What does it take to be successful?
As a father of two teenage boys, I’ve recently found myself gathering key points of what I have learned in life to date, ready to impart my knowledge to help them avoid stubbed toes along the path of life. I know I must be patient, as teenagers are finicky, to find my window of opportunity when I see they are open to listening.
So, I’ll share this with them when the time is right, or maybe they’ll read this blog post sometime soon.
This is a no-brainer. Nothing gets done without hard work. Developing a work ethic is necessary to become good at something. It takes 10,000 hours to master a skill. That is approximately five years of 40 hours per week. Imagine how many skills you could master over a career of 25 years. Imagine what additional skills you could master over those same 25 years if you worked harder and longer. How many more skills would have mastered? Successful people have many.
Grades matter. They open doors to opportunity. But once the door is opened and you start your career, it does not mean learning is over. Learning should be a lifelong commitment. Classes, webinars, podcasts, books, newspaper, blogs, etc. all have content to stimulate our mind, gather how other places do it, hear about the newest ideas, and understand what is going on in our world.
This is a soft skill that gets de-emphasized, because many of us are not born with this skill. Many of us would rather sign up to load and empty the office dishwasher for the rest of their career than present in front of 25, much less 1,000 of our industry peers. We don’t like it because we don’t practice it. Everything gets easier with practice.
There are many opportunities to practice this new developing skill. Joining a local professional organization that lines up with your career is a great place to grow your professional network and add a volunteer position to your resume. Most importantly, it gives you a safe place to practice your leadership and presentations skills. As a volunteer organization, there is less judging, members are more likely to be appreciative of any volunteer efforts; essentially working in a judgement free zone. Challenge yourself to sign-up for a project, take on the seminar responsibilities, and be that lead presenter! Get some reps and get comfortable performing in this setting, so when you are called upon to present in front of the President you will have had hours of practice and confidence to knock it out of the park.
Putting it all together.
Communication skills are not just a presentation. Understanding how to work with and manage co-workers is a major step in the definition of success. The dictator approach does not work for the long-term. Management is “the art of getting things done through people.” Mastering this art takes time, experience, and communication. To be really good at this it takes hard work (see above) and continued education (see above again).
Possessing all of these skills makes you unstoppable and will serve as the foundation of your career. These three points are common sense, but many times over looked in our drive to be successful. Important note: I will tell my teenage boys that the definition of success isn’t measured by your compensation. Compensation will come if you practice and become skilled in all three above. Another important note: these are the same skills to use to be successful in non-career aspects of their life, like marriage and parenthood; arguably the most important areas to be successful in.