Answers to the top 10 questions about career success

career successAs you may imagine, people ask me questions about the broad topic of success all the time.  Over the past six years I’ve kept a list.  I value those questions, and they deserve answers.  In this article I’ve highlighted 10 of the most popular.  See how you can benefit from my responses.

  1. What exactly is success?

After pondering it for decades, I see success as the achievement of a favorable or desired goal or outcome.  Success is individualized.  What success looks like for you may be different from what it looks like for someone else.  If you aren’t clear about how you’ll know if you succeed in your work life, start thinking about this now.

  1. Does hard work guarantee success?

Believing that hard work alone assures career success is, unfortunately, one of the greatest illusions since civilization began.  Most of us discover that we must work hard to attain our goals, but other factors are significant too.  Desire, focus, perseverance, and trust in ourselves play a role.  Maybe doing the right work counts most.

  1. What is the #1 driver of success?

People who believe with every fiber of their being that they can realize success generally claim it — sooner or later, one way or another.  They develop the ability to manage nagging doubts that creep into their thoughts.  They remain optimistic in the midst of disappointments and setbacks.  They never quit.

  1. What gets in the way of success?

Often we get in our own way.  A bad attitude or poor relationships with others who can influence and support our career trajectory frequently prevent us from achieving the success we want.  While external circumstances certainly can present real or perceived blocks, they usually are temporary.  If you’re serious about succeeding, avoid a victim mentality.

  1. What personal qualities and attitudes pave the way for success?

Resilience is the first quality that comes to mind.  You’ve got to be able to adapt, survive, and flow with the turbulent waters and unexpected detours life presents to all of us.  You need to be persistent, flexible, and curious. Tenacity and consistency are essential. The more I think about it, a cup of gratitude and a dash of hope don’t hurt either.

  1. How can you increase your chances of success?

Identifying the gaps in your skill set and taking steps to close them can increase your chances of success in most situations.  A willingness to overcome obstacles rather than whine about them helps too.  Perhaps the most useful thing you can do is to get out of your comfort zone and offer to dig into projects and tasks nobody else wants to tackle.

  1. What is the biggest mistake people make as they reach for success?

Failing to clarify a macro level vision and make a plan that aligns with your dream or goal is the biggest mistake you can make.  Not knowing what you’re aiming for—and how to get there—resembles taking a road trip without a destination and map.  You arrive someplace, but probably not where you hoped.

  1. How does failure affect long term success?

Successful people usually speak openly about their failures along the way.  Failure is part of the journey for everyone.  It teaches us what to avoid, what to do differently, and what to leverage going forward.  It also controls our ego which, left to run wild, derails even the best of plans.

  1. What are the primary benefits to success?

Success, acquired through ethical, legal, and moral means, allows you to serve more people more effectively.  It provides opportunities for you to care for your family in ways that enhance their quality of life.  It boosts your confidence!

  1. What don’t most people know about success?

Whatever you know about success ultimately means little unless you understand this:  Successful people assume they can succeed.  For them success is a given.  It’s just a matter of how it manifests—and time.  They don’t dwell on the possibility that they won’t accomplish, complete, or attain their desire.

Success, as you define it, can be yours.  But you must want it enough to go after it.  Recall a recent win, large or small.  How do you feel?  Competent?  Animated? All fired up?  Here’s a secret:  That energetic high can attract even more success.  You need to preserve it.  Since you can’t bottle it, I suggest you celebrate each one of your successes as they happen, then raise the bar a little higher. You can do this.

This article originally appeared on Pennlive on Oct 5, 2014

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STOP Doing These 7 Things in 2016

2016 goals

Taken at Fairfield Waters Townsville Qld.© 2010 I retain Copyright.

Most people agree that life is complex and demanding today, even when we are on top of our game and circumstances are ideal.  The level of complexity and frustration increases whenever ineffective, defeating behaviors enter the picture.  Do you see yourself in one or two of the following?

Complaining. When things don’t go your way, do you moan about it?  When you have too much work on your plate, do you grumble?

Agreeing with everybody about everything. When you strive to be nice all the time (no matter what waves ought to be made), you may not be taken seriously.  People doubt your truthfulness.

Procrastinating. Have you stared at the same three tasks on your “to do” list for a month now?  Did you tell somebody last week that you’d get back to them with an answer and you still haven’t done it?

Making promises you can’t keep. To avoid disappointing folks you may promise the moon, only to discover that you can’t deliver.  This damages your professional reputation.

Trusting blindly. Do you assume your star employee knows how to do everybody else’s job?  Do you believe your absentee boss has your back?

Ignoring the bigger picture. You may think you are an exceptional performer by doing great work and meeting all deadlines.  But if you don’t understand how your slice of the pie fits in with the company mission, you probably won’t go far.

Failing to take time off. Are you chronically fatigued, fed up, sick, or burned out?  Studies show that the majority of Americans need to keep closer track of their paid leave time and use it.

Here’s the bottom line:  The things you need to stop doing—as long as you keep doing them—cost money, relationships, health, and time.

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Overloaded and Overwhelmed? 5 MORE Strategies for Gaining Control

time managementLast week, I gave you five strategies that, when implemented regularly, can reduce your feelings of overwhelm.  Due to popular demand, I’m going to share five more!

