How to Create Career Success

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   Do you have a career plan in place? If so, what is on it? What should be on it?

   As we approach our professional lives, we need to understand the various elements that lead us to greater career success. To do this, we need to understand a few things, some unique to each of us, and some are shared.

Our Unique Talents and Abilities

   Our strengths and weaknesses will help define our areas of focus when it comes to our careers. Building off our strengths, we can leverage existing and inherent traits about ourselves. Leveraging our own unique strengths will enable us to out-perform others in similar roles and situations. We do this simply through accomplishing more, in a shorter period of time. The less effort required for us to produce the same results as someone else means we have more time and energy to devote to more projects or continued development. This is the beauty of leveraging our strengths, and also a reflection on how to treat weaknesses.

   Knowing our weaknesses usually highlights areas we should not be doing. If we can outperform by leveraging our strengths, then taking on tasks that are negatively influenced by our weaknesses means the same results will take us more time, and more energy. Since both time and energy are limited resources, we will fall behind as we try to compete against others that are leveraging their strengths. 

   What does this actually look like? I am a strong writer. When I sit down with a keyboard, I am able to produce written material quickly. In contrast, I do not have a strong sense for music. While I could learn, I will forever be slower than someone who is musically gifted. My strength lies in writing, and when I focus on that, I am leveraging that strength. If I have a need for music, rather than do it myself (which would take forever) I am better off outsourcing those tasks so I can continue to leverage my strengths.

   To highlight this point, we can look at a quote from actor Will Smith:

“The separation of talent and skill is one of the greatest misunderstood concepts for people who are trying to excel, who have dreams, who want to do things. Talent you have naturally. Skill is only developed by hours and hours and hours of beating on your craft."

Will Smith

   Focusing on your strengths, your talents, will help you out-perform and out-produce all those around you. Do you know what your greatest strengths are?

Action Item: Ask 3 friends to tell you what they think your greatest strengths are.

Necessary Skills for Our Path

   The second element to creating career success is in the pursuit of the skills that you do need. The development of these skills should be pursued with a focused, planned growth strategy. Many times we simply try to learn a skill after we are presented with a new problem. This slows us down, as we then begin learning from scratch right when we need the skills the most. A clear growth plan will help alleviate this bottleneck of skill vs. need. With a growth plan, you can start developing your understanding, and practicing the skills before you are put in a position to use them. In this way you can respond faster to problems, and be more comfortable taking on stretch projects that really advance your skills, both in your eyes and in others. 

   How do you know what skills you’ll need? Almost nobody is walking a path that hasn’t been walked before. Even on the cutting edge fringes of science, there are parallels between different career paths. It is these other examples that you need to seek out. Once you have sought a good example out (one that is doing what you want to do), analyze the skills that they utilize most to be successful. Do you have those skills? Are they something you should be working on?

   Knowing the skills that are used on your next step will help you frame a growth strategy that aids you in your career growth. Armed with this knowledge, you can start developing those skills now. As Will Smith said, “Skill is only developed by hours and hours and hours of beating on your craft."  Starting early, you will surpass everyone else simply as a result of your extra hours devoted to learning and growing. 

Action Item: Find either job postings or example persons to determine the skills you’ll need most at your next career level. 

How do you create career success? 

   Leverage your strengths, and don’t try too hard to improve your weaknesses. This will ensure everything you do, you’re the best at. And for the rest? Leave it to people who are better suited for those tasks. Your success will skyrocket as you out-perform everyone else! And as you leverage your strengths, be sure to keep an eye on the skills you’ll need in the future. Developing these through your own professional growth plan will help you get a leg up on the competition, as the hours you’ve spent preparing for future obstacles will give you an incredible head start over anyone else!

Repairing Vs. Preparing

Repairing Vs Preparing

   Are your efforts focused on achieving success? If we aren’t careful, we end up starting well behind the starting line. Success is a multifaceted approach, and as life gets busy we often focus on the most pressing concerns. This can lead us to neglecting certain areas of our lives. If we neglect some pillars of success in our lives for too long, instead of progressing towards our success goals, we end up behind the starting line and need to repair past mistakes and neglects.

What does this “neglect” look like?

   For example, you spend too long at work and your relationship with your wife/husband/partner is deteriorating. When you look at how you define success for your relationship, you need to repair the relationship before you can prepare and take action to achieve your desired goal. Or you skip the gym for too long, you'll need to regain muscle mass and heart health before you are able to push towards your fitness goals. Or you spend too much. Now you need to pay off your debts to bring yourself back to a place where you can continue working towards your financial goals. These are the neglects that need repairing if we fail to live a balanced life.

Got it - Live a balanced life. That doesn’t sound too hard. What’s the catch?

   The challenge often arises when we are making these trade-offs. We justify to ourselves that we are furthering our careers, or other aspirations. Focusing on certain areas where we see increased growth, especially in the short term. Such as working extra hard for a few months leads us to the visible promotion, while the strain that overtime puts on our relationships takes far longer to show stress fractures. 

   If success is the pursuit of our ideal life, those stress fractures set us back. Our careers might be taking off, or we’re in peak physical shape, or our finances are exceeding expectations. But those stress fractures in other important areas of our life eventually cause us to falter. And if not repaired, our foundations can even come crumbling down around us. 

What can we do about it?

   Living a balanced lifestyle is easier said than done. When we’re caught up in the moments of day to day living, we often aren’t taking the 20,000 foot view. That birds eye view of our lives, objectively evaluating each of our pillars of success; Financial, Physical, Career, Spiritual, Relationships, and Romance. Routinely looking at all areas of our life at once helps us notice any trends that are forming, for better or for worse. This self-review is hard, which is why we need good friends and/or success coaches who can give us the hard news, the straight truth, when we need it most. Having someone else in your corner provides perspective on the day-to-day challenges we all face, and helps make sure our foundations stay strong. 

