Part 1: First, Slow Down.
Everyone seems to want the same things: Prestige, titles, and money; All the usual trappings of success. These are things what we tell ourselves we need, and we need them all now!
But what about you? What do you really need?
Slow down and think about this – just a little bit.
You Don’t Need Money
The most important insight about money is that no one really needs it.
This is perhaps the most subversive, contrary statement ever. It’s almost sacrilegious. Some will sneer, say “Let’s see you try to eat without it!” then helpfully predict the speaker will end up living in the backseat of a rusted Camaro under a bridge.
I stand by my statement: We don’t need money.
Then, what do we need?
That’s simple. We need oxygen, water, food, shelter, warmth, sleep, healthcare, exercise, access to information, mobility, and close, meaningful relationships. These are things we really need as a human on Earth.
Let’s imagine you’re homeless and destitute. You come to me and ask for money. I give you a crisp twenty-dollar bill. What do you do with it? Do you put it in your mouth and try to eat it?
Probably not. You’d likely take the $20 and exchange it for food somewhere. The money is only a tool to get what you really need.
Money itself isn’t a need. It’s a tool — one that can oftentimes be used to get what you really need. But the use of that tool depends on the wisdom, intentions, and skill of the person holding it.
This should be obvious even to a small child.
But if that’s so – if it’s really THAT obvious – why do we treat money like it’s something we really need?
On your tax declaration form, there’s still no box indicating how happy, healthy, well-fed, well-loved, or fulfilled you are. Still, we treat those numbers as holy. We judge ourselves and others by the numbers in the boxes.
The first step towards real success in any career is realizing money is only a secondary consideration. Money – when used wisely – is a convenient tool that lets you keep doing what you do best.
There are many who avoid considering this point. They try to keep it simple. They’re going for the gold. They’re going to show that seventh-grade bully who taunted them a thing or two. They’re going to prove the guidance counsellor – the one who told them they’d never amount to much — totally wrong. They’re going gain approval from the parents whose love they doubted.
All of these seem worthy goals – to insecure people, that is. Sooner or later, they’ll find the pursuit of money eating away at their real needs. When the getting of money threatens the fulfillment of real needs, you start losing the game.
At that point, the tool is working against you.
Take Time To Learn To Use the Tool
Since we now agree that money is only a tool used to get what we need, let’s talk about what a tool requires to function.
Skill: I’m talking about skill.
Before you start running at top speed towards some monetary goal, take time to develop the skill you’ll need to use the tool.
Now is the time to understand what you truly value. You hear people longing for the trappings of success. It’s common to want these things. But what about you? What do you really want? Who are you, anyway?
The best success stories are from people who took the time to pay their dues and discover what they really valued as individuals before the money arrived. They were practicing the skills necessary to use the tool even before they had the tool.
And the most interesting thing about most of these successful people: When the tool arrives, it’s almost invisible to them. They’re having too much fun just being themselves to care much about boring bank statements. They’ve found much better things than can be captured in a box on a tax form.
Part 2: Getting There
OK, now you’re clear on who you really are. You know what you truly value. You have purged your mind of the voices telling you money is all there is.
Now, you’re ready to start pushing.
Believe me, you’ll be happy you took the time to consider your true self and needs beforehand. The path to success is rocky and demanding. You won’t have a lot of time for reflection once you get going.
Here’s a list of seven points to kick off your stellar rise – starting with the most important.
– Show Up On Time: This sounds simple, but it just can’t be. If it were simple, more people would do it. But in case after case, workers simply can’t be bothered to arrive on-time. Just showing up on time gives you a considerable advantage over the millions who seem to think it doesn’t matter. “If you want to be more productive, then start at the start: get there on time. Whether it is a meeting, a flight, an appointment or a date, ensure you are there when you say you will be there.” – Richard Branson
– Grow in Place: The best way to advance is to master the work of your current job, then start doing the work of the next level above you without immediate expectation of increased compensation. Demonstrate your proficiency before demanding the title or the wage increase.
– Develop Real Relationships: Whether you call it “networking” or something else, you need build relationships with people around you. The more your name comes up as a genuine, likable, and effective person, the greater your chances of advancement. “To be successful, you have to be able to relate to people; they have to be satisfied with your personality to be able to do business with you and to build a relationship with mutual trust.” – George Ross
– Master the Vocabulary: Often, the person who comes off as an “expert” isn’t the one who knows the most about the topic at hand, but knows how best to talk (or write) about it. If you’re the only one at the meeting who knows the definition of the latest acronym-du-jour, you’ll quickly get a reputation as the one who’s really on the ball.
– Get Things Done, Then Tell People About It: Success requires drive and focus. Once you’ve reached a measure of success, be sure to let others know. But here’s a little secret: Spend most of your words thanking other people and showing gratitude for their contributions. You are the one making the announcement, so it will be taken for granted that you were doing the driving. Show gracious respect for the commitments of other people on your team, and they will help you grow.
– Be Confident, Even if You Aren’t: Success requires taking risks. Opportunities aren’t sure things. But you need to exude the confidence that success is yours: It’s just beyond the intersection of Time and Effort. “Feeling confident—or pretending that you feel confident—is necessary to reach for opportunities. It’s a cliché, but opportunities are rarely offered; they’re seized.“ — Sheryl Sandberg
– Don’t Forget the Joy: You’re not going to be successful if you don’t find some joy in your work. Drudgery will burn you out before you can make your mark. A good mixture of effort, determination, daydreaming, and just fun will keep you at your sharpest, and keep you from dropping out of the game. “Paul and I, we never thought that we would make much money out of the thing. We just loved writing software.” – Bill Gates
Following the seven steps listed above with determination will quickly get you where you’ve decided you’re going in Step 1. Followed with vigor, there’s no limit to what you might be able to achieve just using these seven points. But keep in mind that you must take the time to learn yourself and what you really want before you start charging towards the goal. Take the time to decide on the direction that’s right for you.
Also see “How to develop a career plan for yourself“