For all who know me, the following shouldn’t be any surprise. I am just an average guy. In college, I was an average student. Calculus was one of my worst nightmares.
Until I learned how to study, my grades suffered terribly. Learning didn’t come easy, and I had to study hard to maintain an average position in my class. I am not athletic. I am often asked if I played football or basketball simply because I am a big guy. Quite honestly, there isn’t an athletic bone in my body.
When I play golf (when I say “play golf” I am being very generous), I consider a good game one where I find as many balls as I lose. I never keep score as it is only a reminder of how terribly I play. If asked, “What is your super-talent?” I would answer, “I don’t think I have one.” I am just your average Joe. Perhaps my assessment of myself describes you. You may not be in the top of your college class, the star quarterback, or a low handicap golfer. Even so, I have found a lot of success in my professional life. How do average Joes become successful employees? The following are some lessons I’ve learned. Perhaps they will help you too.
Be the best you can be. When I first started my career, I learned to work hard. From my very first day on the job, I decided that I would dress a little better, work a little longer, try a little harder than the people I worked with. I would ask plenty of questions and work diligently to discover answers on my own. Teamwork is important. Learning to contribute to a group and put all of yourself into the job is important. Just like a football team, there are more players than positions on the field. The team wins together, but each individual player needs to do their part to maximize their stock on the team. Use the learning and gifts you have been given to maximize your performance. Always go the extra mile to help the team win.
Take care of yourself and the company. When you are at work, work hard. When you leave the office/job site, disconnect from your work. All employers expect you to work hard when on the job. Once you have checked in for the workday, commit to giving all you can to the job. To use another sport cliché, “Leave everything on the field.” But recognize that there are limits to everything. I will admit that I struggled to leave everything on the field. Don’t get me wrong, when I was at work, I WAS AT WORK. I made sure that I was 100% engaged. However, when I left for the day, too many times I took the office home with me. I didn’t disconnect. Once during one of those times where I struggled to disconnect, a good friend told me, “You need to contract with yourself that I will go this far—and no further.” When you get to that place, it’s time to put aside the work.
Find a job that matches your passion. It’s a true gift when you find a job that brings personal satisfaction. I have experienced this several times in my career. In fact, early in my career, I told my wife that I couldn’t believe Boeing paid me to do what I was doing. My work was fun. It was hard, but it also was exciting. When you find a career or a position that generates excitement, it’s easy to work hard. It’s also easy to be successful. However, even the best jobs at times require employees to do work that is less exciting. What kind of position or job do you currently hold? If you are in a position that brings more satisfaction than disappointment, you should consider yourself blessed. Allow that passion to drive your performance, even when tasked with work that isn’t as exciting or glamorous to you.
Don’t worry about money. My father told me when I took my first job, “Don’t tell anyone how much you make and don’t ask anyone how much they make. Both will be much happier.” After all, if I am satisfied with what I’m paid for the work I’m doing, comparisons can do nothing but bring dissatisfaction and discord. As I mentioned earlier, I always tried to work very hard and make myself valuable to my employer. As such, I was treated well financially. Money wasn’t my primary focus, although clearly, I wanted to be compensated fairly. I trusted my employer to take care of me. Keep in mind that your assessment of your worth is never unbiased. If you work for a good employer, you will be fairly compensated. Spend your energy on the task at hand and let your performance take care of the rest.
This wouldn’t be an honest article if I didn’t admit that most of my success came from influences outside of my control. I was provided opportunities that allowed me to be successful. Some might call it luck, but I don’t believe in luck. I believe much of my success was the result of a blessing from above. This isn’t to say that everything was easy or that I didn’t have to work for the success. But being in the right places at the right times opened avenues for me. While these avenues may have been influenced by my hard work, I firmly believe most of what influences our success is well outside our control. It’s what you do with the part that you can influence that can set you apart from the rest of the pack. Therefore, be the best you can be. Even an average Joe can find great success.
Paul V. Kumler, P.E., is president and founder of KTM Solutions, an engineering company that services the aerospace and large-scale manufacturing industries. KTM Solutions designs and builds custom machines and “tooling” (jigs, fixtures, below-the-hook lifting systems) supporting a broad clientele and various industries. (www.ktmsolutions.com) The company is headquartered in Greer, South Carolina, with a remote office in Charleston, South Carolina. Mr. Kumler serves in several volunteer roles including the SC Aerospace Advisory Board. Mr. Kumler, a professional engineer, is licensed in Louisiana, South Carolina, Texas, and Washington. He is married to Ginger A. Kumler. Together, they have two grown children and three grandchildren.