   Success is a long game, and it’s far more rewarding when we’re preparing for future growth and opportunities, rather than repairing the neglects of the past.

Success like a Raptor

   As we come down off a week long celebration of the basketball prowess of our very own Toronto Raptors, we should take a moment to reflect on the lessons learned along the journey. Without overwhelming ourselves with basketball commentary, we can relate the NBA Championship back to the basic principles of success.

Where did this victory start?

   Asking ourselves how we got anywhere is an excellent start to dissecting our successes. And while some may argue that the championship started at the beginning of the season, or even when we traded for Kawhi Leonard, the steps leading to success began long before.

When was the first step?

   Each player on the Raptors started with the same first step, at some point in their basketball career. That first step is identifying the right staircase(s) to traverse. This is the identification of the skills that would be needed to take their basketball game from the scrimmages in local parks before the lights were turned off for the evening. The skills that would lead to the bright stadium spotlights that never cease to shine. For our local heroes, these skills can be identified as fitness, shooting ability, and game knowledge.

And the Next Steps:

   Identifying what we need to focus on to be successful puts us a long way ahead of our competitors, but it's still only the first step. The long road of success is filled with early mornings in the gym, late nights shooting free-throw after free-throw, and countless hours reviewing game footage. Those next steps, they’re a daily pursuit. Every day our Raptors earn their success in the gym, on the court, and in the screening room. Every day. Not just game days. Every. Single. Day.

   The sweet celebrations of hoisting that NBA Championship Trophy, that is the culmination of countless successes along the road. Those daily successes of lacing up and putting in the time practicing, even when exhaustion is setting in. Especially when exhaustion is setting in. That is how to earn Success like a Raptor.

What are the lessons?

   As we look at the championship trophy being hoisted high in the air amid the cheers of the crowds, we can take away some success lessons from these Championship ring-bearing professionals.

   Learn what critical elements drive success. The skills you devote yourself to will determine the direction of your success. With a clear goal, you can identify which skills help you on your journey.

   The second lesson’s importance cannot be overstated: action. Success is a daily discipline. To realize success like a Raptor, you need to devote yourself to mastery of your chosen skills every day.

   With the right direction, and consistent action, you will achieve Success like a Raptor. You will be a champion.

What Does Success Look Like?

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Do you know what success looks like?

   Scrolling through Instagram and other social media feeds, we soon become inundated with an endless barrage of fancy sports cars, pristine sandy beaches, yachts, high-rise patios, and the list goes on. Picture after picture, story after story, surely this is what success looks like.

But is it?

   Success is not achieved by having any of the aforementioned pictures alone. Those celebratory poses, when not faked, often come with a long back story that isn’t near as glamorous. And I’m not referring to trolling city streets looking for a parked Ferrari to take a selfie with. No, I’m talking about the owner of that Ferrari's story. Success looks like the countless years of grinding, on the phone with prospects, scribbling furious notes in online courses, constantly growing, constantly grinding. The long days and late nights, sticking it out when times’ are tough. And that is only one image of success.

   Success looks like the teacher who is laughing with her students, celebrating top grades across the class. Taking in the look of jubilation on those students faces, knowing that her years of study, late nights marking tests, staying after school and sacrificing lunches to help others learn. That is the image of success, because she chose to be a teacher. Because she worked hard to earn those cheers of her students.

   Success looks like the glitter falling from his hair, because he defined success as being his daughter’s father and best friend. The make-up shining his cheeks to a rosy red, pink lipstick smeared across his face. The endless clean-up, driving to early morning practices, late nights listening to her first heart-break. All the behind-the-scenes care and support. No flashy picture captures that. But the laughter and memories made, that is success. That is his success. That is the success he chose.

   These are the stories of success we don’t see as we scroll through the day’s social media posts. But these are the real successes. So let me ask you, what does success look like? What does success look like for you?

Checking the Rearview

Checking the Rearview

   At Business Minded we talk a lot about where we’re going - mapping out our direction and taking consistent action to reach our planned destination. Small consistent wins are the only way to achieve the highest Return on Your Investment possible. That forward focus is essential to drive to the right destination, as picked by you.

How do you know you're on the right track?

   To stay on track for our success, we also need to remember to check the rearview every once in a while. This is essential for several reasons. The main reason is to appreciate the distances we’ve come. Reflecting on our accomplishments is a good way to appreciate the efforts that we’ve put in to get to where we are, and to remind us that we can, we will, achieve our goals through consistent action.

   This action of reaffirming why we started, where we’re going, and where we came from helps us stay grounded in our pursuits. And while our past doesn’t need to define our future, we shouldn’t forget the trials and tribulations that made us who we are.

   Checking the rearview also assists us in our future goal setting and plans. As a quote from Matthew Kelly in his book The Long View:

“Most people overestimate what they can do in a day, and underestimate what they can do in a month. We overestimate what we can do in a year, and underestimate what we can accomplish in a decade.”

- Matthew Kelly, The Long View

   When checking the rearview, we can see the level of investment that has provided the current returns. If we want to accomplish more, we can gauge the increased investment required to hit those larger, more inspiring goals.

   So look up, glance at that rearview and remember why you started. Remember how far you’ve come. And remember what it took to get there.

   Now draw on the strength built in your accomplishments, and more accurately plan out your goals, knowing what it took to get here. Decide what level of investment you need to hit the next milestone in your life, and take action. That new lofty goal ahead of you, that will soon be a map-point in the rearview as well.

Defining your Career

Designing your Career

   Unless you're the beneficiary of a reclusive billionaires' estate, you're likely going to have to work. Your career is therefore an essential part to your success plans for the future. Are you on track to reach those career goals?  

   Knowing if you are on track to reach your career goals starts first with designing the career, and the life, you want to live. So what is the process to design your career?

