Here’s the transcript of the talk:
Thank God It’s Friday. TGIF, that’s a motto we can all get behind. In fact, I bet many of you in this room woke up today, hit the alarm, and you said, “Yessss, the weekend is here and I have a half day of work. Things are going right today.”
And that’s the world of work that we live in. We’ve defined our working lives by how long it takes to get to Friday afternoon. And in fact there are 145 million of us who go to work every Monday morning. They wake up, they hit their alarm, they grab their cup of coffee, and they race to the car to get to work just in time after spending 30 minutes in traffic along the way.
And while they sit in traffic they start to hyperventilate a little bit and they say, “Gah, I’ve got 16 hours of meetings in my average work week and I’ll spend 13 hours in my email inbox this week. Ugh, 3 out of every 4 hours in meetings and email.” And we wonder why 70% of Americans are disengaged at work.
The truly sad part about that, is that 30% engagement number is an all-time high in employee engagement since Gallup started measuring that in 2000. That is a sad state of affairs.
If we dial that back to my generation, the Millennial generation, we see that 60% of Millennials are leaving their jobs within 3 years. That is a huge number and it’s an expensive problem for companies. And a very real problem.
In fact, it’s costing companies $15-25,000 every time one of those Millennials leaves them. That’s in recruiting, and on boarding, and training, and it’s a very real cost. If we look out over the next 10-12 years, we see that 3 out of every 4 working Americans will be Millennials by the time we reach 2025.
If you do some quick math there and nothing changes, and we still have 145 million working Americans, and 3 out of 4 of them are Millennials and 60% of those leave their jobs every 3 years… Well that’s a $1 Trillion problem every three years.
I use $1 Trillion and everybody had a blank stare because nobody understands what that means. Nobody will ever make that much money. The only group who deals int hat kind of numbers is the government.
But it’s felt on an individual level because it’s you and me, and you and you and you, who have to show up everyday disengaged everyday and uninspired by the work that we do.
So I’ve come here today to share a simple idea.
It’s time to change the way we think about work from a mindset of TGIF, where we thank god it’s Friday and count down the hours to 5 o’clock, to one of living for Monday. And it turns out that this isn’t some pie in the sky idea; there are real people showing up to work engaged and inspired every week.
This is not a follow your passion talk. In fact there are three very specific things that people have in common who live for Monday.
When I graduated from college, I was the picture of success in my job search. I graduated from UGA and I got job as a management consultant for one of the most prestigious firms in the world.
I was on cloud nine. I was so excited. I thought that I was going to live the life, get on a jet every Monday morning, go to a different business, solve great problems. I was living the life, living the life.
Six months went by and I got my first promotion and raise. I was making more than the average American household makes in a year. And it was great.
Well, nine months into that job, I printed out a couple of letters that looked something like this [refers to slide], maybe a little bit more eloquent, and handed them to my boss and his boss. And they had a look of bewilderment on their face, because all of a sudden in just nine months I had gone from being on cloud nine about my employment opportunity to being part of the problem. I was one of the 60% leaving my job, well within that three year window.
What had happened?
Well, if we take a look at the social psychology research, we see that motivation and autonomy are directly tied together, especially when it relates to work. Dan Pink has done a great job of popularizing this in his book, Drive. But I want to hit on it for just a minute.
If we look on either end of this six-part scale [refers to slide], on the lower end we see that it’s buttressed by amotivation. What amotivation says is that we show up to work and we do what we’re supposed to do because we simply don’t want to get fired. It’s to avoid negative consequences and that’s it. And that is the epitome of living for Friday.
On the upper end though is “Intrinsic Motivation,” and what intrinsic motivation says is that I am inherently interested in the tasks and projects that I take on everyday. I love my work, my work is my passion, and I am in bliss.
Well, if we look at where my motivation came from in that first job, we see exactly why it was that I decided to leave. It turns out that this third level of motivation is on the lower end of the scale and it was entirely focused on external rewards. Power. Pay. Prestige. I understood exactly what the political nature of the business was like, and I was able to navigate it to reach “success.”
But it turns out that “success,” as we define it today, is not a sustainable motivator. What is sustainable is where people who live for Monday draw their motivation, and that’s from the upper end of the scale [refers to slide].
And when you draw your motivation from here, it’s from one of two things. Either you think your work is important, or you have inherent interest in it. And the importance is what makes up these first two bars on the screen [refers to slide].
It’s either important because it aligns with your personal and professional goals, so it’s important to you as a person. Or, this middle bar here, it’s because it aligns with your personal beliefs and values and what you believe about the world, and that makes the work important to you as well. Or third, we go back to intrinsic motivation, and that’s where you get this spontaneous sense of satisfaction from everything you do at work.
If we go out of the academic world and back to real life, we can look at people like Lindsey and Brendan [refers to slide]. Lindsey and Brendan are some great friends of mine in Atlanta and they’re a married couple. Lindsay works as a program director for Atlanta Ventures. Atlanta Ventures runs Atlanta Tech Village, which is a startup incubator and co-working space.
Lindsey believes in our potential to grow as humans and to continuously learn and solve problems over our lifetimes. She believes, especially for young people, that startups are a great conduit for that learning process. They’re a way we can show up and solve real problems in the world and get real work experience, but still be in this kind of semi-college-type environment. She’s doing work she believes in.
Meanwhile, her husband Brendan is a songwriter and producer. He believes in the power of our human emotion and experience. Because of that, he uses song to communicate that. He believes in music’s ability to connect us to our emotions and to our past experiences in a way that nothing else does.
