As a kid, I loved cheat codes. With the flick of a few buttons, you could do the impossible. Run through walls. Stomp on the bad guys. Rescue the princess. Explore without worry from marauding bandits. These codes were passed around in school hallways on slips of paper (before the internet folks!). If you were lucky enough to browse a game magazine at the bookstore, you could swipe a few and have the most valued information of the day, at least according to your grade-school peers!
Game Developers would create these codes to test a game to make sure it worked. Of course, nothing stays secret forever. You might think that cheat codes would make games less fun to play, but it actually did the opposite. It made me more curious to start over and play the game for real!
I’m now decades away from being a “gamer.” Instead, I’ve been spending my time researching and thinking about what it is that makes some people so effective at their work, and others mildly so. Sure, there might be asymmetries in innate talent across a population. Yet, there are enough successful people who succeed in spite of their challenges that it leads me to believe that there is more in our control than we think.
In video game parlance, “God Mode” enables capacities of invulnerability (you cannot get hurt) as well as invincibility (others get hurt by your touch). Is there such a concept that would apply to being superhuman at work? I think so. Invulnerability would take the form of not being disturbed by the actions of others. Invincibility would mean being able to produce high quality and valued work, consistently.
The drawback of God Mode as it appears in video games is that it is often fleeting. When it comes to a career, it can be unlocked in a manner that is far more lasting. In fact, it can grow stronger and stronger over time.
If God Mode in games is attributed to superhuman powers, in the real world, we can equate it to skill. More specifically, skills that are correctly applied to achieve concrete results. How do you deftly build up and use your skills? You do it through directed and consistent FOCUS. Bill Gates, Obama, you, me, a future tech mogul who is currently in grade-school; we all have the same time in the day. But, we all get different sorts of work done and create various levels of impact. The difference is not entirely about luck, it’s about the cumulative focus we’ve applied to achieve something we care about.
Goals + Focus + Learning = An Amazing Result.
Focus is ridiculously hard, particularly in a world that is conspiring to steal your attention. It is, however, something that can be trained, like a muscle. Done well, it will be as if you have a “cheat code” to standing out in your career.
It helps to follow these tips:
1) Pick a worthy goal
Focusing for the heck of it is tough. It’s is vital to have a goal that can condense your attention towards something you feel is worthy. In work environments, you may have projects that can serve this purpose. If your projects are mundane and not giving you a sense of satisfaction and learning, find new ones.
Your ideal goal will challenge but not defeat you. It will be less like a dream and more like a tangible goal you can wrap your head around. I like to set goals in 6-month increments (at most) to create a practical sense of urgency.
2) Train focus like a muscle
We live in a world that increasingly values deep work. How can you produce work that will stand head and shoulders above the rest? It’s through applying your skill and talent in a direct fashion for longer periods of time than everyone else. This requires your carving out blocks of time to focus with all your might on single tasks (multi-tasking is a myth after all).
It’s no small feat. In my coaching practice, I work with very high achieving and successful leaders who struggle with their capacity to focus. Good news is that it’s a solvable problem, but you need to make it a priority. Just like conditioning your muscles, you can train and improve your capacity to focus.
For example, by spending an hour a day (focused) over the course of a year, you can: start a profitable side business, publish a book, make dozens of new friends, transform your body and health…and more. What can you do with one hour (or two!) of laser focused time working on your biggest work projects every day?
If your immediate reaction is: “I can’t do that, I have meetings all day!” my answer is easy: learn to say no to meetings. Successful leaders, like Jason, have learned how (though in Jason’s case, it helps to be the CEO!). You can too.
3) Seek continuous improvement
I’m biased since my vocation is Executive and Career Coaching. It also happens to be true that without the ability to improve, your efforts can stall or backslide. Why is it that Kobe Bryant shoots countless baskets before every practice (and game!) and gets coaching on his basic movements and mechanics when he is already world-class? Why do CEOs (including Steve Jobs) work with trusted advisors and coaches when they are already experts in their field? They do so because even experts have blind spots and understand the edge that continuous improvement will provide.
Continuous improvement and learning can be done through working with a qualified coach, reading books, enrolling in classes or by working with mentors and observing how other successful people work (called “modeling“). It doesn’t have to be expensive or time-consuming. However, it does take a commitment to actually do it (and not stop once you become great at something)!
If you have a worthy goal, laser-like focus and continuously improve; success is inevitable.
This post isn’t about a cheat code. It is about what it takes to be outstanding in your career at a meta-level. No matter your field, it’s only through the practice of setting worthy goals (projects, missions, etc….choose your term), focusing more efficiently than everyone else and a learning-oriented mindset, that you can reach the point where others view you as having access to higher powers. Others will think: “Wow, how did she become so successful? What was her secret? How does she get so much done?”
The secret, it turns out, is not a secret at all. It’s just something that few people do. In this distracted world, if you can out-focus everyone else, you are going be able to produce things of significant value. While everyone else is browsing a news feed, you will be creating a work of art. While everyone else is sending more emails, you are polishing off that breakthrough market analysis. While everyone else is watching re-runs of House of Cards on Netflix, you will be reading a book to improve a vital skill (or writing a blog post!).
This is what God Mode is all about.
It’s within reach. No cheat code required.