   The process of designing your career falls into 3 steps:

  1. Set your career Goals
  2. Modelling the success of others
  3. Investment in your skills

   The first step to leading a successful career, the first step to success, is to work out what your goal actually is. The importance of this first step cannot be stressed enough. Often times our careers are treated haphazardly, accepting work and jobs based on a select few criteria. Settling into a career because "that's what my parents wanted", or following in their footsteps. Or we chase career progression for the paycheck, and the prestige we think that buys us.

   How many times have we answered that "Where do you see yourself in 5 years?" question with where we think that job will lead? How many times have we looked into the future without asking if our path is heading where we actually want to go?

   Once we have taken some time to determine where we want to be professionally, we need to evaluate what it will take to get there. Fortunately, every next step that we want to take has already been taken by someone else. At one point in time or another, someone has walked a similar path to the one we're headed down. And this is excellent news. Now we have an example to follow, the skills, the knowledge, and the understanding that our dreams are possible.

   The second step to designing your career is best summed up by Les Brown, as he reflects on a lesson his mentor taught him,

"Success leaves clues. Always listen to, and follow people who are doing what you want to do, at the level you want to do it."

Les Brown

   Studying those who are standing where you want to stand will provide a clear picture as to what skills you will need to develop. That knowledge is invaluable. Write down those skills. And on the page before you will be a list of skills, a road map to the successful career that you hope to live.

   Finally the third step; investment in your skills.

   This is by far the most time consuming, expensive, and exhausting step. To learn the skills needed to be successful, we need to continually invest in ourselves. Investment in the audio programs, the mentors, the books, and the courses that develop our skills. These investments are essential to becoming more valuable, more capable of following the road map to our success.

   The first two steps have provided you the road map to the career you aspire to. But the blueprints to your career are only valuable if you put in the time and effort required to build the skills necessary. This third and never-ending step of investing in yourself and your abilities will result in you working, and living the life that you desire.

The Roller Coaster of Emotional Investing

The Emotional Roller Coaster of Investing

   What happens when the emotional roller coaster of investing runs out of control? Are you at risk of losing thousands?

   Illustrated in a 2018 Forbes article, The Cycle Of Market Emotions: Where Are We Now?, the emotional roller coaster was presented in emoji form. The dangers of falling to any emotional bias when investing is something everyone should be aware of. While we looked at an extreme example in our Three Parts to Growing Your Investments, falling victim to emotional investing can have catastrophic consequences.

The Cycle of Market Emotions

   The most prevalent form of emotional investing is relying too heavily on the market timing lever. As you can see in the above image, when the market is on the rise (a bull market), investor confidence is high. When this happens, most would logically assume that it is a good time to invest. After all, why not? The 6 o’clock news keeps telling us that the market is hitting new record highs every day. And with all that happiness and wealth being generated, it sure sounds like a good idea to jump on the ride!

   But record highs mean that prices are up. You are actually paying a premium to enter the market. While we drive the extra 10 minutes to a store further away to save 10% on shoes, we’re suddenly prepared to pay extra for our investments?

   On the other hand, when the markets are crashing (bear markets), our confidence is low. Prices are dropping and the Wall Street media yells and screams day after day that the end of times is near.

   Looking at the above rationally, the best time to get in is when stocks are on sale, or at the lowest price point. This of course goes contrary to our emotional preferences, since when the prices are lowest we’re stuck somewhere between the anger, frustration and sorrow of how much we’ve “lost”.

   Taking rides on the emotional roller coaster, trailing the ups and downs of the cycle of market emotions is exhausting. While the highs are euphoric, the feeling when the market, and our stomach drops out from beneath us is exhausting. Financial success is therefore not climbing on the emotional roller coaster. Instead, routine, automated investing will help average out the cost of our investments and capitalize on long-term economic growth. All while weathering, and prospering, through economic winters.

   Don’t lose your money and your mind. When the roller coaster of emotional investing sends others into a spiral, trust in your automated system to steer you to financial freedom by the end of the ride.

Dissect your Successes

Dissect your Successes, Identify what is working, and what is not.

   Setting goals puts us on the right road. This we know. Success only ever lies down a path we choose to walk. But once we achieve those initial successes, the journey is far from over. There are two essential elements that must follow each achievement, Celebration, and Dissection.

   Taking time to celebrate our successes adds to the reward of achievement, and helps motivate us to continue achieving so that we can continue celebrating. And celebrations are fun. The road to success is often difficult, grueling, exhausting, and sometimes demoralizing. Pausing long enough to smell the roses and raise a glass to our accomplishments helps us to center ourselves for the next challenge.

   The other element is dissection. As iconic billionaire investor Warren Buffet has been heard saying, we need to dissect our successes, and failures. The dissection process shines a spotlight on what went right, and what didn’t. This learning helps us understand what we do well, where our skills and abilities are strongest, and what needs to be improved. This dissection of our successes leads us to capitalizing on strengths, outsourcing or improving on weaknesses, and ultimately leads to more success.

   But how do we dissect our success? If you have a Success Coach, talking through the challenges and obstacles will help you process your efforts, your accomplishments. Regular check-ins will keep you focused on the important elements, identify strengths and weaknesses, and put together an action plan to perform optimally.

   Our Business Minded coaching program has the touch points and insights to help dissect your successes, to set yourself up for even more accomplishments in the future.

   Even if you don’t have a Success Coach, you should still be dissecting your successes and failures. At regular intervals, you should pause and reflect, writing down the challenges you are facing, and the progress you’ve made towards your goals. This focused journaling will help you structure your thoughts, letting you objectively look at the challenges you’ve faced and those you are still facing. And why write this down? Even if you never plan on reviewing your notes, the process of writing causes you to slow down. If you’re anything like me, your mind can race ahead at a million miles a minute, and at that pace it’s very hard to pick up on the small details, the small wins and losses you see during every step. The forced slow down with a pen and paper, or even the rhythmic keystrokes, will apply the brakes just enough to see some clarity while you dissect your successes.

