What Actually Makes You Excited to Go to Work in the Morning?
Last week, I was surprised when a 26 year-old data scientist on the team asked me a question I’ve been thinking about ever since.
Ross Martin, Executive Vice President of Marketing Strategy & Engagement at Viacom
Every month, I host breakfast with 10 employees from different levels and functions in our company — from creative to business development to data science to marketing; it’s always a unique and fun mix. A chance for talent from different functions to hear what their colleagues are up to, and a chance for us to get to know each other a little better. Good people enjoying some breakfast together.
As we chow down on our egg and cheese sandwiches, the conversation naturally turns to business, but there are always some personal questions I get, like: “What do you love to do when you’re not at work?” (music, wine, poetry, sneakers and watch MMA) or, “If you weren’t doing this job, what job would you do?” (teach poetry, design sneakers, make music, own the Brooklyn Nets).
Last week, I was surprised when a 26 year-old data scientist on the team asked me a question I’ve been thinking about ever since: “What makes you excited to get to the office and start the day?”
It’s true, most days I do wake up excited about going to work. Even when work sucks or I’ve got an unpleasant task ahead of me. I thought about her question a lot. It would be easy to answer with the expected, like, “Boy do we have fantastic people here,” or “Gosh, I just love our brands so much,” or “I just really believe in our strategy.” That’s true, and it’s what typical LinkedIn posts tend to deliver. But I thought I’d try something different, a little more personal.
So here’s some of what gets me excited about heading in to work each morning:
What happened overnight? And what can I do with it? We all wake up knowing so much happened while we slept. Early risers get the first worms of news and analysis. When I wake up, I hunt for what matters and start finding ways to use what I’ve gathered. I count on a handful of friends on social who seem to always get up before me and tweet like morning sparrows.
The possibility of surprise. No matter where you work, work has to bring you some surprises. If that’s not happening, please look for another job or career. Or at least ask yourself, “Am I open and ready to be surprised by new challenges and opportunities I didn’t see coming?” Safety, boredom and complacency are the enemy. I always put myself in environments hostile to their growth.
The look in the eye of someone on their first day. Every Monday, 15–20 new employees start their first day at our company. I carve out 20 minutes to welcome them. I don’t introduce myself as a senior leader, just one of their 10,000 new friends. I used to think I was doing these sessions for them, but I soon realized I do it for me. Nothing is more exciting than the look in the eye of someone who is ready to bust out of the room and begin to make their mark. When I leave the room and head to my own office, I’m ready to make my mark that day, too.
Wondering if I can do it. The best work I’ve ever done, I’d never even tried to do before. Saying yes is easy. Saying yes to something you’re not sure you’re smart, talented or creative enough to do? That’s one of the bravest — and most thrilling — acts of all. I’ve accepted challenges I had no idea I could accomplish. That’s something I wake up hoping to feel each day.
My half hour. The writer Olga Broumas taught me it’s essential that you spend half an hour a day on just yourself. Unless you are very busy. Then you require an hour. Jumping into the work day helps when I know somewhere in there I’ve bought a little time to read, write, meditate or take a walk. We need it.
Coffee. Because coffee.
Knowing where the finish line is. Home is where we start, and each day is a journey to get back there. A lot happens along the way, but when I walk back in through that door, it’s all behind me. It’s easy to start the day knowing I get to come home and see my family.
Being excited to get up and do the job isn’t an everyday reality for me or for most of us. But it’s an ambition we are all entitled to pursue.
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“People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.”
- MARCUS AURELIUS