Starbucks doesn’t sell coffee. They create an experience with an environment, complete with accessories, lifestyle choices, and culture.
Home Depot isn’t a hardware store. It’s a solution to your improvement projects, a trusted resource for your redecorating needs, and a supplier for your new home.
There are dozens more cases that come right to mind. If you twist my arm, I’ll list many more. But the point I’m illustrating is this: if you look beyond the basic element of what it is you do, you’ll find a larger playing field, with more options, and more opportunities. But how is this a life hack, Chris? I’m glad you asked.
See Yourself as a Solution, Not a Role
Do you go to work? Do you have a job? Answer this next one honestly. Do you define yourself by the title you hold?
If you answered yes to these questions, the hack is this: you will go much further in your career if you turn that thinking upside down and view yourself as a finder of answers, a solution to problems, instead of whatever the title is that you hold.
Are you a customer service agent? What are the boundaries of that role, versus the boundaries of someone who guarantees the satisfaction of every customer you come in contact with? How does being a software developer change when you consider yourself the owner of the end user’s experience? Would you treat your position differently if, instead of a systems administrator, you thought of yourself as the woman responsible for ensuring everyone else’s day went smooth?
Servants of a Cause
The very best implementations of this seem to come when you view yourself as a servant. Someone responsible for every aspect of your masters’ (your customers, your boss, your colleagues) experience, it’s a humbling and yet empowering thing to perceive things through that particular lens.
How does your current role change when you consider yourself the servant of a cause? Not the servant of a specific individual, but the entire cause. What if you’re a project manager? How can you make everyone you serve happy with their experience under your care? What’s the greater cause you serve? Bringing your projects in on time, under budget, and without defects is great on the books, but not especially rah rah to you or the team. What if you raised a different flag on your project, and instead challenged everyone to complete the project such that things were better all around than when you started the project? How would that be received?
Even in Your Head
Another trick of this is all internal. If you told absolutely no one about your change of thinking on this, but instead, went about your way with all this change of heart inside your head POWERING what you do, I think you’ve already won. It’s all in how you perceive the situation that everything comes around to the way you see it. Open your head wider, and you’ll find solutions that have always been there.
It works for me.
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