   Like anything, this process gets better over time. The more you practice, the better you become at learning your own strengths and weaknesses. Armed with these insights about yourself, obstacles become easier to overcome in the best way for you. Those achievements start becoming more frequent, giving you more to dissect, and perhaps most importantly, more to celebrate.

   Dissecting your successes and failures helps illuminate your strengths and weaknesses. Spend time with your success coach, or grab a pad of paper and scalpel, or pen in this case, and begin dissecting. As you practice, you sharpen your skills and abilities, bringing more success into your life.

Setbacks vs. Step Backs

   At the surface, there is a vast difference in suffering a setback, and taking a step back. Step backs are a conscious realization that your current approach is not yielding the results you want, and that you need to adjust your efforts. Step backs are needed to get perspective on what is truly important, and chasing after it with renewed fervor.

   Setbacks on the other hand, setbacks hurt. Setbacks sound like failure, like the challenges you face have knocked you down. And maybe they have. But now that you’ve stumbled, now that you have been knocked back, maybe even flat on your back. When you stand up, and you will stand up. Take a moment, take a look around. Notice where you are?

   You’re standing in the very place you would have been if you had simply decided to take a step back. Sure you hit that problem hard. Sure it hurts. But you’re in the same spot as you would have been if you hadn’t charged so hard. So stand up. Look around, refocus on what is truly important to you. Adjust your approach, and keep on chasing that dream.

   And remember this lesson, there really is no difference between a setback and a step back.

And you will stand up.

   So charge. Charge after what you want. Because if you take the time to decide what is important to you, plan your approach, and charge. If you do that, the pain you could feel is minimal, or you could bust through those challenges that might otherwise have caused you to hesitate. You could knock those obstacles aside with the power of decisive action.

   You might charge headlong into a setback. Or you just might charge right on through. You might charge over that obstacle that would have caused a step back. Or not, and you’ll end up in the same spot you were heading for all along. Only faster. Because at the end of the day, there is no difference between a setback and a step back. But you could just arrive where you want to go a whole lot sooner if you don’t fear the setback.

Who are the three people we all need in our lives?

   When we set about building our professional networks, there are a few key roles that we need to fill to set ourselves up for optimal success. These three roles are: a mentor, a coach, and a cheerleader.

   Finding and engaging with a mentor is one of the more popular professional development elements. These mentors are individuals who have the expertise in one or more areas of focus for our professional lives. They have the knowledge of the mistakes that they have made on their journey, and that wisdom can help us avoid the same mistakes. A smart person will learn from their own mistakes, the most successful persons will learn from others mistakes, so as to avoid those pitfalls. Mentors are relied on for advice, and looked up to as examples of what you hope to achieve.

   When dealing with mentors, they are best utilized with smaller, more infrequent interactions at critical times. Most of the mentors that we seek out are busy professionals themselves, and therefore lack the time to help with the day-to-day challenges we face. And their role isn’t to hand hold and do the work for you, a mentor gives solid advice based on their experiences, and lets you take action yourself. Based on these actions, a mentor will also help you pull out the useful lessons learned. Learning from their mistakes, acting upon their advice, and extracting your own lessons learned will help you optimize your relationship with your mentor. And be sure to share all the successes and failures with your mentor! People love hearing of the successes that their advice helped you achieve.

"There are few obstacles capable of standing against human willpower, but when that willpower starts to fade, you need a coach to keep you pushing forward."

   The second person you need in your life is a coach. Coaches are more hands-on than mentors, and while you are still the one putting in the effort, your coach will help you stay accountable and focused on the goals. The best coaches will help provide the focus to achieve your goals, working out what obstacles you are facing and helping determine the next steps to overcome those obstacles. By keeping you focused and accountable for both action and results, a coach is an essential component of any successful persons team.

   Coaches are also great for telling you the hard truths that other friends and colleagues won’t tell you. A good coach isn’t concerned about hurting your feelings, they want you to succeed, sometimes even in spite of yourself. This doesn’t mean they’re a drill sergeant, but if that’s what it takes, your coaches are the ones to yell, scream, and push you to be better. Your coaches are in your corner, pushing you to surpass any obstacles. There are few obstacles capable of standing against human willpower, but when that willpower starts to fade, you need a coach to keep you pushing forward.

   The last person you need in your life is a cheerleader. These are the people that you can talk with, who support you no matter what. They are always in your corner, encouraging you to be the best you can be, but also there to help you up when you stumble. Your cheerleaders are often friends who are genuinely excited for your success.

   Of the three people you need in your life, the cheerleader is the hardest to find. Mentors that you have a connection with are excited at the prospect of sharing their knowledge and experiences, especially when they see how it helps you succeed. Coaches are always eager to push their clients to greater successes. Holding you accountable to yourself and your dreams is an exciting prospect for the best coaches, and we’re eager to push you to greater heights. Cheerleaders on the other hand, these are the friends and partners that support you no matter what. Certainly the most valuable, but also the hardest to cultivate because they can’t be bought or sold. Ingratiating yourself into a community with similar interests and aspirations helps you meet like-minded individuals who you can support, and whom will in return support you.

   So as you build your team, your professional network, keep in mind these three roles. Who is your mentor? Who do you trust and respect, whose advice will guide you through the tough choices? Who is in your corner, coaching you to greatness? The coach(es) who push you past your limits, the coaches who hold you accountable in your journey for success. And who is your cheerleader supporting you and cheering you on? Who will be there to lend an ear when the times are rough, and to raise a glass when successes are realized?

