For many people, work lacks freedom - a nagging feeling there's a set of golden handcuffs keeping you from unleashing your potential. A study by Gallup shows just 13% of workers feel engaged at work. Leaving the majority of the world's working population wondering how they got trapped in their careers and longing to not be one of the masses. But rather, an original.

Sadly, so few ever take the steps necessary to become an original. Why?

In a word: fear.

In his newest book, Originals, Professor Adam Grant sets upon a journey to debunk the myth being an original requires extreme risk taking. His goal? To persuade you and I that originals are actually far more ordinary than we realize. More importantly, to encourage us all to be more original because of the incredible professional benefits it provides.

2 Paths To Achievement... Which One Are You On?

Psychologists determined years ago achievement is accomplished in one of two ways: conformity or originality. The first stays the proven course. The second takes the road less traveled. Conformity plays it safe, while originality challenges the status quo. It's not hard to see why we all admire originality - it's so much rarer than conformity. As a result, it gets labeled as harder.

The Very Definition Is Intimidating

To prove my point, here's the dictionary's definition of original:

"A thing of singular or unique character; a person who is different from other people in an appealing or interesting way; a person of fresh initiative or inventive capacity."

It's always been a compliment to be an original. The definition alone sounds so difficult to achieve. Thanks to Grant's work, we now have evidence to prove the contrary. Being original requires four basic actions. Which, when done together, can improve the chances of success. Better still, we all possess the ability to execute these actions. We just tend not to because of our preconceived notions about what it takes to succeed. In short, we psych ourselves out!

4-Step Process For Being Original

Turns out, being original can be executed as a process. How ironic! Grant's studies of successful originals shows they get results via consistently completing these four action steps:

  1. Creativity - generating ideas that solve a problem or alleviate a pain.
  2. Initiative - taking steps to execute on the best idea of the bunch.
  3. Conviction - using your passion and belief in the need to solve the problem to drive you forward.
  4. Risk Mitigation - focusing on minimizing the chances for failure so you can take a calculated risk without fear of great loss.

Furthermore, his studies show a larger percentage of successful entrepreneurs are not the fearless, carefree, adrenaline junkies we perceive them to be. Rather, being an original stems from some careful planning and dedication.

How To Be More Original At Work

Many of us assume our jobs are static. Meaning, we don't have the freedom that others do. That's not true. In Originals, Grant shares the story of a workshop created for Google employees to help them see how much control they had over their jobs, and subsequently, impact on their own workplace satisfaction. When challenged to look at their familiar jobs in an unfamiliar way, they rewired their brains to take charge and create a more ideal role based on the ability their ability to be original.

Why not try it for yourself? Here's what to do...

A) Identify a task at work that you don't enjoy. Dive into what frustrates you about the task. Identify the pain points and what would need to change to make the task more enjoyable.

B) Come up with several ideas of how you could do the task differently. Solicit feedback from your peers. Brainstorm with them to gather more input and ideas.

C) Prepare a pitch to your boss as to why you'd like to do the task differently. Be clear in how it detracts from your ability to do your job as well as you'd like.

NOTE: Be sure to provide some stats and data to support why making this change is not just beneficial for you, but for the company as well. Your goal is to minimize any objections. When you can clearly quantify how you will save or make a company money, they are always more likely to consider your suggestions.

D) Choose the right time to have a conversation with your manager. Consider timing and your manager's communication style. You don't want to blind-side your boss when you present, so give her or him a heads-up you plan to pitch an idea and be sure to mention you're prepared with data to help validate why it's good for business.

P.S. - Getting Promoted  = Potential Byproduct Of Being An Original

People who get promoted are problem-solvers. They take initiative. They're proactive. They look for ways to add value and make a measurable difference. Sound familiar? That's because they're all positive characteristics of an original. Which begs the question: what are you waiting for? As Grant's Originals proves, the path to greater career success and satisfaction begins with challenging yourself to break free of the golden handcuffs of conformity.

Published on: Mar 21, 2016