We have two months left in 2015. Let that sink in for a moment. Crazy, right? I am not here to chastise you over whether or not you checked off all of your new years resolutions or Fall goals or October challenges. Rather, I want us to enhance our attitude towards obtaining and managing success. This is about you, what you want, and how you can go about getting it.
Every summer I collect a number of books, based on my mood, to read. Last summer, as I was preparing to attend law school, I gathered a number of books for self-development. I am not sure if that shows how confident or terrified I was about my life at that time, but I did enjoy reading them nonetheless. I want to share with you three books from that summer and hope what resonated with me might motivate you.
Live Life On Your Terms
The Path Redefined: Getting To The Top On Your Terms by Lauren Malian Bias is an insightful book that portrays one story in modern-day success. Bias shares her personal journey as an entrepreneur in three different fields plus tips and reflections from other successful people. Now, her life story is not similar to mine. I did not have a lemonade stand as a child and I do not come from a business family. Yet, her impressions from what she learned from her experiences resonated with me.
“Always work on improving yourself. Only look to yourself for motivation. Find the connections in your journey, bring them to life in your story, and get comfortable with articulating the evolution of you.”
Seeking constant evolution is just as important as feeling content with showing where you started from and how you have progressed. I have an idea journal. Anytime I have a spark of inspiration, a snippet of a vision, or need to elaborate on why I am worrying, I write in my idea journal. Of course, entries vary from day after day to a few months in between. I actually have been using the same journal for three years since I have yet to complete it. Sometimes, I like to flip back and read over my ideas, goals, and concerns. I find this a bit therapeutic. I can see how long it took to achieve certain goals, what influenced certain projects, and how I repeatedly overcame self-doubt. When we are in the moment, it is hard to see further then what is happening in front of you. The past hurt or joy can be faded or highlighted and future distress or happiness can be faded or highlighted depending on the situation. Keeping a journal, whether it is daily or dedicated to certain thoughts like mine, can really help keep your life in perspective and clarify your priorities.
“It doesn’t matter why the door opens. If it opens, don’t hesitate to walk through it.”
How many times have you come across an opportunity that approached you in a way you had not anticipated and, instead of jumping right in, you paused, second guessed yourself, or talked yourself out of believing what had happened? Since we are all family here, I will admit that I am raising both of my hands. For the longest time, I always felt like I was not ready. I don’t have the skills yet. I don’t have the experience yet. I have not met the right people yet. I am not in the right place yet. It was like everything had to be aligned, from my life to my career to the stars and the planets, in order for me to feel confident in jumping on an opportunity. Do you know where that left me? Disappointed. I blamed myself, but for the wrong reasons. To get out of that funk, you need to admit how much of a boss you are. Have you thought about all the things you do on a daily basis on your own? You are brilliant. Waiting for permission only leads to missed opportunities. You have the authority. Use it.
“Evaluate and define what impact you want to have on the world and on the lives of others.”
Similar to what I said in a previous post, I think it is important to aspire to contribute to something bigger than yourself. Do not wait until after you make it big, or earn a certain income, or move to a certain neighborhood to make an impact. You can influence others now. Your legacy starts now, actually it started yesterday. What are you leaving behind and pushing forward for others to utilize and be inspired by?
Speak Up For You
Lean In: Women, Work, and The Will To Lead by Sheryl Sandberg received a lot of publicity when it came out. I know some people praised it and others criticized it. I found it insightful and revealing. I think the key to reading books like this is to keep your eye on the bigger picture. I recall critiques complaining about how her lifestyle determined her success and there was no way “regular” people could achieve that. I think you are missing the point if you view books like this in that way. Your story is the most authentic medium through which to share advice, support, and opinion. Just like how I am sharing little anecdotes from my life in this post and previous articles, I know your lifestyle might not be exactly like mine, but I hope you will find bits here and there that you can interpret and adapt to fit what you need. I would like to think this is what best-selling authors are doing as well.
“Every so often, Clara would contact me, always with an interesting point or a thoughtful question. She never asked to get together to “catch up.” She never asked a question that she could have found the answer to on her own.”
Mentorship is an interesting concept. Like I have stated previously, I have not had much luck with the traditional concept of having many mentors to influence my journey. However, I agree that mentoring opportunities come in a variety of people and textures and both parties need to make an effort for it to work. I agree with Sandberg’s notion that as someone who is looking for professional guidance, you need to have something to bring to the table. I have found the most meaningful conversations pertaining to my career have occurred when I was over prepared for the meeting, the person recognized my talent, and we agreed to honestly assess what I needed to do to get what I wanted. Beyond a handshake and a gesture of thanks, the other person might not be expecting anything else. However, I know in the future I will have an opportunity to return the favor and plan to. Bottom line, do not waste your time and other people’s time. Be clear on what you are looking for before you demand someone to be your mentor.
“Talking can transform minds, which can transform behaviors, which can transform institutions.”
Speaking out on issues that concern you has become risky business. The balance between being politically correct and telling it like it is in an era where information is so easily accessible is tricky. I think standing up for what you believe in will always take courage, but we now need to be more smart about it. Your voice can ignite change, but it should also be backed up with facts, experience, and sometimes money. It is easy to share a hashtag or like a video, but what are you doing to enlighten your peers around you?
Put Yourself Out There
Show Your Work by Austin Kleon is a fun-size comical book that gives tips and advice about sharing your work effectively. Since it is geared towards creatives, the way it is illustrated adds to the overall message of encouraging you to put your work on display. The serious and insightful content juxtaposed with the cartoons and quotes is also entertaining and enlightening.
“Build a good domain name, keep it clean, and eventually it will be its own currency. Whether people show up or they don’t, you’re out there, doing your thing, ready whenever they are”
I had to highlight this phrase in the book when I read it the first time. This pretty much sums up the reasoning behind my online presence, creative projects, and ultimate career goals. Being encouraged to “just do you” is easier said than done. It can feel like everything you want is taking forever to happen. Then you fall victim to comparing yourself to others who from the outside seem to be doing what you can do and are being better recognized for it. Some people like to consider this a training phase. I think that mentality still leaves room for disappointment. Instead, I like to think of my time spent working at what I enjoy and what I need to get done as being proactive with my life. Focusing on strategically placing yourself in an angle to be recognized and hired can diminish the passion you initially had for your work. Instead, focus on sharpening your craft, informing your opinions, and refreshing your vision. Don’t wait for permission to shine.
“Learn to talk about yourself. Build and connect to a community that supports, critiques, and loves you”
For me, this ties in with the previous quote. I have always felt uncomfortable about talking about myself. I am not shy, but my suspicion radar is usually on high alert. One way I combat the urge to close up is through blogging. Not only through writing and photography, but also engaging with social media and attending events. I have always felt that my essence and my work are too complex and over qualified for a 20 second elevator pitch or one page resume. However, not telling anyone about yourself does not help you or your work to continue evolving. Instead of feeling like an unsuccessful salesmen when people ask “what do you do?”, I feel more confident explaining my array of talents while describing my blog or a project or an internship. It sounds more tangible and gives the person you are speaking with something to indulge in later if they choose to. I think this also helps build your tribe because you are creating a track record of your interests, views, and skills that others can relate to.
Leaning on your own terms is a life course. I hope you find these tips a helpful starting point.
What do you use to keep your priorities in check? What are you doing to succeed on your terms?