I remember getting up at 4.30 am to catch the 6 am shuttle to Newark, meeting up with my work colleagues, and then showing up at a client site by 8 am. Week after week.
That wasn’t so bad, except that the manager of our team seemed pretty lost and insecure, over-compensating for both by being political. I still remember my first performance review with her. It didn’t go well. I was told I had a lot of inadequacies. That I pretty much sucked.
Needless to say, the manager didn’t bring me along to the next project. I was thrown into the “general pool” of analysts. Eventually, another manager picked me for a new project.
Honestly, I was pretty discouraged. But, I decided to keep plowing ahead. It helped that my new manager, Tony Ecock, was super-smart and had a great sense of humor.
For whatever reason, everything worked out. I went from being rated as average to being in the top 10% of my class at Bain & Co.
I am writing this because I learned a very valuable lesson from those miserable six months: looking back, I now realize that it was all about perseverance. Sometimes, a work situation is about practice, so that you’re ready for the actual game.
I also am writing all this because I am watching the Patriots-Bills game and just remembered this video about Malcolm Butler (up top, or click here–start it at min. 4:54 if you want to get the main part).
It shows Butler getting beat on a particular play in practice. But, then, anticipating that same play a few days later at the Super Bowl.
You know how that story ends. He saved the Super Bowl and the season for the Patriots. An undrafted player, called to come off the bench, played a great 2nd half and then “did his job.”
The best line comes from the scout who decided what plays the Patriots should anticipate from the Seahawks, and thereby, prepare for in practice. The “Butler play” was one that they practiced multiple times.
This scout, named Ernie Adams, says: “You are going to win or lose games at practice. I mean, there is no such thing as being a game-day player.”
You just cannot expect to “show up” and win. You have to grind it out.
IMO, there is no shortcut to success.
What happened to that manager for whom I worked? It took time, but she years later was asked to leave. As another person told me: “She was a really bad fit for the job and role.”