Successful people aren’t the lucky ones. They are the persistent, hard working ones that know that hard work and eagerness go a long way. Here are the six things I found them all to have in common:
1. They Understand Their “Circle of Competence”
In his Getting There essay, legendary investor Warren Buffett explains that it’s essential to understand your strengths and weaknesses. When you’re deciding what to pursue, knowing what to leave out is as important as knowing what to focus on. Buffett quotes Tom Watson (the founder of IBM) who said, “I’m no genius but I’m smart in spots and I stay around those spots.”
Buffett explains, “My brain is not a general-purpose brain that works marvelously in all situations. There are all sorts of things that I’m no good at and there are all kinds of investment opportunities I’m not able to comprehend. I understand some kinds of simple businesses. I can’t understand complicated ones. Coca-Cola, for example, isn’t very complicated. It’s a durable product and the appeal is universal. I try to find businesses I can grasp, where I like the people running them and think the price makes sense in relation to the future economics.”
John Paul DeJoria, billionaire co-founder of the Patrón Spirits Company and John Paul Mitchell Systems, advises, “Do what you do best and try to find others who can fill in by doing the things you are not good at. For instance, I am terrible at details—accounting especially, so I hire accountants to help me. This frees me up to focus on the things I do excel at and I can run a more efficient operation.”
No one is good at everything, but everyone I spoke with became incredibly successful by honing in on what they excel at. So, look for your natural strengths to see where you can stand out.
2. They Harness Their Passions
You’ve probably heard this before—and for good reason! The path to success is almost guaranteed to be arduous, but if you love what you do you’ll thrive on the inevitable challenges and have the stamina to achieve your potential. If you pursue something just for the money or because you “think you should,” it probably won’t end well.
World famous scientist J. Craig Venter (a.k.a., the first person to sequence the human genome) says, “So many people get pushed along in the ‘system,’ and because they don’t really know what they want to do, they practically let their careers be chosen for them. If you’re not passionate about what you’re doing, it’s hard to be successful at it. You can show up and do what’s required, and you can even do your job well, but that’s not where real success is going to come from. Success comes from doing something extraordinary with passion and intensity.”
3. Their Career Paths Are Fluid
Good news, career changers, well-known entrepreneurs demonstrate that it’s OK if your initial plan doesn’t work out! What’s essential is to always keep your eyes open for new opportunities and be open to change. For example:
- craigslist founder Craig Newmark stumbled upon his businesses while trying to pursue a social goal.
- Michael Bloomberg only decided to start his own company, Bloomberg LP, after being fired from his job at Salomon Brothers.
- Jillian Michaels, who runs a health and wellness empire, dedicated herself to that field after being fired as a talent agent.
Les Moonves, the President and CEO of CBS, originally pursued acting, but eventually realized he would be happier on the other side of the camera.
Moonves elaborates, “Things sometimes come at you and hit you in the face. If your path is rigid, you’ll likely miss out on opportunities…I shifted from acting to producing theater and realized it felt great. Before long, I shifted again and got my first job in TV as a development executive at Columbia Pictures Television.”
If you keep coming across obstacles, see if there’s another opportunity you can pursue that might be a better fit.
4. They Create Their Own Opportunities
Successful people don’t just wait around for someone to recognize a talent in them and offer them a “big break.” It would be awesome if the world worked that way, but unfortunately it rarely does. If you want something, you have to figure out a way to make it happen.
For example, Anderson Cooper wanted to be a foreign news correspondent but couldn’t even get an entry-level job at any of the major networks. He ended up working as a fact checker for Channel One, an agency that produces news programs for high schools.
Cooper quickly realized that people tend to pigeonhole you in whatever role you’re in, and sometimes you have to do something drastic in order to change people’s perception of you. So he quit his job, borrowed a friend’s video camera, and went overseas to shoot stories by himself. Living on a mere five dollars a day, Cooper made his videos as interesting and dangerous as possible, then offered them to Channel One for such a low price that they couldn’t refuse. This bold move is what launched his career and enabled him to live his dream.
Don’t put something off indefinitely because you’ve yet to get a green light. Sometimes, the only way to demonstrate you’re ready for a new project is to go out and start it.
