Here’s an old Indian mythological story that has fascinated me for years.
One day, Narada muni asked Lord Vishnu, “Why is the statue of Garuda (Vishnu’s eagle and vehicle) placed in your temples? Why not mine? Am I not your greatest devotee?”
Before Vishnu could answer, a crash was heard outside the main gate of Vaikuntha (Vishnu’s abode).
“I have sent Garud on an errand,” Vishnu said. “Can you check what happened, Narada?”
Keen on seizing the opportunity, Narada rushed out and returned a few seconds later and said, “A milkmaid tripped and fell.”
“What was her name?” asked Vishnu. Narada ran out, spoke to the maid, returned, and said, “Sharda.”
“Where was she going?” Narada ran out once again, and returned with the answer, “She was on her way to the market.”
“What caused her to trip?” Vishnu asked. Narada felt irritated, but he asked her. “She was startled by a snake crossing her path”, he said.
“Are all her pots broken” asked Vishnu. “I don’t know,” snapped Narada.
“Find out, Narada. I might buy some milk,” Vishnu explained patiently.
Visibly angry, Narada went out and returned. “She broke one pot. But another is intact. She is willing to sell the milk but at double price,” he said.
“So how much should I pay her?” Vishnu asked. “Oh. I forgot. Let me find out.” Narada started running back out.
Right then, Garuda flew in, oblivious to what had occurred outside. “Don’t bother,” Vishnu said to Narada, turned to Garuda, and said, “I heard a crashing sound outside the main gate. Can you investigate?”
On returning, Garuda said, “It was a milkmaid named Sharda. She was on her way to the market but tripped because she was startled by a serpent. She broke one of her two pots and is worried about how she will pay for the broken pot and spilled milk. I suggested she sell the milk to you. You are the husband of the Goddess of Wealth, after all.”
“And the price of the milk?” Vishnu asked. “Four copper coins,” Garuda replied promptly. “One actually, but I think she wants to make a handsome profit because she is dealing with God.”
Vishnu laughed and caught Narada’s eye, who understood why Garuda’s statue, and not his, is always placed in front of the image of Lord Vishnu in His temples.
Sometimes people get promoted because of office politics. But we often miss an invisible Garuda-like trait in people who climb the corporate ladder fast.
The people who move up the corporate ladder quickly often work smart. They complete their tasks efficiently and quickly AND appear like proactive employees.
They do all this by applying a concept known as “forging artifacts.”
The Subtle Art of “Forging Artifacts”
Richard Buckminster Fuller (Creative Commons)
The great inventor Richard Buckminster Fuller constantly had ideas for possible inventions and new forms of technology.
Early in his career, he noticed many people had ideas. But most of them were too afraid to turn their ideas into action. Instead, they preferred indulging in critique and discussions. These discussions continued until their novelty ran out. Then people abandoned the idea in pursuit of the next shiny object. And the vicious cycle continued.
To separate himself from these daydreamers, Fuller created a strategy called “forging the artifacts.”
Fuller would make models of his ideas. He would plan them, then decide how he would take action, collect feedback, and compare the outcomes against his expectations. In other words, he thought backward.
If his plans proved feasible, he would make working prototypes of them. Now his seemingly outlandish ideas were no longer speculation, but reality. He would present these artifacts to the public and gauge their response.
You can use the concept of “forging artifacts” to turn into a linchpin for your team and manager.
When your manager gives you a task or project, don’t spend a week working on it and then turn in it. If you do, bright chances are it won’t be how she wanted it. Then she'll get upset because the deadline is close and say, "Can't you do anything right?" And you'll get upset because you'll feel underappreciated. Tempers will flare and relations will turn sour.
Instead, complete a portion of the work — a mockup, an outline, or the structure — and share it with her. Collect her feedback on it. Is the format okay? Does she want some changes? What inputs and ideas does she have that she would want to be included in them? Then you can set a realistic deadline with a 20 percent buffer and get to work.
When you work, keep your manager apprised of progress. Break bad news early and don’t blame anyone when you do. Also present alternatives, not just the bad news.
After a few rounds of prototyping, you’ll know exactly what your manager expects. This will make you appear proactive and turn you into an indispensable Garuda-like asset for your boss. She will trust you enough to place more responsibility on your reliable shoulders.
You’ll also reduce the time you spend on rework. You’ll do a task just once or twice, do it well, and be done. Then you can focus on other tasks.
Once you turn into a linchpin, you no longer need to ASK for promotions. You’ll the obvious choice, not just because you possess the skills but also because the right people trust you to use them wisely.
We cannot demand a chance to prove ourselves. We have to prove ourselves BEFORE we get a chance.
We get what we deserve, not what we feel entitled to. This “deserving” comes from adding value to others’ lives. It comes from preempting the value they desire and presenting it when they ask.
The value you add to others dictates the value that they add to you.
Work hard like a donkey and you’ll stay right where you are. Work smart and you’ll soar like an eagle. The question is, where do you want to go?