Perhaps because of my modest success in the investment business, I get asked about how to achieve career success— a fair bit. But it’s not something I think about much—at least, not in the way the question is framed. Here is my best attempt at answering that question.
I long believed that optimists hallucinate; pessimists get depressed. However, both will not get anywhere. But hopelessness, is an awful wretch. Therefore, we must be willing to see everything the way it is. That is— ruthless pragmatism, and it is needed to win in life.
Aristotle once noted that "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit." Habits play an important role as we go about our lives. Creating excellent habits is a combination of being able to recognize and eliminate your poor practices while implementing a series of positive and effective behaviours. This allows you to most efficiently complete the most challenging and repetitive tasks that life presents. Being conscious of what you do, that is consistent with your goals— and, being accountable for your daily actions is the formula and the key to creating excellent habits that can increase your odds of success.
Without regular use and exercise muscles weaken and deteriorate— a process called atrophy. Muscle atrophy causes muscles to waste away. Astronauts experience atrophy due to absence of gravity— which makes working in a spacecraft physically undemanding. The main reason for this is due to lack of resistance. And resistance makes muscles grow. Likewise— resistance makes people grow. As humans, we do better in adversity than in luxury. Many of us settle into a routine after a few years in a role. However, unconsciously routines turn into ruts— akin to muscle atrophy. Such complacency breeds failure.
Unsuccessful people let obstacles not opportunities dictate their outcomes. While successful people have learned that the secret to stretching beyond limitations is in making a conscious decision— to succeed. This leads them to pursue their goals to stretch beyond their present situation and any obstacles— to create the future they desire. Any challenge that you have in your life can be overcome by believing there is a solution and directing your energies toward pursuing it. Applying that solution against any resistance while assessing progress and continuing the process until you have stretched beyond your limitations will make you grow— akin to muscles.
Regardless of whether it is conscious or unconscious— success or failure is a choice. The ironic thing about failure is that you will fail at some point in your life. You will embarrass yourself. There is no doubt about it. But you got to take the risks— I’m sure you probably heard that before.
Reggie Jackson struck out 2600 times in his career. The most in the history of baseball. But you don’t hear about the strikeouts. People only remember the home runs. Thomas Edison conducted 1,000 failed experiments. Did you know that? I didn’t know that. Because 1001st was the lightbulb. That is perseverance. The secret to perseverance is maintaining a positive mental attitude in the midst of facing obstacles. Having a "Winners Persevere" mentality is a process of accepting that you will be faced with challenges but that all challenges have solutions.
Thoughts lead to behaviour— which leads to action. The key to excelling with taking action is understanding the value you place on the actions you need to take. If you perceive an action to be pleasurable— you will most certainly begin right away. However, if you perceive an action to be painful— you most certainly will procrastinate. True growth is really up to oneself, regardless of what is going on around you. You must be willing to learn to adjust and adapt to changing conditions. Next— you must decide on what actions will help you have better outcomes. Implementing those actions and continually assessing your results will keep you accountable to yourself and beyond the blame game.
Making good decisions involves beginning with a commitment to make a decision. That's the hard part. Choosing the best possible path is only possible after you've established that you've got the guts and the commitment to make a decision. Don’t be afraid of change. Be afraid of not changing. No one can govern this— except yourself.
Stop giving time and energy to ‘Pessimistic or Pollyanna’ thoughts. When you quit giving time to that— you will inadvertently find yourself ruthlessly pragmatic. Step forward into growth and potential success— otherwise you will slip back to safety and into definite failure. The secret to knowing in which direction you step is to choose each step wisely. Choosing to step forward towards pursuing your goals could bring with it the fear of the unknown. Choosing to step backward towards complacency could bring with it the comfort of familiarity. But, you must ask yourself this— is it better to boldly succeed or is it better to safely fail? Choice here is binary— Growth or Complacency. Either you will challenge yourself and step forward into growth or you will play safe and step backward with same old routine— to complacency, to muscle atrophy.
I will say it again, no one can govern this— except yourself. It is on you! So, take the lid off the self-made restrictions you have put on yourself. You are the sole architect of your career. You and you alone are the only one that can create, construct and care for your life and your career. Your responsibility to fulfill this goal— lies with no one but yourself. No one can cheat you out of your ultimate success but yourself.
Sooner or later, all motivation is self-motivation. And the challenge and opportunity are in finding the external forces that will soon become internal ones. The point here is— every person has some talent and perhaps even the training to succeed. But the question is do you have the guts to fail? If you don’t fail— then you are not even trying. Failure is part of living a full life. It is better to the risk and fail sometimes, than not to take any risk at all and fail for sure.
Opportunities are never lost, but someone will take the ones you miss. As the saying goes, if you hang around the barbershop long enough you will eventually get a haircut. If you keep at it you will catch a break— eventually. Hard work always beats talent — especially, when talent doesn’t work hard. Michael Jordan once said “I missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty six times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
The last freedom a person has is— the right to choose their own attitude. Attitude is more important than IQ or skill. Success in life is all about how you deal with failure. Pursue your passion relentlessly and don’t let any setbacks distract or define you. In life you need to find any possible opportunities to take your career to its next level— especially in difficult times. Defining who you are, is by what you are not— is the first step that leads you to really knowing who you are. Don’t wait for whatever ‘the event’ to define you— what defines you has already happened.
Always play like an underdog. Opportunities will find you while you are busy trying harder and working smarter. In other words, your productive activities attract opportunities that can ultimately result in future success(es). Conversely, hoping that an opportunity will fall from the sky is wishful thinking. To get something you never had— you have to do something you never did. The dream is free— but the hustle is sold separately.
Wish you all the best for a successful 2019 and beyond!