5. They Question Everything
Innovators don’t blindly follow others. They think on their own and understand that just because something has been done one way for years doesn’t mean that it’s the best way, or that another way won’t work.
For example, in the mid 1970’s Gary Hirshberg noticed that we were changing the way food was made, for the worse (injecting animals with hormones and antibiotics, spraying fields and produce with toxic pesticides, and using chemical fertilizers, all with no real knowledge of what would happen to kids who grew up on a diet containing these things).
Hirshberg started promoting organic food before most people knew what the word meant. He soon co-founded the organic yogurt company, Stonyfield Farms. He recalls, “When I tried to get retailers to carry Stonyfield yogurt, which was a little more expensive than the nonorganic brands, they’d say, ‘Does organic mean it has dirt in it?’ It was difficult to get stores to carry our products.”
It took Stonyfield nine years to make its first nickel, but it is now the largest organic yogurt company in the world.
Hirshberg says, “Challenging conventional wisdom can be scary, but most major changes happen because someone asked: ‘Why not do it differently?’ If you don’t ask, you don’t get.”
6. They’re Resilient
Most people who are well known for their achievements have failed—numerous times. However, they eventually found success because they were able to stand back up and try again, or learn from their mistakes and try something new. The point is: They forced themselves to keep moving forward.
- Author Jeff Kinney spent eight years writing his first Diary of a Wimpy Kid book only to have it rejected by multiple publishers. Abrams finally gave him a chance and there are now over 115 million Wimpy Kid books in print (not to mention the movies).
- John Paul DeJoria was fired from three jobs and lived in his car on $2.50 a day. He went on to found John Paul Mitchell Systems and the Patrón Spirits Company.
- After establishing his own architectural practice, Frank Gehry found himself on the verge of bankruptcy several times before reaching solid ground.
- Matthew Weiner shopped his TV show around Hollywood, but it was rejected all over town. Mad Men finally made it to the screen seven years after it was written.
I have come to compare life to a game of Whack-A-Mole. (You know that arcade game in which players use a mallet to hit toy moles back into their holes?) Well, life seems to whack us all over the head from time-to-time—in big ways and in small ways. In ways that have to do with our career and ways that have to do with our personal lives. They all intermingle.
The people I interviewed are where they are today because, even after getting whacked multiple times, they found a way to lick their wounds then pop back up with a smile. This is what you must do in this world. So, the next time you get a whack, recall a specific story that inspires you, then figure out a way to pop yourself out of whatever hole you happen to be in.
Whether we like it or not, we spend much of our time working. Most of us spend over 2,000 hours a year at work. So if you aren’t happy with your present career or if you are trying to break into a new field, here are 10 essential habits for getting the job you want:
1. Know your career mission statement
Make sure you are clear about what you want to accomplish with your career. Say it out loud and claim it. Write down exactly what your mission statement is and post it where you can see it every day.
2. Audit your time
If you go to work every day, write down how you spend your time. Look for things that distract you or keep you from meeting your goals. Take out things that aren’t productive. If you are looking for employment, take a serious look at how you spend your time. How much time do you want to spend each day going to appointments or on the phone? How much do you need to devote to research for job interviews? Being accountable for your time helps you get the most from each minute.
3. Make sure your online brand is accurate
In today’s world, prospective employers, as well as current management, use the internet and social media to track you. So make sure you do the work first. Google your name, make sure your profile and your brand are on point. Delete anything that doesn’t represent who you are in the best possible light.
4. Daily gratitude
Whether you are struggling with a “not so great” job or are looking for that career break, take time for daily gratitude. You can find things that you are thankful for, no matter what the circumstances. This habit will change your attitude about yourself and your career. It is humbling to acknowledge all that you do have.
5. Be flexible
Employers are always looking for team members who will go with the flow and not complain when schedules or duties change. These types of employees are soon on the boss’s radar because they make him or her look good. People who accept changes cheerfully often find they are asked to work more projects and move up faster in the workplace.
6. Do not just seek approval
It is easy to adjust our actions or beliefs as employees if we are looking for the support of management. You may find yourself tempted to give in to particular demands of a prospective employer just to get the job. However, instead of seeking approval, you should focus on the impact your actions make. Will it enhance service for the customer? Do you go the extra mile to meet requirements? Approval is fleeting, but impact shapes policy. So, instead of asking yourself if the boss liked your performance, ask yourself if you did your best. Did you make a lasting impact on some part of the job? If you can say that, you are successful.
