Think it was Chinese philosopher Cofucius who once said, “The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.” A solid career option if you can manage it, but we are fairly certain the deep-thinker wasn’t concerned with a job search.
What is clear is the sentiment of his statement. To do something great – like make the next progression in your career – requires many steps over time, on a consistent basis. Striding to the corner office does not happen overnight, but takes diligence, discipline and perhaps even a few missteps.
Modern writer, best-selling novelist Haruki Murakami, also subscribes to the long-view of work philosophy, and even takes it a step further. He a devotee to the “Rule of Five” principle, where workers and individuals commit to taking five small steps everyday toward a larger goal. In his case, finishing an iconic novel like 2002’s Kafka on the Shore, which later earned the World Fantasy Award for best novel.
While creating a novel, Marakami is known for his almost religious daily routine and exacting regimen: Rise at 4 a.m., work/write for five to six hours; run or swim or both for about 90 minutes; read; listen to music; light out at 9 p.m. sharp. In between, we assume there were some meals, housekeeping and personal matters to tend to. The important part of this is the routine, the consistency, over time.
He said that while writing a novel or collection of short stories, he would follow this schedule, without variation, for six months to a year at a time. Murakami said he would reach a deeper state of mind, of consciousness, and the words would simply flow. His Rule of Five – work, exercise, read, listen, sleep – and the resulting work reshaped the Japanese literary landscape and won him international acclaim, numerous awards, and riches beyond his belief. Confucius no doubt is looking down smiling.
Your Rule of Five may involve a completely different set of parameters, tailored to your personal circumstances, long- and short-term career goals, individual job needs, or work experience. It is an important tool as you consider your career path.
A few suggested ideas for your work life Rule of Five:
• Research five people who you consider aspirational peers – where you see yourself in your next job – and study their career paths, background and trajectory.
• Five ways to improve your personal brand, such as cleaning up your social accounts, initiating a blog, updating your online career profile, hire a career coach, create a personal website.
• Expand your network, sphere of influence. Five ways may include becoming a mentor to someone at work, join a professional association, volunteer in your community, attend industry meetings, create a lunch group and invite guest speakers to join you for workplace conversations.
• Improving your current job to prepare for your next move. Make a list of all your projects and priorities and identify five you can chip away at. One might be up-skilling or earning an MBA. Sign up for online classes right away. Many companies will reimburse you for continued education. Do it!
All of this is flexible. Find what works best for you, and stick with it. Even track incremental results if possible. The important thing to keep in mind is your wider employment picture and career goals. Five steps each day will help you move mountains.
Photo by Gustavo Fring