W2D WOW. It’s an acronym I’ve come up with over the years which stands for “willing to do what others won’t.” Value is the result of scarcity, of being rare. Being willing to do what others won’t by definition is an expression of scarcity. The hope is that by being willing to do what others won’t we’re in some way differentiating ourselves from others and distinguishing ourselves in a positive way.
I slowly came to see the value of this idea from early efforts in the work world. I worked for a summer in High School at an amusement park just west of Calgary, Callaway Park. I worked in the games area. People paid a few bucks to take a stab at fun, but difficult challenges in order to win an outsized prize relative to the cost to play. It was a fun job. Most of the games were throwing something at a target. Basketball shots, throwing a softball, trying to land a rubber ring around a bottle, etc.
One area of this department was the fishing pond. People could pay and be given a rod to cast a line in a stocked pond that pretty much guaranteed a bite. They could haul out a trout and keep it. The responsibility of those working at the pond wasn’t just taking money and handing out rods but dealing with fruits of the fishers. People would bring their catch to be bagged, tagged, refrigerated, and stored until they were ready to go home. It was easy to tell the novice fishers from the seasoned veterans. The seasoned veterans brought their catches killed and removed from the line. Whereas the novices brought their catches still alive flopping from the hook.
It was a responsibility in either case of those working here to take the fish and store them for the fishers to pick up when they were ready to go home. For the dead ones, just bag them, tag them, and set in the fridge for future pick up. For the live fish, they had to be killed then stored. For many teens toiling in this department, this was no game they wanted to play. It was a role most wanted to run from. What went on here was work, dirty, smelly work, much harder than any other games job. It was a constant battle for the managers to task people to work at the trout pond.
At some point, I ended up doing a shift at the pond. I didn’t enjoy it. I wasn’t particularly good at it, but I did what was asked. My boss asked me if I’d do it again. I said, sure. The boss happily continued to schedule me there. Other peers were relieved to know they were less likely to be called to go there. I internalized that I was adding value, ensuring I was in demand, and currying favor with both peers and boss. Slowly, I connected that handling trout led to having some clout.
Some years later, I attended Law School at the University of Alberta. A tactic of teachers in law school is to target a student and engage by peppering them with questions for a large part of the class. The Socratic method it’s called. Being the “target” wasn’t the place to be and most would seek to avoid it like the plague. As professors gazed out at students seeking one to select, the attention of students invariably shifted to avoiding eye contact with the professor at all costs. Students would become immersed in shuffling pages in a textbook or studying notes. Being held hostage to the questions of the professor for the better part of an hour was the last place people wanted to be.
For some reason, I came to feel that the angst of avoiding this was worse than the pain of participating. Even though it wasn’t fun to be on the spot for an extended period, at least you got your turn over with and others, including the professor, seemed to appreciate a willingness to come forward. Others felt an immediate sense of relief as they were off the hook. Again, I learned that leaning in when others stepped back led to favorable outcomes.
Time and again, I came across situations where you could earn some credibility and appreciation where you simply stood up when others sat down. Whether it was being willing to be the first to present in a class or being willing to stay late at the office, step up to lead a project, or be okay with travelling for work. In each of these types of situations, value was seen in being willing to do what others weren’t.
It’s not that I shined in those situations. I didn’t bat a thousand or score 100%. I stumbled and fumbled plenty. Nonetheless, stepping forward was seen as a distinguishing characteristic across domains and situations. The idea of “Willing To Do What Others Won’t” slowly crystallized into a useful posture to present. It was a way to, by definition, demonstrate value by being willing to do something scarce. It consistently resulted in your presence being seen as a positive.
The idea is even easier to see when watching elite performers. The outliers are easy to identify. The examples clear. They go to extreme lengths to separate themselves from the masses.
Consider bodybuilders, for example. They look deeply different compared to the rest of us. It seems safe to suggest that nothing about the outcomes they achieve is by accident. Regardless of whether we’re repulsed or impressed by the monstrosities they are, it’s clear they take great pains to manage every aspect of their day with excruciating detail all in service of their objective of making their muscles massive while shedding every ounce of body fat.
They are working out multiple times a day pretty much every day of the week. Workouts are planned perfectly detailing which body parts will be worked for how many sets. The number of reps per set and weights used are all tracked and become the basis of planning future efforts.
Additionally, the steps taken with respect to supplementation and nutrition are intense. They are not just meal planning and prepping but weighing to the ounce or even smaller every iota of what they’re ingesting solid or fluid. As they approach competitions bodybuilders are trying to get their body fat down to extremely low levels in the low single digits, well under 5%. That isn’t fun to do and pretty much involves starving themselves. They are also purging themselves of fluids in order to reduce puffiness and get the ripped look that is the target of their sport.
Outside of working on the body, they’ve also got to put in some time earning a few bucks to put all that food on the table. Even as professionals, there will be photo shoots, replying to fans, interviews, and other corporate promotions. They’ll need to spend time creating content across social media platforms. For example, posting to Instagram, creating TikTok videos, pushing out tweets, and more. Every minute of the day is spoken for.
