Why Pay Your Dues?

Truly living the experiences necessary to call yourself great is much more fulfilling than pretending you did!

In my career as an elite performance coach I am always shocked at how often athletes think that they can jump the line and somehow beam themselves to a state of expertise or greatness. They don’t necessarily want to do the work, or pay the price required to be great.

It seems this phenomenon is getting even more prevalent in life because of all the access to high quality (and many times low quality!) video and audio coaching living out there on every social media stream. People seem to believe these days that they can just watch a video, take a weekend course, or consult an on-line resource and they become……snap……experienced!

You need only to Google how to do something, and there are 10 to 20 how-to videos available on YouTube that you can digest and become knowledgeable in a myriad of interesting topics. But you can’t YouTube experience. You can’t Wordpress a resume. You can’t be something you haven’t earned. If you don’t pay your dues, you will eventually pay a price.

I worked in the National Hockey League for eleven seasons and veteran players used to refer to rookies who thought their s%#t didn’t stink as two-year ten-year guys. They would regularly joke about the character of rookies who thought they knew it all, carried themselves with plenty of attitude, and basically felt they were the man long before they had truly paid their dues. Paying your dues is a basic tenant of respect and trust in elite sport, and it is the same in the corporate world and life as well.

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t aspire to be the best you can be, or shouldn’t have confidence in yourself, or dive in and learn as much as you can every day. In fact, it means exactly that; work hard, learn more, establish a plan and execute it daily, and go from average, to good, to great.

During that process, cultivate great habits, stay humble, respect those who take the time to mentor you, and be thankful for those who help you rise. Recognize that you cannot be great at something unless others who are greater than you take the time to show you the way.

No one does it alone. Anyone who tells you they did it alone, they did it all by themselves, is absolutely full of it. All great ideas are iterations of other great ideas, all great achievements are final steps in a long and meandering discovery process. There really is no such thing as “overnight success”.

And even when you can make a case that someone leapt rapidly to high achievement there is, generally speaking, always a moment of reckoning when a price is paid in some form for the skipped steps.

Those who feel they can skip steps, or pretend they are something they are not, will pay a price for it one day. Its not always evident what that will be, but it usually comes in the form of loss, resistance, or negative exposure. You see, all great things require a price be paid, you either pay it now, or pay it later.

If you want to be great, truly great, worth respecting great, you have to pay your dues. You have to do the work, build a plan, execute that plan, revise it, refine it, connect with it, and live it. You have to engage others in the process, and you have to learn from those who have come before you. You have to treat those who have paved the pathway you are taking with the deepest respect. And you have to recognize and be grateful for those people who made your ascension possible. You have to exercise humility!

No matter how great you become, never loose sight of what it took to get there, but as you are climbing that mountain recognize that at every junction there are those who have risen above it, and there are those who remain below and they all deserve your recognition of contribution.

When you pay your dues, you in turn become respected for what you have accomplished, and for how hard you have worked to accomplish it, and there is nothing more fulfilling than knowing you earned it. Your greatness was earned, not self bestowed!

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