7. Arrive 30 minutes early
Like many employees, you may slide into the office just in time, with a minute to spare. Or maybe you plan your commute so that you just make it into your office before the boss. Here’s an easy habit to form: Get to the office 30 minutes before you begin your day. Have time to sit and reflect on your goals for the day. Take inventory of what you need to accomplish and prioritize. You will find that your day will be less chaotic, and employers see this as you taking initiative, to be ready on time and prepared.
8. Reach out often
Even if you already have a job, never stop networking with business friends and contacts. New opportunities are found quicker through word of mouth than any search engine. Keep an accurate, current list of contacts and use all of the social media to reach out and network.
9. Don’t underestimate the benefits of a mentor
You can never go wrong by seeking guidance from someone who has been working in the field longer than you. Finding someone who can counsel you through challenging aspects of your career is invaluable. Don’t reinvent the wheel, just find out how others in your position have handled situations.
10. You will never finish
There is no perfect pinnacle to any career. There is always room to grow and expand. A career is about a journey,not reaching a certain destination. There will be another opportunity on the horizon. Always remain a student of your chosen field and be ready to grow.
What are you doing to help your career? Are you doing what you love?
True life: I am not a big fan of traditional networking. I’m introverted and generally overwhelmed by new social situations – especially with large groups of people that I don’t really know. I used to dread going to events but personally, I don’t think that networking is optional if you’re trying to grow a business. So like it or not, I’ve developed a system for networking that makes it WAYYY easier for me to feel comfortable connecting with new people!
So figure out why you want to network in the first place. Are you trying to find potential clients? People you want to collaborate with? Influencers in your industry? All of the above? Great! Make a list of these people because you’ll want to keep track of them. (pssst: you can also get my template at the end of this post!)
Step 1: Step Up Your Social
- FACT: Connecting with people on social media is less scary than in real life. Also, a lot of other introverts are on social media and they want to connect with you as much as you want to connect with them! Someone just has to take the first step…
- Assuming you’ve identified some of the people you’d like to connect with, start following them on social media. For my businesses, I find that instagram and twitter are the 2 platforms that are easiest to connect with people in my target audience, but it could be that your potential clients are on other networks.
- Once you’ve figured out what networks they are active on, ENGAGE with them! On instagram, engaging with people means liking their photos, leaving thoughtful comments (not mindless “love this!” or spammy “follow me!” comments – genuine comments that show you are actually interested in the content they are posting). On twitter, linking to other people’s content (if they have a blog or website) or sharing their tweets using the “quote” option with a related comment are easy, non-scary ways to start interacting. Pick one or two networks that you are really going to be active on and be consistent.
- PRO TIP: Optimize your social profiles to appeal to your target audience. If you are effectively interacting with new people, they will want to check out you out! Make sure your bio clearly states who you are, what you do, and why they should follow you!
Step 2: Connect In Person
- FACT: It is easier to introduce yourself to a person in real life if you have already “met” them on social media.
- Let’s pretend you are attending an event and some of the people you have been connecting with on social will be there. For most introverts, the hardest part is actually walking up to someone and saying hello, so try to change your mindset and think about the encounter not as “meeting someone for the first time,” but as “continuing the conversation you already started.”
- Lead with a simple introduction followed by a genuine compliment of their work. A flattering comment will set the tone and is an easy segue into further conversation!
- If you’re anxious about going to an event alone, ask a more extroverted friend to come along as your wingman/woman!
- PRO TIP: Before an event, think of three topics you can chat about with anyone that you aren’t “prepared” to talk to – 1 personal (gone on any trips lately?), 1 professional (any fun projects in the works?), and 1 topical (what brings you to the event?).
STEP 3: Follow Up
- FACT: Meeting people is not networking without followup.
- People are busy. Even if you meet someone and have a great conversation with them, don’t assume they will keep in touch!
- My general rule is: within 24 hours of meeting someone, send a followup email that offers something of value to them, THEN has a specific “ask.”
