You’ve probably seen her videos. That’s Lilly Singh or Superwoman, as she’s known on YouTube. And I love her – what she stands for, her sense of humor and her drive. In 2015, she was also featured on one of the coolest lists (in my opinion) a young person could ever be on: The Forbes 30 Under 30.
But there’s one more reason why I love her:
She made a cool $7.5 million dollars last year.
Man, $7.5 million? How does she get paid $7.5 million?!
After some thought, though, I think a better questions is, Why do we pay her $7.5 million dollars?
I mean it is us, the consumers of her videos, that ultimately allow her to get paid by YouTube.
But what does she bring to the table that warrants getting paid that much? What does Lilly sell?
She sells happiness, a little bit of respite from our day. She sells hope and she makes us believe in ourselves. She makes us believe that if she, a psychology grad from a middle-class neighbourhood in Toronto, can make it then so can we.
But see, she was already acting like she was worth $7.5 million dollars, before she even convinced the world to pay her a cent. Way before her seven figure payday in 2015, she was already shooting videos, spending hours editing them and honing her comedic skills in 2010. Seven years ago, she was already giving, giving, giving so much to her audience without the guarantee that she would ever making seven figures.
And I think that’s what we should be asking ourselves – what value do I bring to the world?
If you start thinking about your career and your life from the perspective of how much you can give, rather than how much you can get, then there’s no doubt in my mind that you will find the success and the impactful that you are looking for.
And this truth applies everywhere.
It applies to looking for your first job.
It frustrates me to no end when I meet young people who are picky about jobs.
I had a friend who went in for an interview at a big company, was given a job offer, only to turn it down because he didn’t really like the job.
This is what I wanted to say to him, in my head:
Dude, you are a second year business student who has never held a full-time job and who has no functional skills, whatsoever. You have no right to be picky. If you get an offer for a summer cubicle job that sounds boring because “I just stare at my computer all day”, take it anyway, especially since you’ve never worked a day in your life.
See, the advice to be picky and to learn to say no are for those who are already good at what they do. And by good, I mean they actually have skills to bring to the table – like marketing, business analysis or mad programming skills. And no, knowing Microsoft Word and having a Snapchat account do not count.
At this point in your life, say yes as much as you can. This opens the door for you to get opportunities to meet more people and add as much value to their lives as you can.
It applies to doing well at any job.
Now, when you actually do get a job, be grateful. Approach each work day from a place of thankfulness, with an honest effort to learn as much as you can from every situation, no matter how bad your boss is or how boring the task is.
Remember: you don’t have to do this for a long time. This is just a starting point for the rest of your life.
Case in point: At my current position, I work on Powerpoint slides all day long for project meetings. I have to make sure each square is lined up with all of the other little squares and that each shade of blue is the same, down to the last hexadecimal letter.
Now, for someone who feels that they are entitled to work on “meaningful projects” that make an “impact”, this work will bore their heads off. But see, I don’t think I deserve such a high-impact role (yet) because I want to earn my seat at the table. And when I do, I want to have something meaningful to give.
To be honest, it can get infuriating sometimes but I coax myself to come at my desk job with wide open eyes, looking for opportunities everywhere. And I am glad I did.
You see, those slides and spreadsheets I worked on are for the people in the company who make decisions. Now I’m learning about how key decision-makers think about money. I’m starting to understand what they want to see, what they want to hear. I’m learning about what it takes and what I have to do to be able to earn my seat at that table.
Now, when I look at a report I build, I don’t look at it from the perspective of an analyst or an entry-level intern. Now, I look at the numbers with the eyes of a Vice President who needs to figure out what to do next or from a portfolio director who has to figure out where to allocate her budget. And, down the road, if I decide to start a company and need to pitch to investors for venture capital, I’ll know exactly what the investors are thinking, what I should say and what numbers I should use.
Do your best, whatever it is. Seek to be valuable.
It applies to succeeding in all of life.
By focusing on how much we can bring to the table, we avoid the trap of feeling entitled – like the world owes us something.
I have a friend who has just landed a job at a big bank. They started him out at one of the branch offices. When we were catching up the other day, he started complaining to me that branch work wasn’t for him. OK, knowing him, it probably wasn’t. But then he told me something that drove me absolutely nuts:
He said he was disappointed because he wanted to be hired as a manager. I just smiled and said, “Oh, okay.” But inside I was more like:
See, manager positions are usually awarded to people who have at least 2-3 years of work experience – not to someone fresh out of their undergrad. Companies do this, not because you aren’t leadership material, but because you probably don’t know enough about the company or about the work to lead people yet.
Asking to become a manager straight out of college points to the dreaded Entitlement Mentality.
But see, a common misconception is that entitlement is about about having too much ambition. Nah, man.
Rather, it’s about ungrounded and misplaced confidence. It’s about asking for the world, way before you’ve earned your place at the table, whether that table is at a corporate gig or at a table of high-powered entrepreneurs. It’s about asking to be paid $7.5 million before you’ve proven that you’re worth that!
So before you make any power moves, show that you deserve to be there by adding value and by being really, really good at what you do.
Now let me make myself clear.
If you’ve been quietly building a business on the side that’s been making steady income then, by all means, quit your waitressing job and put all of your time into the business. If you know exactly what you want to do after you step out of university then, go ahead, say no to that lucrative job offer and say yes to whatever it is you want to do. But the thing is, most of us don’t know what we want to do. And the desire to be given meaningful, important work right away and saying no to entry-level, lowly work is stopping us from finding work that truly speaks to us.
I am in no way am telling you not to listen to your heart, go for your dreams or aim high. I’m not telling you to stay at a company for 30 years like how your parents want you to. I’m not telling you that you have to “pay your dues” in a company before you deserve success. And I am most definitely not telling you that you should let others step all over you because you are trying to “add value”.
I am telling you to change your perspective and focus on being valuable and being a person of value. I am telling you to be so good they can’t ignore you. I am telling you to build yourself up into an interesting, fun and valuable person, someone other people would want to know and introduce to other cool people.
Whether or not you should take an office job or that Starbucks job isn’t the point. Instead, it’s about focusing on what you can give, instead of what you can get.
Because lezbihonest now, being a doormat is not being valuable. Feeling like we deserve certain things is not being valuable. Selfishness and arrogance are not valuable. Asking for the entire company to change their dress code for you (!) as an intern, before you’ve even proven your worth is not being valuable.
Being valuable is about working hard at whatever is in front of you. Being valuable is about doing your best in everything, at every job, regardless if someone’s looking over your shoulder or not. Bringing value is about showing up every day and delivering, even if you don’t like the job.
Bringing value is about standing up for what you believe is right. Adding value is speaking your mind when the time is right. Being valuable is humbly accepting feedback. Bringing value may sometimes mean being OK when your boss takes credit for your work, because you know that there’s more from where that came from.
Being a person of value is about taking someone out to coffee just because they seem interesting, not because you want to weasel a job out of them. Being a person of value is about being content wherever you may be but never satisfied with your hustle. Being valuable means you aim for the moon and shoot for the stars, each and every time.
Ask yourself at every turn, How can I provide value?. And if you go out and give it, then you will reap 5x, 10x or at times, 100x what you put in. Guaranteed.