Are You a Paycheck Player?

Jerry Maguire is one of my favorite movies.  I love it because it’s a chick flick dressed up as a sports movie, and some of the dialogue is wickedly inspiring.  One of my absolute favorite scenes is when Jerry and Rod are in the parking lot and Rod is complaining about all the things that are going wrong in his job and about how he’s not getting any love, how no one is showing him the “kwan.”

Jerry’s response is something I revisit from time to time:

All right, I’ll tell you why you don’t have your ten million dollars. Right now, you are a paycheck player. You play with your head, not your heart. In your personal life, heart. But when you get on the field it’s all about what you didn’t get. Who’s to blame. Who under-threw the pass. Who’s got the contract you don’t. Who’s not giving you your love. You know what, that is not what inspires people. That is not what inspires people! Shut up! Play the game, play it from your heart. And you know what, I’ll show you the kwan. And that’s the truth, man! That’s the truth. Can you handle it?

So, I ask you the same question – Can you handle it?

Sometimes, even the best of us lose track of the big picture important things in life.  It’s easy to do – Someone else gets the promotion you wanted, someone else gets the recognition for a group effort, someone who’s less qualified than you gets ahead of you professionally.  You see it happen, and it sticks in your brain.  You mull on it and complain about it to your friends over a glass of wine.  But somehow, after the appropriate emotional mourning period is over, you still can’t let it go. That moment of jealous anguish becomes a focal point in the hearth of your mind for hours…days…weeks…months.

And you think no one else knows, but …they do.

The longer your focus lingers on that mental location, from the outside, we see cracks appear your normal happy-go-lucky facade.  We notice your focus shift to the small inequities that you once might have overlooked and never given a second thought to.  We hear your normally well thought out complaints turn to whining.  And if we share an office with you, we can almost taste your bitterness.

The people around you can sense all of these changes, even if they don’t know the source.

Football WinIf pressed to tell the base cause of their burnout, the reason they had grown cold and disengaged and jaded in their job, I think a lot of folks would point to one of the scenarios I mentioned earlier, like being passed over for a promotion. After all, isn’t that when they started to fall out of love with their job, or started hating life in general?  It’s easy to point to something like that and see it as the root of the problem.

The trouble is, it’s not the root of the problem.  It’s not even a twig on the tree of the problem.

The root of the problem is that you had a choice and, frankly, you chose wrong.  In fact, to this day, you’re still choosing wrong.

You cannot be the puppet master of the world around you.  You can’t make a promotion come to you, you can’t stifle the careers of those who you think are less qualified than yourself, and you can’t force someone to recognize your brilliance.  It’s folly to think that you can force people to see you in a certain way, and every time you try, you’re just putting more emphasis on what you don’t have or can’t do, not only to yourself, but to the rest of the world.

You have to choose to let that moment go.  I know I’m making it sound easy, but trust me when I say that I know exactly how hard it is to actually do.  And as hard as it is to let those painful moments go, the alternative of hanging on to them is just simply unacceptable. When you choose to hold tight to the inequities of your life, you become a Paycheck Player in this world.  And, as Jerry says, that is NOT what inspires people.

If you want to get ahead in your career, then take Jerry’s advice.

Shut Up.  

Play the Game.  

Play it from your heart.

And if you do that, ladies and gentlemen, I will show you the Kwan.