  1. Focus on a single project or task. It’s hard to focus when you’re overwhelmed.  And it’s hard to make a commitment to focus in a world that promotes and rewards multitasking.  Studies are showing that multitasking confuses the brain circuitry.  Neurologists will tell you that.  The truth is that you are much more productive AND effective when you are focused on a single task.  You’re less likely to make mistakes, and you’re more likely to do it right in less time.  What I’m saying here is that focus is a kind of virtue.  Of course, there are occasions when multitasking is required and essential.  For example, if you are an emergency room doctor and you’re caring for a heart attack patient, you are probably going to be providing important information to colleagues while you are in the middle of a procedure.  This type of multitasking must take place in that situation in order to get the job done—namely, save the patient’s life.  But there are many times when you don’t need to multi task at all—and that if you chose to, you could focus on just one thing.  There is peace in focus.  There is satisfaction and fulfillment in focus.  I am challenging you to look for more opportunities to focus.  I guarantee you that they exist.  Think of focus as a muscle that has to be used regularly to keep it strong.
  1. Reduce and eliminate distractions. You may not have thought about this, but you yourself may be your biggest source of distraction.  What do I mean?  Well, you are choosing to read new emails every time one comes across your computer screen.  You are choosing to take phone calls the minute they come in instead of allowing voice mail to collect them.  You are choosing to accept cell phone and text messages immediately.  In these cases, nobody is distracting you or interrupting you—except you.   This happens because we aren’t used to honing in on one thing for more than 10-15 minutes.   Short of emergencies, you really do get to manage how frequently you check emails, answer your phone, reply to a text message, etc.  The feeling like you need to be accessible to people 24/7 today is creating a large amount of overwhelm, believe me!  Unless you are being paid to be “on call”, put the cell phone on stun or vibrate, retrieve text messages later, and train yourself to read emails twice a day at designated times.  And—if somebody is tapping at your office door to ask you a question when you’re in the middle of a critical project that requires significant concentration, you can manage that interruption by asking the person if the conversation could wait for an hour or two.  You don’t have to feel obligated to address the issue right that minute.  You don’t have to be available to everyone precisely when they ring your bell.
  1. Simplify your life. Over the years I have discovered that simplifying our lives often means de-cluttering our lives.    There is a story about Michelangelo who, soon after he finished sculpting the statue of David, was asked by a local patron of the arts:  “How did you know to sculpt David?  I don’t understand.”  Michelangelo forthrightly told this man that David was always there in the marble—he just took away everything that was not David.”  I like this little story because it reminds me that sometimes you have to get rid of the junk and stuff and clutter in order to see what’s really important and to make true progress.  I’m talking about both physical and mental….The stuff and clutter isn’t making you happy.  It’s clogging up your life at home and at work.  I don’t know if you are aware of Gail Blanke’s book, Throw Out Fifty Things, but she recommends that you start by literally throwing out fifty different physical things (not 50 magazines).  It paves the way for tossing the mental clutter:  the old tapes playing around up there in your head, the memories that no longer serve you, the beliefs that weigh you down, the thoughts that hold you back, the regrets that don’t mean anything,  the need to be right, the conviction that you must to do everything yourself.  Sometimes toss the clutter means ending relationships that no longer serve you or nurture you.  This de-cluttering process frees up space for more of what you want now…and it cuts your stress in ways you cannot even imagine until you actually do it.  You are going to be less overwhelmed when you unload the physical and mental “stuff.” And you are going to feel free.
  1. Tame your thoughts. Your mind is chattering all day long.  Ever notice that?  Our brains, unfortunately, are wired to latch on to anything negative and dwell on them.  You could spend an entire day doing nothing and still feel overwhelmed just by listening to your thoughts.  I’m talking about thoughts such as:  I’ll never get everything done I need to do today.  I’m not smart enough to figure out this problem.  I’m sure she doesn’t like me.  I doubt that I’ll get the right person to help me on this project.  I bet my boss won’t understand my request for a day off next week.  I never get any recognition for all the hard work I do around here.  I probably won’t be selected for the planning committee.  I have no idea where to start on this project.  These are examples of thoughts that wear you down and completely overwhelm you before anything else has a chance to happen.  They are self-defeating and poisonous.  While all of us have these thoughts, your job is to tame them as soon as they start to form.  As soon as you begin to think about your boss’s potential resistance to a leave time request, reframe that mental message into something like this:  I am going to ask my boss for a day off next week, and I am confident that he will grant it.  I feel good about this request because I’ve earned it.  Your thoughts can be a sort of prison if you allow it.  It’s totally possible—with some effort—to turn that prison into possibility through the art of reframing.
  1. Get organized. I can tell you that many professional people think they are organized when, in fact, they aren’t.  They can’t find their shoes, their watch, their briefcase, their wallet, their sandwich buried in the refrigerator.  They can’t locate a file, a computer password, a document, a stickie note, a book, a manual, a sheet of instructions.  Every time this happens, you snap back into overwhelm mode laden with stress, anxiety, and frustration.  Every time it happens, your blood pressure rises, your heart rate increases, your head throbs, your stomach churns, you start to perspire, you swear under your breath, you run around in circles—and you still can’t find the missing item.  The more frenzied you become, the less likely you are to find it.  Or at least find it quickly.  The answer to most of this is to get yourself organized at home, in your office, on the computer, and in the car in a way that works for YOU.  How you do it doesn’t have to be like I do it.  Just do it.  You’ll feel more relaxed and more in control.  If you believe you may have attention deficit disorder, I would urge you to speak to your doctor about it.  Also, there are coaches who specialize in working with clients with ADD.  I’m not one of them, but they exist.

I have created a workbook that will allow you to both explore and resolve some or a lot of your overwhelm on your own.  Click here to learn more and order today.

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