Do the things you hate

We hear a lot about following your passion. Doing what you love. And why would you do anything else if you want a satisfying and successful life?

At the career-level this is good advice. But within your role, at the day-to-day level, I’d argue that you should actively do the things you hate. Not all the time, but periodically you should deliberately take on a task which you find difficult and which makes you uncomfortable. This is because we spend far too long within our comfort zone. We repeatedly practice the tasks we are already good at.

No doubt, it’s good to improve on those tasks and to focus on the things which we alone can do. But to become rounded professionals we need a range of skills, and a weakness in one area can undermine excellence in another.

For instance, I don’t particularly enjoy speaking at conferences. It’s not that I’m afraid of public speaking since I do that a lot, but the organizer in me finds the lack of control stressful. But despite that, I’ve spoken at numerous conferences, been on panels, presented webinars and hosted our own events. Each time, I’ve found it invigorating and a good learning experience. It would be far easier to delegate this task or not to do it. But I deliberately do the thing I hate and as a result I am gradually getting better at it.

There are core skills which we all need as professionals – communication, management, financial, legal, operational, technical, strategic, organizational – and none of us are born with a full complement. We may have talent and a predilection for particular areas but the skills of the rounded professional are learned (and learnable). Deficiencies in one area can eliminate strengths in another. A great manager who is disorganized or a poor communicator will not succeed. A technical leader who can’t grasp the financial implications will not meet her potential.

So while it’s important to do what you love in your role, it’s just as important to do what you hate in your tasks. It’s the only way to get better. So resolve today to get out of your comfort zone and do something you really don’t want to do. You may just find you are good at that too, and that it’s not as bad as you envisaged.