When I grew up, all I kept hearing from successful people was “pay your dues” if you want to achieve success at work. At thirteen years old, I started paying my dues as a caterer at my temple just outside of Boston, Massachusetts. I’m thirty-one years old now and I’m still “paying my dues”. When you hear celebrities, parents, teachers and CEOs talking about how they paid their dues and are now “all set”, it’s a huge myth. In fact, I believe that I will be paying my dues as long as I have ambition, which will be forever at this rate.
The point is that ambition, high performing, people are never satisfied and are constantly challenging themselves to become better and take on projects outside of their normal expertise and focus area. Just because you can make one product or service successful, doesn’t mean the next one will follow that success. If you start a new company, for instance, you have to “pay dues” by doing your research, forming the product or service you’re going to sell, sell and promote it and build a team around it. While you might have a foundation of knowledge in that industry, or various connections that you’ve built over time, it’s still challenging because the market is constantly shifting, there’s endless competition (thank you Internet) and you have to re-establish yourself as a respected expert on the new business.
CEOs of Fortune 500 companies aren’t satisfied with their current position and are always striving to become more recognized, drive more revenue and eventually write a book or join a board or two. Celebrities are never satisfied with their current success and always seek to be in more movies, TV shows, advertisements or put their name on clothes or perfume. Notice how even Larry King, who left CNN years ago, is still working.
Even if you’re not ambitious or entrepreneurial, you’ll be paying dues as you move up the corporate ladder. While you might have a slight pay increase and title adjustment, you will be given more responsibilities and have to manage people, which isn’t easy. In today’s world, we have eleven jobs between the ages of 18 and 45 and between three and six careers in our lifetimes. No one is really satisfied anymore and for every shift, there are more “dues” to be paid. With this post, I’m declaring the end of the “pay your dues” saying that has existed in our culture for so long. It isn’t relevant or factual and can give people a false sense of success.
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Danny Rubin says
Good stuff, Dan. There really is no end to the hard work. It just evolves over time into other challenges.