- PRO TIP: Make sure your “ask” is time sensitive. Even better if it is specific AND time sensitive. “I’d love to collaborate” is meh but “I’d love to collaborate on a webinar that I am planning to launch in September” is much better.
Ultimately, steps 1-3 don’t work unless you’ve done some homework and identified the people who you want to network with! As an introvert, I hate the idea of trying to start conversations with just anyone, so doing some advanced
stalking research is the key to getting started.
Keep going and be positive! Show you care and you will be set. Thanks for reading!
We had a great opportunity to attend the HRMA 2016 Conference the past week. As recruiters, we love to listen to speakers sharing their advice and experiences on how to expand teams and business in different and creative ways. In our field we believe that learning and growing as a person in a business is important. Here are some three takeaways we learned!
- Show interest.
Your employer and team members will want to know you want to be there. No one wants to work with someone negative. Becoming part of the office isn’t just about doing a job. It’s also important to join in the culture and camaraderie of your new workplace in order to give a positive impression and form relationships with the people there.
- The most important characteristics of staff of 2016 are Optimism and Empathy.
Employers are looking for those qualities on resumes, networking events and in you. These are important for relationship building, creativity, cultural sensitivity and the ability to manage diverse employees. As an employee, your office relationships are in a state of flux, and you don’t want to end up alienating anyone or gaining a reputation for being untrustworthy. Stay focused on work and some harmless personal sharing. If it might come back to haunt you, avoid it – showing empathy is the best way.
- With the expansion of technology, don’t forget that personality always win.
Between the networking, the cover letters, and the interviews, it can feel like nothing is tougher than getting to know your new team members and bosses. You want to be remembered for your strengths and your personality. Don’t be a robot. Be yourself and be confident.
Being a new hire or even wanting to change in your new role puts you on the spot to prove your worth. Show up ready to go above and beyond, and you’ll make a valuable place for yourself in no time! Call us if you need any advice. We love helping people achieve their goals and dreams.
Thanks for reading!
At the risk of being redundant, I am compelled to address an issue that many people have been concerned with. The other day, I had a conversation with a client and a good friend. We had not spoken in a few months, so I gave her a call to catch up. She sounded aloof and down, which is not her normal ‘spit fire’ disposition. ‘What’s going on, my friend, you do not sound like your normal ball of energy self’, I inquired. She responded with a big, heavy heart sigh, and then shared with me that she is really struggling to stay motivated, and this is effecting her ability to keep her team motivated and positive. She then shared that within the last month they had a reduction of force and she had to lay off 40 employees. ‘Perhaps you should start searching for a new position for me’, she said.
‘Nonsense’, I said. ‘You are a loyal, tenured employee that has true passion for both your job and the company’. And to quote how Cher so eloquently stated in Moonstruck, ‘Snap out of it!’ She laughed and brightened up, and replied, ‘What doesn’t kill us will make us stronger.’
I realize that these are hard times. Are they tumultuous times, I think not. Are they uncertain, when aren’t they. I spoke with a candidate a few weeks ago, a stellar guy that for years has been my ‘go to’ person for when I am seeking referrals. He told me that his company just laid off 108 employees, and he was one of them. We have all been in this playing field before, either a survivor of a layoff, or a product of reduction of force.
Being laid off is everyone’s fear. You can not let it run your life! I had a friend laid off and I went to check in on her. She was still in my pajamas at 4 in the afternoon. ‘What in the h#@% are you doing?’ I asked. She just shrugged it off. ‘If I were you I would take this time to ramp yourself up, sharpen your mind, recreate yourself.’ After I left, she thought about it long and hard. I got off the pity pot, and went to work. She started exercising 4 hours a day, she pulled out her paints and canvas, and joined a book club. Most importantly, she made a business plan. She treated unemployment like a full time job, and created a structure for herself. Not long afterward, she embraced ‘outside the box’ thinking, and had several interviews set up in industries she would not have thought compatible with her experience. A direction that inevitably lead her to her dream job. This was all due to the miracle of positive thinking.
With that said, and to repeat again, we have all been on one side of the fence or the other at one time. A survivor of layoffs, or a product of reduction of force.
One day I would like to share my journey of ‘out of the box’ thinking that brought me to where I am today.
Thanks for reading!