   Your mentors, coaches, and cheerleaders all have one thing in common, we all want you to succeed.

What is the best investment?

   There are so many options for investing, the choices can be overwhelming. Stocks? Bonds? Real estate? Foreign currency? Or, weed stocks because we overheard a tip from our local barista? Oh! And don’t forget bitcoin, we could all be rich with bitcoin! Or we could be broke. Depends on the day. So when we invest in our future, which option is best?

   The list above has actually left out the best investment you can make. And no it isn’t rare metals, stamps, watches, or baseball cards. The best investment that you can make is, you.

Investing in yourself is the safest investment that you can make. And the ROI on that investment is unbeatable in the marketplace. And the best part? That investment can come in many different ways.

When you consider where you are in your career, does someone in your company make more money than you? Your boss, or their boss? Or for the self-employed, is there anyone doing something similar who is more successful? Investing in your skill set makes you more valuable, which you can use to command higher earnings. And those gains, just like investments, they compound. The better you get, the more valuable you are, and the higher your earnings will go.

The best investment that you can make is, you.

   You can also invest in yourself in other ways, that aren’t solely based on career progression. Take fitness for example, the more physically active you are, the lower your risk of costly health issues. These investments cost little more financially than a pair of running shoes, although a personal trainer might be handy for some. But these investments come more in the form of time and mental energy dedicating yourself to a healthier lifestyle. The return on investment (ROI) you will see here comes in the form of cost savings, with lower healthcare bills. And a not insignificant opportunity cost of being productive when you would otherwise be sick.

   Any area of our life can be improved with investment, and the returns can be exceptional. Want to eat healthier? Hire a nutritionist, or take a cooking class. Want to be more spiritually in tune? Go on a retreat, or speak to a counselor. No matter what area of your life you want to invest in, there are options and/or coaches for that. Find a coach or teacher that will help you become a better version of you, and enjoy the return on investment for the rest of your life!

   You may find yourself asking; if investing in ourselves is the best investment possible, why are these investments overlooked so frequently? The returns on investments in ourselves aren’t track able the same way as investing in stocks or real estate. Those have real purchase prices and selling prices, the difference being our gains or losses. When we invest in ourselves, how much of our gains, or savings from living healthier, can be attributable to our good decisions? How much of our “gains” would we have experienced naturally? The ambiguity of personal development causes many people to fail to invest in themselves as much as they should.

   Part of any solid financial plan involves investing in yourself. So whether that’s an extra course, hitting the gym, simply reading more, or hiring a coach - be sure that you invest in your future success by investing in you.

The Staircase to Success

   Previously in The Appetite of Success I shared the pathway to becoming an achiever. For the sake of brevity, I omitted two crucial elements, which will be dealt with here. If you haven’t read The Appetite of Success, I would strongly recommend doing that first.

   If you recall, we looked at the journey from Newbie to Achiever, following the Motivated Equilibrium line. (Refresher image below:)

Motivated Equilibrium

   The journey, as we discovered, was a series of increasingly challenging goals, causing us to develop our skills further. Each of these becomes a step along the path. But in this case, “step” is a literal translation.

Pick a goal that is  more challenging, and build the necessary skills.
Pick a goal that is more challenging, and build the necessary skills.

   The staircase we see is our skills building to surpass each new challenge we set before us. Each step pushes the boundaries of current achievement, the Motivated Equilibrium line, then we continue to grow our skills incrementally before taking the next challenging stair up the staircase. As we take each new step, conquer each new challenge, we gain a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. This feeling of accomplishment helps us look towards the next step, and grants us the perseverance to stick with our craft, building more skills to take us to new heights.

   When taking stairs, in life and in our metaphorical sense, too many stairs at one time will leave you stumbling. This is why you cannot simply jump up entire staircases. Nor can you build skill and charge up too many steps at once, as fatigue will set in and cause you to falter.

   And faltering brings us to our next crucial element, landings. Not all skills and endeavors are destined to bring us to greatness. Indeed, we need to focus on just a few core staircases that lead us to our highest levels of achievement and success. That means some of our areas of interest we need to either abandon, or at least hold at a level that is acceptable. Let us quickly define acceptable in the instance of this article as: the point where desire equals effort + time. The landing we hold should maintain our desired skills without costing too much effort and time. If it costs more time and effort than we want (desire) to dedicate, then we need to scale back to a landing that is comfortable.

Maintaining your skills requires consistent practice at the same level of challenge.
Maintaining your skills requires consistent practice at the same level of challenge.

   Landings require some effort to maintain our skill level, but we are no longer devoting extra time and effort to grow our skill base. This means we are holding skills constant without striving for achievement in this area of focus. To tie this back to our guitar playing example, progressing along our motivated equilibrium between challenge and skill, but recognize that we would rather be an exceptional <insert profession here> mother, father, teacher, athlete, entrepreneur, lawyer, developer, salesperson, etc. Our efforts should be focused on that staircase, but since guitar playing is still important, we need to continue to practice to maintain our skills. Instead of playing Through the Fire and the Flames by DragonForce, perhaps we’re comfortable strumming out some Beatles around a summer campfire. This means we still need to practice, but to a lesser extend, freeing up time and energy to continue along the path of who we truly want to be. To thrive, to continue to climb upwards along your chosen staircase that is important to you.

The Appetite of Success

   We’ve all heard the idiom before:

Don’t bite off more than you can chew.

   And how wise those words are. The issue with biting off more than you can chew is the struggle to swallow. Many times, tackling an obstacle that far exceeds our skill level is too daunting, and when that happens we give up. We step back from the challenge, and take smaller bites. This is especially true when setting goals, as too lofty a goal will leave us standing slack, overwhelmed by the enormity of the task. And in that paralyzed state of overwhelm, nothing gets accomplished.