All together their commitment reflects more than a full time job. They’re either eating, lifting, stretching, or sleeping, all with purpose in mind. At each step those aiming to find success in this field are showcasing themselves as being willing to do what others won’t. It’s easy to see that their commitment is intense and comprehensive.
A daughter of friends of ours used to compete as a figure skater and moved to bodybuilding a few years ago. In an interview for our local newspaper after winning several competitions and turning professional, at 21 years old, Peyton gives us a glimpse with her responses as to how she’s willing to do what others won’t.
“It takes an immense amount of sacrifice from your day-to-day life. I track every gram of food I eat, every ounce of water I drink, and all of my sodium. I am up at 6 in the morning for cardio, then back to the gym at 12 to train, then back in the gym in the evening to practice my stage routine over and over again.”
She continues, “The sacrifices I’ve had to make to become an IFBB (International Federation of Body Building) pro at a young age are ones that not many people, no matter what age, are willing to make. I rarely go out with friends, I eat the same foods every single day for 20 weeks straight without being able to indulge in cheat meals. I live a very lonely life for these 20 weeks because that is what it takes for me and it’s something I’m willing to do.”
Peyton seems to be echoing the idea that it’s lonely out there on the extra mile. So, too, it is for elite performers in any arena. It’s easy to see the contrast between the masses and the elite. What’s obvious is that elite performers are, by definition, willing to do what others won’t.
As clear as the contrast between elite and amateur is, it’s also even easier to see that this isn’t a lifestyle that’s sustainable for us mere mortals. The proverb “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” tells us that we don’t want to give up every chance at fun in order to work our fingers to the bone. Bleeding ourselves dry day after day doesn’t sound too tempting. That’s not a level of commitment most of us are willing to chase. Does that mean the idea of W2D WOW doesn’t apply for us?
100 years ago, Albert Gray, had progressed in the insurance industry from humble beginnings. As he rose through the ranks he was asked frequently for advice from those entering the workforce what was done by those that seem to get ahead. In a speech Gray gave in 1940 to a group of insurance professionals, Gray attempted to answer what success looks like. Gray was looking for the root cause or common denominator underpinning success in a variety of fields. What made those that achieved different from those that weren’t as successful? His answer, “The common denominator of success – the secret of success of every individual who has ever been successful – lies in the fact that he or she formed the habit of doing things that failures don’t like to do.”
Gray offers that in his secret lies opportunity. The secret is accessible to any of us. Success isn’t the result of pedigree or degree. It’s not limited to those from fortunate families. Nor is it the exclusive purview of the educated. Success isn’t tied to inborn talent. It is within the grasp of all of us. It’s a willingness to do the work that others don’t want to do. As Gray developed clarity on his finding he further discovered that there wasn’t anything special about the kinds of things that failures didn’t like doing. They were the exact same activities all of us don’t necessarily look forward to. The difference was that those that became successful found a way to motivate themselves to push through these tiresome tasks.
150 years before Gray, in the late 1700s, another American, Mary Lyon, also grew up in humble beginnings. Her father died when she was five and her mother left when she was thirteen. Mary stayed to look after her siblings and helped operate a farm. On top of these responsibilities, she found time to study and eventually became a teacher. Years later she was invited to start a seminary school for women and led educational programs long before empowering women became popular. She lived by and exhorted her students to live by the phrase, “Do what nobody else wants to do; go where nobody else wants to go.” She was willing to do what others weren’t and helped others raise their view for themselves by adopting this perspective.
Sure, the elite evidence this idea to an extreme degree which makes it both clearly noticeable and daunting. Being one in a million or many millions is done by extreme effort. However, as my examples have shown and Gray and Lyon observed and lived firsthand, it can be achieved in much humbler circumstances. Our aim need not be extreme. We can choose to be Willing to Do What Others Won’t to help us be one in a hundred or even one in ten. Being Willing To Do What Others Won’t represents a willingness to do more, a posture of pursuit, a commitment to strive. It is evidenced by those seeking to do more in order to be more, by those willing to give to get, and do their part first. Willing To Do What Others Won’t isn’t about trying to bulldoze ahead of others by brute force. Willing To Do What Others Won’t involves doing things that places you on the road less travelled. This can be done in any number of small ways.
For example, how do most of us use social media? Researchers have found that 80% of us are using social media to curate an image for ourselves. We’re posting to posture and present ourselves in a favorable light. We’re doing what the researchers call “me-forming.” We’re putting our best foot forward and aiming for likes and thumbs ups. As natural as this tendency is, there’s some that opt for a different approach. The other 20% work to inform instead of me-form. They’re seeking to not show themselves in the best light possible but to communicate and share information that may be meaningful, inspiring, or informative to their contacts. Aiming to adjust our social media presence so that we’re delivering some kind of present in the form of the gift of information for others is a way that we can demonstrate being Willing To Do What Others Won’t.
Willing To Do What Others Won’t is a way to help us seek details that differentiate. What can we do that will help us stand out from the crowd? What steps can we take to make a constructive contribution? It involves not looking for the easy path, but seeking to elevate. It’s not being lazy, it’s leaning in to lead. It’s about doing something today that will make tomorrow better.
How does this idea sound to you? Does it resonate? Are there those that you admire that reflect W2D WOW?