a friend who had grown frustrated by his inability to get a promotion.

He has held the same role for nearly 3 years and every time he brings up the idea or a promotion to his manager, he is met with vague promises of future opportunities and a list of things he could work on in the meantime.

Sounds like he should quit and go somewhere that will give him what he wants, right?

Maybe.

But here’s the thing: He really enjoys his work. He loves the team that he manages. He is well known in the organization — and highly respected. …


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Photo by Annie Spratt

When your hobbies get in the way of your work — that’s OK; but when your hobbies get in the way of themselves. . . well.

-Steve Martin

So, what are your hobbies?

A new colleague and I had been having an amiable conversation as we stood at the coffee station, but this direct inquiry threw me for a real loop. I stared into my steaming mug, unable to formulate a response. Eventually I stammered out an incomprehensible reply about work and parenting and how I liked to read but wished I had more time.

“Oh, and exercise. Sometimes I exercise,” I added. …


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Photo by Giuseppe Murabito

Early in my career, I was given the opportunity to obtain Six Sigma Black Belt certification through a company training program. (For the uninitiated, Six Sigma is a set of management techniques that promise to improve business processes by reducing the probability that defects will occur. . . and if you think that sounds inhuman and soul-suckingly boring — you’re right, it is!)

My boss nominated me for the program and made it clear that this certification was my path to untold career success. All I had to do was complete a year long training program and pass an exam.

The year spent in training was taxing. I had to move across the country to a place where I didn’t know anyone. The training itself was intense and I struggled to keep up with the statistics-laden curriculum. …

About

Matt Tanner

Talent Strategy @Mailchimp. Previously HR @KingOfPops. Get my “52 Books to Boost Your Career” reading list here http://eepurl.com/dBP299

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