Work Ethic a Key Characteristic of Successful Solos

WMU-Cooley Professor Gary Bauer has decades of business and marketing experience, alongside nearly 20 years of teaching experience. Bauer explores six characteristics he finds in successful solos, which are Fearlessness, Work Ethic, Interpersonal Skills (Carnegie Skills), Imagination/Creativity, Ability to Get Work Done on Time, and Natural Enthusiasm. Read Professor Bauer's blog on Work Ethic, which originally posted on SoloLawyerByDesign. 


Work ethic is easy to identify but hard to define. If you are one of those individuals who is up before everyone else and willing to work until everyone else has left the office, you probably have it. If you keep those hours to avoid a spouse or other problems, then that isn’t work ethic – it is avoidance.

Predicting success as a solo? Maybe the characteristic most predictive of success is work ethic. It is that feeling that work left undone is malfeasance, not simple misfeasance. Your client’s affairs take precedence over all of your other priorities in most cases. You leave no stone unturned in exploring possible options for your clients. When clients call, you answer. What work ethic portends for your ultimate success in business; it can also be your greatest downfall. To work exhaustively to the exclusion of your close or extended family and friends will ultimately be unhealthy and could cause your early demise. What is a strength in business can be your personal downfall.


Balance in the context of this characteristic is critical. We see individuals who are “workaholics” and who live for their work. That isn’t what I see as a characteristic of success, but failure. Those who can focus to do things and find balance in their lives are the individuals we see populating the workplace and, can draw the line between working hard within limits and working so hard that they exhaust whatever goodwill that person had with friends and family. Learning to say “no” is not lack of work ethic. Instead, setting boundaries is critical and knowing when to follow through setting priorities but also knowing when to pace yourself and when to set aside your work to deal with the other priorities in your life.

Being motivated doesn’t require blind motivation at the expense of balance in your life. One of the best ways to achieve balance, set priorities and execute on them is to plan your life using a good time-management system and your ability to get work done work done on time! To some extent, your enthusiasm and imagination will also work together to help you get work done while still finding time for your family and friends. Overall, they will allow you to find balance in your life. But if you dwell on any of these characteristics without integrating them all, any of them can allow you to detour into territory that is not going to foster your long-term or short-term goals.


The beauty of working for yourself is that you determine what those boundaries are and you can carve out exceptions to your work schedule based upon the other priorities in your life – and there better be other priorities. If you live for your work, you will die in your work. If your career defines you, you will be guaranteed unhappiness. Work-life balance coupled with authentic professional motivation and determination to succeed and you will have found the formula for success in life and in work.

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