Many many people start out their careers thinking that they know everything that they need to know and, laid out before them is a clear straight path to “the top”. Of course, we know that that is never the case. There are the occasional stories of people who somehow tap into the zeitgeist and are catapulted above others, but I believe that anyone who is successful – in small ways and big – has these tools available to them and they learn how to use them to their highest ability:
PREPARATION: I won’t bore you with the 90/10 quote about preparation, but let’s all agree that it’s THE SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT THING that you can do to put yourself on the path to success. It can take many forms, but if you aren’t ready when opportunities come – not only will not be able to take advantage of them, it’s highly likely you won’t even recognize them as opportunities. PREPARE PREPARE PREPARE.
MOTIVATION: Everyone talks about how millenials are so special because they work purpose and not a paycheck. Let’s be very clear here: EVERYONE WORKS FOR A PURPOSE. Your purpose may be getting a check so that you can feed your family and keep a roof over their head, but that’s no less a purpose than is saving orphans. We are human. We need to know that things that we’re doing serve some sort of purpose. We don’t have to be motivated by the same things, but you need motivation to help you commit to the cause, to stay the course, to go where no man has ever gone before….or something like that.
DETERMINATION: Listen, you guys. Things aren’t always easy. More than likely, they’re going to seem infinitely more difficult when you are faced with options like A) picking up the slack for a team member who is not pulling their weight (for whatever reason) or B) dinner and a movie. This is not to say that there will always be such a stark contrast between what you want to do and what’s required, but don’t kid yourself into thinking that showing up and doing good work is enough. You need to want it. You have to want it. Whether it wants you back is a different story.
LUCK/CHANCE: There is, unfortunately, always some element of luck involved with success. You may have prepared for this from the day you were born and found your internal drive and powered through all the times you wanted to lay your head down on your desk and quit. But, sometimes, the universe just ain’t looking out for ya. It may be that there was some prodigy that’s eclipsed you in a short period of time, there may be a change in the market that makes your skills/knowledge obsolete, THERE ARE A MILLION WAYS TO DIE IN THE WEST. It is not, however, an excuse to hang your head and go home with your tail between your legs. If you have the drive and you’re determined to get ‘er done then you know what you start doing? You start preparing for some new path to success. You take all of the skills and knowledge and work ethic that you’ve spent time cultivating and you channel it into a new venture. None of us have a right to be successful at the thing that we want to be successful at. For instance, I would love to be a pop star on the same level as Beyoncé, Britney (pre-crazy) or Rihanna, but I can’t sing. Like not even a little bit. That life is not available to me. But, I can still belt it out in the car, in the shower and around the house and imagine that life while I’m preparing for something that I might actually be good at.
No one owes you anything. Full stop. This is why motivation and determination are really the most important tools you can develop. If you want it badly enough and you’re prepared to make some sacrifices and, well, just prepared generally, the opportunities will come your way because other people will notice that you’re a person who has the tools to be successful at anything. They’ll say, “you know, Jane is always so on top of things and she’s such a great person to have on my team, I want to make sure that she is in the best position to grab hold of the next rung on the ladder.” So on and so forth.
Are there any other tools that you think are essential to staying on the path to success?