If you ever spent time around a pool as a kid — someone yelled at you, “Walk, don’t run!” I was reminded of that yesterday while on vacation in Kauai, Hawaii. I watched kid after kid slow down for at least three to four steps after being yelled at and then start to run again. That is just how kids are. They are eager to get to where they want to go and they do not worry about the risks. So what happened to us when we took our first real job? Why did we ever slow down?
If you are reading this you likely are thinking about the following depending on your age:
- In your twenties: “What will I accomplish by 30?”
- In your thirties: “Before I know it, I will not be on that most successful under-40 list.”
- In your forties: “Crap, what am I doing with my career? It’s half over.”
- In your fifties or more: “When will I be able to retire and when I look back, will I be proud of what I did?”
So, no matter where you are in your product management (or any) career, you probably are not muttering to yourself “walk, don’t run” or “patience is a virtue.” In fact, patience is a curse for ambitious people trying to take on more responsibility and make a difference.
Don’t get me wrong — you need the proper education and practice to be great. You also need to be in the right role. And that does not come easy. You cannot just jump right to a job that is way bigger than you are. But you should be sprinting your way to your next promotion or role and greatness — not meandering. Too many of us are sleepwalking through our days, hoping for the best rather than giving our best every single day.
I am going to assume that you really do want to run. If you do, here are three actions you can take right now to get promoted or a better job and likely be happier along your career path every day. I try to follow these myself at my most recent startup, Aha!
If you are going to move faster, you need to know where you are going. This is true for your career and your product roadmap. You must establish a “goal first” approach and a true north for where you are headed. Reaffirm your strategy every six months and tweak it as a necessary, but stay grounded in what you are trying to achieve. Try to explain to your friends and family where you see yourself in a year or two. Explaining your goals helps you crystallize them and can even unlock helpful resources that you did not know you had. Lose your direction or whip-saw yourself in different directions, and your progress towards your next step and your long-term target will be stunted.
Do it now
If you and your business will significantly value from an action you can take, do it now. Right now. I once worked in a company where it took nearly a year to build a new website. If that sounds like your organization or worse, your timelines, something is wrong. This is where a healthy dose of impatience can help intrinsically drive you to complete today what might be planned for tomorrow or the future. In addition, you should seek interrupts because often the disruptions matter more than what you were working on, assuming they are aligned with where you and the organization are headed.
Embrace the haters
I have a friend who loves to ask how Aha! is doing and then diminish the amazing growth we are experiencing when I tell him. He always comes up with something like, “Can you keep up that pace of customer acquisition?” or “Don’t you need to hire more engineers?” or “How big is the market, really?” Sure, it is annoying but it does make me think about the potential limiters on our business and growth. So, I embrace my friend the hater even if I know where the conversation is going to turn. There will always be folks who doubt where you want to go and even when you are getting there, tell you that it is a fluke. Use it as a reality gut-check and as motivation to run even faster.
I do not know anyone at the end of their career (or life) has said, “I really wish I had done less.” And I doubt you will either.
Take a moment and ask yourself if you are progressing as fast as you would like towards that next promotion or career move and your ultimate goals. If the answer is “no” it is probably time to do something different to accelerate your pace. It will take a shift in thinking and a restart or two, but I am confident you can stop walking and start running.
Let me know what you think. What actions you have taken to go faster?