   But the reverse is also true. Goals, real goals, goals that mean something to ourselves. Those goals need to be challenging enough to keep us striving to be better. Taking too small a bite leaves us malnourished. This malnourishment shows up in the form of boredom. Overcoming obstacles that are so far beneath us that we glean no sense of satisfaction from their accomplishment. Without the sense of satisfaction, we become complacent, and our skills deteriorate.

   So there we have it, don’t bite off more than you can chew, and eat enough to keep from starving. There exists in the middle a space of not just surviving, but thriving.

   To help visualize the line that we all need to strive for in our own lives, the below graph shows the quadrants we are looking at:

Motivated Equilibrium

   Arguably, at birth we start with no skills, and no real challenges. From there, we start to take on more challenges, and gaining more skills. This is the same in any new endeavor, regardless of age. From the first thought, to progressive realization of a new skill. If we follow the Motivated Equilibrium line carefully, we progress from being new to the challenge, through to being a real achiever. Where we get off the line, or come to a plateau is completely up to us.

   How does this shape up? Forgive my musical ignorance, but we will use guitar playing in our example.

   We begin with the idea of playing a guitar. Never picked one up, never strummed a chord, we’re a newbie (new to this). From the first moment we decide to learn this skill, we enter the lower left quadrant. At this moment, biting off more than you can chew, trying to play Through the Fire and the Flames by DragonForce. This song would be so completely overwhelming, for virtually everyone, this would be the point where they stopped trying to play the guitar.

   On the flip side, let’s fast forward a few (or a lot of) hours of practice. So now we can hit every chord with our eyes closed. Our fingers know the struts and the strings, the sound is as familiar as our own voice. If all you played from this point forward was Mary had a Little Lamb, it wouldn’t take long for boredom to set in. All those skills you had developed over hours and potentially even years of practice, those skills would eventually falter. You would become rusty, and your skills would deteriorate.

   We see this deterioration every day, the lessons taught in past schooling that no longer seem relevant. I couldn’t tell you the first thing about Canadian French, or the nuances of biology, or even guitar playing. My once acquired knowledge and skills faded into boredom with misuse, and eventually deteriorated.

   So where does achievement lie? And how can we retain and grow our skills? We need consistently evolving goals and challenges, only within reach. These cause us to strive for greater skills, which in turn help us push our goals further out as we take on bigger and bigger challenges. This walk along the path of Motivated Equilibrium leads us to excellence. But that walk is a tightrope. Too much or too little, and we’ll stall, or fall. If we stick with biting off exactly what we need to become better versions of ourselves, throughout the passage of time and effort, we will not only survive, we will thrive.

Milestones and Mile Markers

   Have you ever had the chance to watch an amateur marathon? The most interesting place to watch is, of course, the finish line. To see the runners striding in, achieving their victory as they excitedly cross the finish line. The marathon is, for many endurance runners, a crowning achievement. That inflatable banner with the word “FINISH” inked across it, the realization of a goal accomplished. And it is beneath that finish line that we can see the true measure of one’s goals.

She wasn’t running for the finish line, she was running through the finish line.

   I had the opportunity recently to view such a finish, and the insights that parallel so perfectly into our own lives with our own goals, our own unique challenges. To highlight these insights, we need to look no further than two exhausted runners entering the home straight. Feet striking the pavement, blood deafening as it pumps through their ears, the cheers of excited fans boosting adrenaline. As these two runners stormed down the final straight, an interesting thing happened. The lead runner looked at the finish line. This was his destination, this was where he needed to get to, his final mile marker. As he approached the last milestone that would signal the completion of the marathon, he eased off just a touch, letting his motion and exhausted legs coast across the finish line. The runner who was lagging as she entered the home stretch however, she wasn’t looking at the finish line. She wasn’t looking at the other runner. She was looking beyond the finish line. I could tell by the distant look in her eyes that she wasn’t running for the finish line, she was running through the finish line.

   And sure enough, 20 meters left, 10 meters left, the gentleman let off his pace and she flew past him. Beating him by almost a full second.

   Now this wasn’t a race between the two. By their high fives and congratulations at the end, it was clear they didn’t know each other. So why then did the lady, who was losing coming into the final straight, win? It might have been competitive drive. But likely it was something more than that. She won for the same reason some people hit their goals and some people exceed their goals. She won because she wasn’t focused on the finish line, the mile marker, the milestone. She was focused on exceeding her stated goal. She was focused on excellence.

   Therein lies the important lesson. If you want to succeed, I mean truly succeed in any endeavor, you need to look past the next milestone. You need to see the horizon beyond the next mile marker.

   It is important to appreciate the milestones that keep us on track. That is why we set goals, and break them down into bite-sized, actionable steps. These milestones that line the path to our vision of an ideal life keep us on track, and not overwhelmed. But once we have momentum going, it is important to keep striving for excellence, to keep pushing past the next finish line and into the life of our dreams beyond.

Why you need a Success Coach

What is a Success Coach? & Why do you need one?

   When we look at the success framework, it is clear that success is achieved by taking strides towards your ideal future. This ideal future is why success means such vastly different things to different people, but the similarity is that each of us is striving for a future where we want to live. We set our sights on a future target, we create SMART goals, and we begin taking action. Now that we’ve set goals and are working towards them, we’re in the success game. And as with all truly great performers, regardless of their craft, they all need a coach to help.

   The greatest singers have vocal coaches, someone that helps them refine their craft so they continue to be at the top of their game. Athletes that excel, they have coaches, many coaches. Each there to help the individual player excel, whether that be fitness, skills, mentality, or other discipline. The prevalence of coaches among top performers is without fail, which highlights an important element to success. Nobody achieves success alone.

What does a Success Coach do?