So here are two people supporting themselves independently, not living with their parents, making livings doing work they believe in. They embody in the real world what it means to live for Monday.
The first thing you and I can do to live for Monday is to do work based on our beliefs.
When I left that first job, naturally I started a business, because that’s the easiest thing to do when you leave a job. What that meant, was over night I became a one man shop. When you’re a one man shop, it means that you have to be both an analytical accountant and a charismatic salesperson. You have to be a talented web designer and a career coach.
Who couldn’t do all of those things, right?
Well it turns out, when you’re trying to do everything in your business, it’s very hard to be good at any of it. Very quickly that gets frustrating. Our natural tendency in the way we define our work today, is to say, “I want to be good now. Right now. Right when I start, I want to be great at it. If I have to work, give me something else.”
That was what I was feeling. Well, here’s that word grit again that keeps popping up throughout the day. What we see is that our ability to grow over time is directly linked to the amount of grit we have, and the amount of time we’re willing to spend getting better at something.
The question then is naturally, “Where does grit come from?” Carol Dweck wrote a great book called Mindset. In it, she defined two types of mindset. One is a fixed mindset, and one is a growth mindset.
What the fixed mindset says is, “I have a fixed amount of talent and ability. When I show up on day one, because if I’m not good, I need to find other work. If I’m challenged or I run into something that’s hard, I need to quit, because that’s a challenge of how valuable I am as a person.”
On the flip side of that, the growth mindset says, “I can get better at anything I want, but it’s going to take grit and it’s going to take hard work.” What’s interesting about the growth mindset, is that when things get hard, when you show up to work and you don’t want to do the task in front of you because you don’t know how to do it, people with a growth mindset try harder.
That’s because they understand something very fundamental: if they try harder, they will grow their abilities, and so their work becomes easier and more enjoyable.
If we pull this out of the cloud and look at the real world, we can see a guy like Grant [refers to slide]. As you might surmise from this photo, Grant is a creative. Grant runs a creative studio out of Minneapolis, Minnesota, and he’s a great friend of mine. What I love about Grant, is he embodies a growth mindset in everything that he does.
He did a recent branding project for a vodka company and he wrote about this brand and his process for the creative process in a blog post recently. The front end of that creative process is brainstorming. I’m sure many of you have sat in brainstorming sessions. Well, Grant is very intense about it.
When he starts his brainstorming process, he writes down every idea he can think of. 99% of them suck. They’re so bad, but that’s the point of brainstorming. The thing about it, is that along the way, as you’re writing down your 100th and your 200th ideas, you say, “You know what, I’m tired of this. This sucks and I haven’t even put down a good idea on paper yet.”
But the thing about a guy like Grant that has a growth mindset, is instead of quitting, he goes back to the drawing board and he says, “You know what, I know that when I try harder, I produce great results.” And that is how he creates sustainable creative excellence in his business.
Grant represents the second thing that people who live for Monday have in common. They make getting better the goal everyday.
It’s ok, you can laugh [refers to slide].
When I started my business, my parents were gracious (they’re here tonight). They put me up because I had no money and I was starting a business. I was all excited that I had this newfound freedom. I had no boss, I could set my own schedule, I could sleep in or stay up late and do what I want. Freedom.
What freedom means is that I’m all alone, and I sit in one chair, and it’s me and the work. There’s no team, there’s nobody to hold responsible for the terrible results. It’s just me. Well, in the first 12 months as an entrepreneur, this is roughly how much progress I made [refers to slide].
I would take offense to your laughing, but it’s true. I had made very little progress. I made some progress, sure, but it was very difficult to be working alone all day everyday and actually get anything done, especially to reach an ambitious vision like the one I had.
When you ask why, and we go back to the research one more time, we see that our belief in ourselves is directly related to the people we surround ourselves with. If we’re working along, we’re working with people who protect the status quo day in and day out, we’re likely to do the same. Or, not have any belief in ourselves whatsoever.
On the flip side though, if we’re surrounded by great people like the audience here, it raises the bar and we see people who have already accomplished the kinds of things we want to accomplish. We say, “Well, if he can do it, I can do it.”
That’s a great and powerful feeling. And so 12 months into starting my business, I joined a group called the Atlanta Global Shapers and all of a sudden, overnight, I went from working alone to having multiple meetings a month where I was surrounded by successful entrepreneurs, people who had raised millions of dollars for nonprofits, people in key roles in city government an big organizations. But the one thing they all had in common, was that they had achieved big levels of success as a young age and they were all living for Monday.
All of a sudden my reality changed. I saw a new possibility. In months 13-30 of being an entrepreneur, everything changed. I raised over $100,000 to fund our business. I hired my first employee. I got to work o a project with an all-time role model. I took free trips to Geneva and Portland. It was great.
What had changed?
It’s very simple and it represents the third thing people who live for Monday have in common. They find power in great people who help them reach their potential.
So let’s wrap up.
I believe the traditional view of career success has failed us.
I believe that power, pay and prestige are not sustainable motivators.
I believe that it’s not about being good today, it’s about getting great over time and having the grit to get better everyday we show up.
I don’t believe that we can be individualistic successes. That we can show up on our own and become this prodigy over night. I believe that we need great people to help us be great at what we do.
I believe that it’s time to redefine the way we think about work, from a mindset of TGIF to a mindset of living for Monday. Because when we have a mindset of living for Monday, what happens on Monday morning is that we roll over, hit the alarm, and we say, “Hell yes, it’s time to get back to doing work that matters.”
And in a world where we’re all doing work that matters, imagine what would be possible. Thank you.