Different strokes for different folks

If you have different goals than other people, you might as well toss out the traditional playbook and write your own. The traditional book wasn’t written with you in mind, so create your own methods for success. Here are 6 steps that I developed which you may find useful.

Step 1: No fear – First, you must get the right attitude. Fear is what keeps most people from attempting anything out of the ordinary, but you really have nothing to lose. The regular job will still be there if you ever want to go back. That’s the beauty of the beaten path; it’s not going anywhere. As long as you don’t burn your bridges, you can always make it back with a little effort.

Step 2: There is no ‘should’ – Second, simplify your decision-making. Remove ‘should’ from your vocabulary; there is only ‘want’ and ‘must.’ ‘Should’ means one of two things, neither of which is good. One, it’s something you want to do, but it’s either impossible or too scary for you. Or two, it’s something you must do, but you are procrastinating.

As Yoda says, ‘Do or do not. There is no try.’ In order to be successful, you must either act or don’t act. ‘Should’ exists in the nether world in between, and it just creates confusion and indecision. If it’s something you want or need to do, then do it. If it’s not, then don’t do it, and don’t think about it.

Step 3: Redefine success and progress – Before you make a plan, reexamine your definition of success. Within the Corporate Machine, success and progress are usually tied to money and status. You know you are doing well when you get a raise and/or a promotion. This metric doesn’t work if you have non-Machine goals; you could toil for years and not become wealthy or acclaimed. Relate success and progress to things that are important to you, ie. the gratitude of your students or clients. To me, success is doing the best job possible under the circumstances, and progress is constantly improving my craft.

Step 4: Create a plan – When you make your plan, consider the following truths about life. First, life is about the journey, not the destination. As John Maynard Keynes said, “In the long run, we’re all dead.” It doesn’t matter where you are now; what matters is how you got there and where you are going. Second, you’ll have to adjust your plan depending on the circumstances. Too often we hear of people who tasted early success and then proceed to waste the rest of their lives because they didn’t have an ‘after success’ plan. Third, life is a marathon, not a 100m race. Unless your dream has a tight window for success (ie. professional sports and maybe acting), you have your entire life to work with. There is no need to rush things just because someone you know achieved success by the time they were 25. Everyone has a different pace, and it’s perfectly ok.

Step 5: One step at a time – When you execute your plan, just take it one step at a time. Many people think too far ahead and feel overwhelmed about how far they are from their goal.

Step 6: Don’t compare yourself to others – Looking at others and learning from their examples is good, but comparing yourself to them is worse than useless: it’s destructive. If you have chosen to be an inner city economics teacher, how does it help you to compare yourself to your college classmates who are investment bankers? It’s not like they have more ability than you do; they just chose a higher paying job. But the more you think about, the more it will eat at you that they make at least 3 times more than you do. Your plan and definition of success are all you need; you don’t need to compare yourself to others for validation.

Comments welcome!