   As defined by Oxford dictionaries, a coach is “an instructor or trainer; to give (someone) professional advice on how to attain their goals.” Simply put, a coach ensures that the efforts are accurately directed towards the eventual goal, and keeps the performer, you, accountable. And that is where a success coach comes in.

   Success Coaching is focused on helping identify the most impactful behaviours and actions to achieve your goals. This means working closely to map out SMART goals, and breaking those goals down further into more manageable actions that you can held accountable for daily or weekly. Tracking your progress is an important element of any coaching program, to ensure that you are actually making progress, and not simply movement.

   What does this look like in practice? For illustrative purposes, we’ll use a career goal of: Develop the skill-set of a manager/leader within 12 months. The success coach would work with you to identify the skill-set required; communication skills, delegation skills, time management skills, and so forth. Focusing on one skill at a time, the behaviors you would be held accountable to by your coach might be communication, with weekly presentations, reading requirements, and effective email writing practice. Breaking the learning down into manageable pieces, your coach forces you to become more than you are right now, so that you can be more successful than you are right now. And to top it off, the best coaches help you reach your goals without sacrificing the important areas of your life. This isn’t a “survive on 4-hours of sleep” regimen, nor a “sacrifice years of fun and enjoyment for the hustle.” Success is hard work, but it doesn’t need to come at the cost of your life.

Where do you find a Success Coach?

   A success coach can be anyone who is able to help you sharpen your focus on your goals, and holds you accountable for their achievement. Some of us have friends or partners that are able to help us reach for higher levels of achievement. If that isn’t an option, success coaches and accountability partners can be found online, or through professional organizations.

   Just as not all fitness coaches are right for everyone, not all success coaches are the right fit. Be sure to ask how your coach plans to help you achieve your goals. It is essential to find a coach that supports your goals and vision, and can give you tangible, actionable insights as to how to achieve success. And perhaps most importantly, you need to be willing to hear constructive criticism from your coach. Which means the criticism must be offered by your coach, and listened to by you.

*Consider this a cautionary note, before you put undue stress on relationships or friendships. You can always part ways with a coach you’ve contracted, but it’s much harder to part ways with a friend.

   If you’re interested in seeing how our success coaching programs at Business Minded work, check out the page here.

   As you embark on your journey to reach new heights, just remember, that vision of the future you’re working towards? It’s worth it. And when the road seems too steep to push on further? You aren’t alone, you’ve got a success coach ready to help you push for new successes.

How to Set Goals SMARTly

SMART Goal setting

   We’ve talked about goal setting as essential for success. Those 5-year goals, defining what success means to you. These are your plans for the future. These grand goals you set for yourself years from now can often be broken down further, into milestone goals, and ultimately behaviors. But before we can get granular with our goal setting endeavors, we need to ensure our goals are well formed. Without well formed goals, we run the risk of misalignment of our actions, and ending up off-course.

   So what does it take to set well-formed goals? The most popular framework that is used in goal setting is the SMART framework. By using the SMART framework outlined below, you can ensure that your goals, when executed upon, will lead you to your envisioned future.

Let’s look at the framework:

   Specific: Each goal needs to be as clearly defined as possible, so that you will know when you have achieved the desired result. You should be focusing on the What, Where, and When questions. For example: Running isn’t sufficient. Running the Boston marathon next year provides a specific element so that you will know when you have succeeded.

   Measurable: Determining the specifics of the goal should have provided a unit of measurement so that you will know when you have fulfilled your goal. In the above example, Boston marathon is the unit of measure that, once reached, will spell out success for your goal. For many of us, success is more than a finish line though, and having a measurable benchmark is more appropriate. These maintenance goals are just as important, and might involve staying a certain body size/weight, attending X social outings in Y time frame, or maintaining a base level of financial wealth.

   Attainable: Here is your action plan, as well as an honest look as to how realistic the goal is. It is important when setting personal goals to only include aspects that you can directly control. The other aspect of Attainable, is answering How you plan to reach your goal.

   Example: Your goal might be to learn valuable skills to pursue a career in Nursing in 2 years time. Your how in this case might be attending a local school to educate yourself in the various subjects and studies required by nurses. It is important to note that the goal is to set yourself up for a job, not obtain one, as you cannot exert full control over the hiring process.

   Relevant: now is the time to relate this back to your life mission. Will accomplishing this goal help you on your journey? There are so many competing demands for our time and energy, it is important that you do things that drive success in your life, however you have defined that.

   Time-bound: To hold yourself accountable, all goals need to have a deadline. It is much easier to work towards an end target. Having an end target in mind frames the efforts that will be required, such as our 5-year goal setting. Or, as in the case of the above examples, the marathon is set for next year, or pursuing a career in two years. These timelines help you work backwards to determine the steps needed now, and also provide a definitive target in mind so the initial steps are actually taken now.

   There it is, the SMART way to set goals. This is the What, Where, When, Why, and How of your goals. It is important to note that adding a Who component when planning your own success is risky, as any goal that isn’t completely in your control requires an extra level of accountability. Whenever possible, refine your goal to ensure that it is something you can accomplish without someone else’s direct influence.

   The Who element will definitely come into play when you are acting as a leader, and helping a team succeed. Whether the team is a family, business, or relationship.

   Once you have your 5-year goals, or whatever future time frame you are using to envision your ideal future, you can begin the process of breaking those goals down further into more short-term goals. These shorter term goals will act as mile markers on the way to your grander success. Mile markers that you can use to gauge and adjust progress along the journey.

   Success lies just down the road you’ve started on. You’ve drawn your road map. You know what needs to be done. Now go, take the first steps towards the future of your dreams.

What is Success?

   Remember those tests at school? Not the sitting down in those cold hard plastic chairs, sharpened HB pencils, and writing examinations. No, those dreaded memories always were followed up with the joyous bragging or crestfallen sheepish jokes about the grades we all received. 50’s, 70’s 90’s, A’s, B’s, or even F’s. Allocations designed to grade us against our fellows. And therein lies the problem. Pass or fail were set criteria. But set by someone else.

