Blazing Your Own Path to Success
I’m happy to share a guest post this week from Naphtali Hoff whose writing frequently appear in my weekly top 5 leadership articles. Here he shares some of the wisdom he frequently gives aspiring leaders and growing executives. Enjoy these tips and check out Naphtali’s new book: Becoming the New Boss – The New Leader’s Guide to Sustained Success.
Be the Leader You Want Your Boss to Be,
Blazing Your Own Path to Success
by Naphtali Hoff, PsyD
Did you ever look around in amazement at people around you that don’t appear to be all that extraordinary yet have achieved extraordinary things? These are people who have greatly succeeded in business, in politics, in the arts, in sports, or in some other space, but in many respects seem pretty much on par with you (or even inferior to you) in terms of their core abilities and talents. How is it, you wonder, that they “made it” in such a robust manner while you continue to middle along in relative obscurity, earning a pedestrian income and feeling somewhat unfulfilled?
Perhaps, you tell yourself, these individuals do possess special qualities that you are unaware of and were able to leverage them to achieve success. Maybe they benefitted from favorable timing, connections, family wealth, or other advantages that helped propel them onto a higher plateau.
Those are the easy answers. Others succeeded more than you because of their superior tools and/or their good fortune. And sometimes they are the correct ones.
However, this can’t be the full explanation. We are all aware of many “rags to riches” stories, accounts of individuals who began their lives and careers with much larger decks stacked against them than we did, yet still managed to do great things. Even if you were to argue that these people are rare exceptions, the “one in a million” who defy the cruel odds of life, their successes remind us that us that greater attainment is possible if we learn to approach things correctly.
It’s also a copout. There will ALWAYS be people out there who are smarter, more talented, and more fortuitous, than you. Especially nowadays, when international talent can be easily identified and accessed, we cannot even rely on our “home field advantage” in order to advance. If you wish to occupy a different plane within your respective occupational or career space, you have to focus more on what you can do in order to get there.
9 Steps to Straighten Your Path to Personal Success
Of course, there is no clear, straightforward path to success, but there are some steps that can help to clear the straightest pathway to your personal success.
- Believe in yourself – It is extremely difficult to get anywhere if you don’t believe deeply in yourself and your abilities. Sometimes, you can use an injection of positivity and support from others to get you started. But at some point you have to be able to sustain your efforts with a profound sense of capacity, especially when you start to experience inevitable setbacks.
- Align objectives with abilities – Obviously, we are not all good at everything and belief alone won’t open most doors. That’s why it’s important to take the time to think about what you are really good at or can become very good at. This includes assessing your existing skills and knowledge as well as your ability to learn new and master new things. It also includes your passion, which is the engine that will ultimately drive your process forward. Seek to align your abilities (current and projected) with your goals so that you can likelier achieve what you want.
- Learn, learn and learn some more – Do as much research as possible about your goals and how best to achieve them. Speak to others who have gone down that path previously to learn from their experiences, mistakes and triumphs. Read related articles. Attend courses and seminars. Seek out apprenticeships for low-risk, on-the-job experience. All of these can help you build efficacy, shorten your learning curve, and strengthen your inner resolve and confidence.
- Set goals – Effort without a clear plan is likely to not produce the desired outcome. Take the time (alone or, better yet, with a coach or colleague) to set clear, actionable goals with clear deadlines and deliverables. This will help you focus your time and energies and motivate you to stay the course.
- Take measured risks – Every new endeavor carries some degree of risk. This particularly true when you seek to rise from good (or not-so-good) to great. So many people never pursue their dreams because they are unwilling to upset their existing apple carts and stretch a bit beyond their comfort zones. Of course, all risk taking should be measured and responsible in nature.
- Work hard – There is no substitute for hard work. It sounds so simple, but this frequently gets overlooked. So often we observe successful people and focus on the here and now while losing sight of the many years of labor and toil that it took for them to break through. Once you identify your goal, be willing to put in the requisite time and effort to make your dreams a reality.
- Learn how to get unstuck – A primary obstacle to growth and success is our propensity to get stuck. Something happens that prevents us from moving forward and we fail to figure out how to get past it and come to accept it as fact. Think of ways around the problem so that you can maintain your progress.
- Take rejection standing up – Just because someone says no doesn’t mean that you’re incapable or that your idea is flawed. Sure, there may be some things that you need to tighten up. It would also be a good idea to get as much information as you can as to why your application or proposal was rejected. Still, countless success stories began with multiple rejections and setbacks at the outset.
- Refine your people skills – This is perhaps the most important quality in the list. Belief, self-efficacy, and perseverance are hugely important qualities in a person’s success, but they can all be undermined by poor or even average interpersonal skills. Despite our increased use of technology, our ability to interact with and gain the support and trust of others remains critical. Learn how to speak so that others will listen. At the end, all things being equal, people will hire or select those that they like and relate best to. Consider it the human side of doing business. And that side isn’t going anywhere fast.
Leadership effectiveness expert Naphtali Hoff is the author of the book Becoming the New Boss: The New Leader’s Guide to Sustained Success. He is President of Impactful Coaching & Consulting, an executive coaching and organizational consulting firm that supports executives who want to increase their leadership capacity and improve their team’s effectiveness. Naphtali is a prolific writer who contributes regularly to SmartBrief on Leadership, the Huffington Post, and other online and print publications. The ideas expressed in this post are adapted from his book.