Be Careful Of Worker Bees, We Sting!

“There is perhaps no area of your life where self-discipline has a greater impact on your future than in your work”. Brian Tracy pulls no punches on Chapter 8 when he dives right into the thesis of the entire chapter in the first line. The entirety of “Self-Discipline & Work” was full of claims and maxims, back by anecdotal evidence, that declared ways in which you can apply the lessons of self-discipline learned thus far in No Excuses. I dutifully read this chapter in the time I set out for myself, but pulled away from writing my “daily” write-up for it because it felt so distant to me…

I did not pick this book up off of that bargain shelf in the Barnes & Noble vestibule so many weeks ago now so that I could reach the “top 20 percent in my field”. My goal with reading this self-help book, of which I am typically quite critical, was to glean whatever lessons I could to learn some mnemonic skills to keep me focused on working on the side projects I have growing for myself. Up to this point, I’ve been journaling and sharing. I have a few ideas swirling around that I’ve laid out on paper — and thus in front of me — but I thought Brian Tracy was speaking to me with his call-to-action title. Ironically, I think I’m learning some more discipline just in reading this book chapter-by-chapter and chronicling my thoughts afterward. This chapter felt like something interesting to read, but gave me no actionable advice like the others have so far.

The biggest reason why I feel that way is because I’m between meaningful work right now — and have been the other 75% of 2017; yes friends, we are almost a third of the way through the last quarter of the year… “Work” has always felt like that to me — work. I have only found fleeting enjoyment in the jobs I’ve held ever since I left college in 2012, and only now am coming to terms with what I really want to do. Luckily, I’ve gotten a job that’s completely unlike anything I’ve done before; and I have the words “editor” and “writer” in my title. Finally! I’ve cracked the outer shell of the legitimate writing world — no more outsider-looking-in for me!

With the maxims in “Self-Discipline & Work”, Brian offers means to which a decent salesman can become a superb salesman, the top in his field. More broadly, when you take out the concepts of “maximizing your income” or “acting like the best”, you can apply some of these concepts so that you can become a good employee. I don’t want to just be a good employee, though; I want to be a creator, a problem-solver, an innovator. What Brian lays out by calling us to “separate the relevant from the irrelevant”, “develop an excellent reputation”, and “dress for success” is the pathway to being the best-oiled, shiniest cog in the big corporate machine.

That’s incredibly insightful if you’re looking to be a part of a bigger beast. If you’re trying to make your own mark, or find the path that someone else hasn’t yet trodden, getting to work a little earlier, working a little harder, and staying later than anyone else is just going to lead you to where everyone else wants to be.

I challenge the thought process behind working harder than anyone else — coming in an hour before everyone and staying an hour later than everyone — as a means to “stand out”. Everyone is told to do that, if you want to “make a good impression”. We in America have been conditioned to think that our main purpose in life is to work. You have to work to make money, you need money to buy things, and you need things to live; so you need to work to live. Yuck! I sat up at one of my many jobs one day and started to panic thinking, “This is my life, I’m part of the machine, and will be until I die!”. For some, that’s perfect. I see some of my family being completely content going to their same job, collecting the same paycheck and benefits, heading home and being content with the four walls their lives exist within. Me? I’ve always been trying to break the walls down, or at least cut open a window, just to see what else is out there.

Learning to prioritize tasks at work is certainly important — I’ve fallen victim to choosing the quicker, easier tasks to complete first just so that I could show that I’m doing something, but that’s indicative of a deeper issue of always finding excuses, just as Brian Tracy charges people of doing in Chapter 1. Dressing for “success”, or really for the part you envision success to be, is also helpful because it’s an outward projection of what you want people to see you as. First impressions matter, greatly! But do these things help you develop good self-discipline? Best practices in the workplace should be common sense, and in my experience are for the most part. The feeling I get as I read these chapters is that there’s a tone of “just to this and your that will be AMAZING”, as though Brian Tracy cracked the code.

Historically, the lifelong salesmen I’ve worked with feed off of that. The magic formula, the keywords, the proven systems. For someone whose aimlessness has reached a point of no return, simply telling them, just work harder and copy the best you see, isn’t the cure.

“It is when you put in more than forty hours that you give yourself an advantage over most of the other people in your company — and your business. Make it a habit to do more than what you are paid for.”

Oh really, Brian? Well I ask you then, what about the formula you laid out earlier in which you only needed to put in two extra hours per day to self-educate and advance yourself — the one where you laid out 40 hours for work and 56 for sleeping? Now the charge is to cut further into the remaining 37 hours of pure free time we’re left each week and work harder…to get ahead. “Sleep when you’re dead”, is what comes to mind. He also tells us to work through our lunch break to get ahead in this chapter. Why? If we work, and work, and push, and scrape, and then get ahead, what is it for? When do we get to enjoy all that life has offered us? When do we get to survey the achievements we’ve attained? Reap what we’ve sown? When is enough, enough?

That’s the problem I’ve seen in the “9 to 5” lifestyle. People get up, wash off the sleep, pile into cars, trains, or buses, sit behind a desk (or whatever they do) and work, climb back into their cars, trains, or buses, then collapse at home. The only break you get is that which you take for yourself. Good bosses aside, you belong to the place you work. Your employer owns you, if you allow him to! I’ve chosen to harden the boundaries I didn’t know I needed to set up. Yes, I’m the picky, whiny millennial who’s unsatisfied with being unsatisfied. If it doesn’t fulfill me, I shan’t fulfill the responsibility.

What Chapter 8, “Self-Discipline & Work”, shows the reader, in my opinion, are the schematics of how to little by little surrender yourself to what the world has labeled as success; namely financial comfort. If you have more money than so-and-so, you’re successful. Bully for you! You can take my place on the high rankings. I find success in knowing that I can disconnect at night and write about how much I’ve outgrown society’s idea of success. There’s a section, in which he talks about working earlier, harder, and later, where Brian Tracy talks about “paying the price”. What he — a boss — veils in motivational language, is that the price is asking us to pay is the only thing you truly own, your time.

We have so little of it, do you really want to surrender that much of it? He says give your job three more hours per day; take that from the thirty-seven he said you had after you self-educate, and you’re left with 19 hours. That’s nineteen hours each week to workout, prepare your food (since you don’t want to eat processed chemicals produced by the food conglomerates), read, relax, watch a movie, spend time with friends, take in the fresh air. No wonder we all feel like we’re trapped in a steel cage. Don’t worry, take a xanax, you’ll feel better — you also won’t care enough to notice that you’re missing anything.

No, I’m sorry, Brian, but your lessons for self-discipline and work are fallacies that helped create the personal crises many people today talk about having. I’m not a worker bee, and will not be a part of the colony. I’m a writer whose looking to learn how to better discipline himself to completing the simple goals I’ve laid out for myself. I won’t stop reading this book. I won’t blind myself to the rhetoric that is fed to the American worker, this way I’ll always be able to recognize it when it’s spouted my way. Here’s hoping that the next chapter, “Self-Discipline & Leadership” isn’t as full of boss-to-worker charges, meant only to make the bosses successful at the expense of the blinded workers.

I picked up Brian Tracy’s No Excuses, and have decided to learn something about self-discipline. This page is going to keep me honest (mostly) as I tackle this book over the next 21 days! This is Day 7 of 21.