The Process: Starting From the Top

By: Will Baggett, @W_Baggs 

Welcome to the penultimate edition of The Process. Special thanks to everyone who has taken the time to read each installment. Your feedback is always openly welcomed.

Theory

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could start at the top of the pecking order instead of marking your territory at the bottom of the totem pole? Your take on that inquiry largely depends on whether or not you have a true appreciation for the process. In any case, we all recognize this is not exactly practical in the grand scheme of things. Just ask the anonymous person who came up with this quote:

“The only job where you start at the top is digging a hole.”

Given the nature of this quote, I sought out the expert counsel of my father, who happens to be a construction manager. And what do you know; he affirmed it to be true. He has dug many a hole in his day, but only recently did I realize the broader application of this step as I considered why he begins each project by digging a hole. For his purposes, he starts by digging footings to anchor the foundation of the structure soon to be erected. Though he oversees each project phase intently, he is extremely meticulous about perfecting the foundation of each one.

To quote my father: “If we don’t get the foundation right, we won’t be able to build upon it, son.”

In a nutshell, managers do what their titles call for- they manage. However, no matter the vocation, managers have their pick on what procedures they will oversee more earnestly than others. Recognizing the importance of getting off on the right foot, their managerial emphasis generally focuses on what they deem as the most important aspects of the assignment. In short, in accordance with what my dad does before constructing a building, he ensures a good foundation is established before attempting to build upon it.

In this application, we will start from the top in an effort to establish a solid foundation and commence our career construction.

Application

Have you ever attended or seen a picture of a groundbreaking ceremony? You know, one where a group of people in suits each have a shovel driven into a mound of the most beautiful dirt you have ever laid eyes on. In most cases, you will not see this group again until the final ribbon cutting ceremony, signifying the completion of the project.

Barring the occasional public relations tour, the suits are largely absent throughout the most important phases of the project, i.e. The Process. The only dirt the executives will likely excavate will be from under their fingernails, yet they recognize construction cannot begin without first digging a hole, so they create a spectacle around it.

Minus the pageantry, this scenario is analogous to your career construction and the greatness soon to be erected if you are diligent in establishing a sturdy foundation. For all practical intents and purposes, we begin our careers at the so-called bottom. And despite the stage of your career, you may sometimes feel as though you are a long way from reaching the proverbial top.

This is not necessarily a bad thing as it is where the I-1 Mental1ty of excellence comes into play and focuses your attention on being great where you are and establishing a robust foundation to build upon. If you adopt the construction-based approach, you will quickly realize you are in fact starting from the top in breaking ground to lay the foundation for a successful career. Similarly, the sanguine approach to being at the so-called bottom is recognizing you cannot go anywhere but UP.

You do not have to be the real-life version of Bob the Builder to understand that a weak foundation will compromise everything built on top of it. If you begin your career on such a base, it will not be long before someone yells: “JENGA!” as everything you have built comes crashing down. Along those same lines, it only takes one bad move to bring everything to an unceremonious tumble.

It is imperative to focus your attention on establishing a foundation that can support both the weight of your own career as well as that of others you will build up along the way. In this manner, once you all reach your desired heights, you will begin reciting a slightly different version of a popular hip-hop song by recording artist Drake.

I was thinking something to the tune of: “Started from the top, now we’re here.” 

Thank you for reading! We will wrap up this series next month with the final installment entitled, The Process: Reaping the Harvest.

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