   Achieving a passing grade was commonplace, even the “average” grade was a comparison against other people. People of different interests, different skills, different intellects. We spend the first 20 years of our life chasing after someone else’s definition of success.

   And then suddenly we are thrust out into the world. And if grade point averages meant next to nothing before, they mean even less now.

"I had failed, because I failed to define success."

   I can remember those hours of studying I never did. I remember buying the text books I never opened, the classes never attended. All because I defined “success” by someone else’s standard. Looking back now, all I did was fail. Sure, I took that passing grade, but that wasn’t enough. I had failed, because I failed to define success.

   Define success by what that means to you. If that is in an academic setting, perhaps that means success is achieving X% above, or below a pre-assigned “acceptable” level. What did that look like for me? I was disinterested in some of the mandatory language courses, so success for me was achieving a 70% or above. But math on the other hand, I could only consider myself successful if I achieved 83% or above. That was my definition of success.

   Financially that could mean making enough to support a family, own a property, take a vacation, dine at upscale restaurants. Physically this could be a certain weight or body fat percentage, a certain time on the track, the number of plates on the rack. In your career maybe it’s reaching a certain level, earning $ X amount, or having an impact in your field. No matter the category, this is your measure.

   So I implore you to sit down and reflect. Think about what is important to you. Set your own limits, decide what success and failure looks like to you. And then work like hell to make sure you achieve your successes.

5 Year Road Map for Success

Road Map for Success
What is your 5-year Success Road Map?

    Congratulations, You have arrived! This is as true now as it will be 5 years from now. Or 10 years from now.

But wait, where are we?

   The choices you make will determine where that destination is. We cannot change where we are right now, but deciding where you want to be in 5 years will help you align your goals and your efforts to take you in the right direction. We cannot speed up the passage of time, if you have a 5 year vision of your future, that future will come towards you. The only change you can make is the direction you face, so that when 5 years passes you will be standing where you envision it today.

   I’m not sure about the devil, but certainly the recipe for success lies in the details. Planning and mapping out your ideal future is essential for achievement. That is why all our courses start with a structured planning phase. When you map out the ideal future, you are able to make the small, incremental changes to your direction that lead you to a new path.

5-yr goal setting diagram

   Failing to plan for that target in the future will leave you walking down the same path. A slight course correction can easily change your future trajectory for your future self. What does this look like?

   Financially, you could automate some savings. Over time that automatic investment in your future brings you closer to your financial goals, closer to financial freedom. For your health, something as small as taking the stairs each day, or an evening stroll around the block. This moderate amount of movement can help you keep off those extra few pounds (kilo’s). And it could improve your heart health, allowing you to take an extra hike with your family and friends, enjoying those moments with growing children without gasping for air. A small health change today leads to laughter and memories 5 years from now, or 10 years from now, or for the rest of your life.

   In your career, this could be the extra few phone calls or meeting networking prospects, leading to new opportunities, more challenging and fulfilling work. Or a daily meditation or journal that helps keep your stress levels down in the rough times, and helps you more fully enjoy the blessed times. A small change will set you on a better path with your friendships, and most importantly your loving relationships.

   While it may not be doom and gloom if you fail to plan today, you certainly won’t be living your best, richest life without a plan and a dream to work towards.

___________________________

   In the overwhelm of our busy, bustling lives, it’s easy to push this dreaming and planning off for another day. But we must ask ourselves, what is the cost of doing nothing? To that I must answer, the cost is high.

   You can still achieve success. You can still reach your ideal destination.

5-yr goal #2

   But the road to reach your destination is so much harder if you wait. Postponing the “difficult” planning for your future only makes the road much, much steeper. And that extra effort on the steep road? That’s only the fraction of the cost that you experience as you make radical changes later on.

5-yr goal #3

   The real cost is the extra effort that you need to exert to make radical changes later on, plus the cost of missed opportunities throughout the delayed time. How much is an extra year of financial freedom worth? How about years of stronger relationships with friends, family, and loved ones? A stronger mind? Extra years of youthful vigor? More fulfilment from your career?

Do you have a 5-year plan?

   If so, what are your goals and aspirations? If not, take out a piece of paper, think about the important areas of your life and plan out where you would like to be in 5 years. The cost of inaction is too high to wait!

   I want to pass along a dare I was once challenged to.

The Dare to Dream.

___________________________

Share with us in the comments below, what is your Dream?

Return on Investment, Your Investment

   Return on Investment, or ROI, is a fairly common term used when investing. Simply put, you desire a positive growth on monies invested over time. This could be interest income on a loan you made, your house increasing in value, or the stock market paying dividends and increasing in value.

 

   Now we’ll look at the other aspect of ROI, the ways we don’t commonly associate the term. I’m talking about the decisions that you make every day. The decisions that involve some level of financial, time, or energy commitment from you. These are all finite resources in everyone’s life, and while financial elements receive more attention, your time and your energy are even more scarce. And unlike money, when they run out, you can’t get more at the local store. It is this scarcity that drives the need for each decision you make to bring you a positive Return on Investment.

 

   Sounds great, right? But how does this actually look in yours and my daily lives? It’s heading to the gym when you’d rather skip today. It’s saying no to that extra beer or two to make sure you can get out of bed tomorrow without holding your head. It’s flicking the TV off a half hour early so you can read and improve your knowledge and communication. Or not putting yourself in the position to make an impulse purchase that you’ll regret later. It's checking in with the important things in your life to make sure you’re building on a strong foundation.

 

   It is these little successes every day that build into a long-term positive Return on Investment, your investment in you, your life. So go on, make the choices today that leave you wealthier, happier, and healthier tomorrow.