achieve your career goals and realize your success

You are amazing.

But you don’t have to take my word for it. In fact, eventually, you are going to have to believe it with every fiber of your being.

Why?  Because it is true.

You have a superpower, and it is possible you have even more than one.  The trick is to hone in on those strengths and bring your art to the world and those around you.

We are all capable of art.  As Seth Godin wrote in his most recent book, The Icarus Deception,“The question isn’t whether you are capable of godlike work. (you are.) The question is: Are you willing?”

Let me prove it to you.  

Try answering the following questions (in your head is fine):

  • When was the last time you knocked it out of the park at work (or school)?

  • When were you able to solve a problem, or came up with a creative solution that no one else thought of?

  • Do you have people who come to you for advice or in times of need?

  • Do you have a desire to grow and be an even better person than you were yesterday?

  • Are you ever frustrated when you don’t get done as much as you know you could have?  You are so capable and you know that you could do even more with just a bit more discipline.

Were you able to answer these then I would venture to say that you are pretty capable of awesome, you just have to find the right application for it.  And some companies squash out the beautiful creative sparks, or the our work environment is in opposition to our natural rhythms that we aren’t set up for success.

First, though, before we get to obstacles you have to hone in on your strengths.  

Step 1 – Understanding what makes you *fantastic*

Do you ever have one of those days when you bound out of bed and just know that there is something magical in the air and you can do anything?  

For me, these days usually come after a day when I did something super great – like finished a big task, received praise from someone I consider important, and solved a difficult challenge.

Most of us like to do things that we are good at.  No one wants to do a bad job (although I don’t think enough people subscribe to the thinking of “if you are doing to do something, do it well”; the way my friend Jeff makes his bed comes to mind every time I am putting on some sheets and doing it half-assed).  And all of us seek a sense of meaning in our work (this is a great talk on how important that is at work actually).

Your job needs to leverage your superpowers. 

If it is then there will be parts of your job where you know you can excel and exceed expectations.  And this means you will feel happy and have a greater sense of satisfaction and accomplishment because you will definitely be able to do a job well done.

Most of the times I have seen people fail in roles at both big companies and small, it was because they managed to land a role that was a stretch and did not have enough daily work that played to their strengths.  

The first set of exercises focus on your superpowers, and  how to apply them to your career.

Exercise #1:

  • What are your top 3 strengths?  And give one example of when you have shown each of them recently.

  • Ask 3 friends and 3 coworkers about your strengths and talents.  What do they tell you?  Does it align with what you thought?  You can always ask follow-up questions if you aren’t sure.  To make your life easier I have included an email template to request this feedback.

Hello ______,

I am taking a leap and reaching out.  I am doing some soul-searching and would love your help in my quest.  If you have a few moments could you answer these questions as objectively as possible.  Any insights, ideas or fresh perspective would be wonderful and helpful.  

Thanks in advance for taking the time, please let me know if I can ever return the favor.


Here are the questions:

1. What would you consider my greatest strength?  Can you give one example when I have shown this strength?

2. When did you see me the happiest?  What do you think made me so happy?

3. When have you really seen me shine and be my best?

  • Does your job consistent mostly of work that falls into the class of strengths?  Do you know of any jobs that do?  Read through some job descriptions on Craigslist and see if there are other jobs that could be a better fit.  Go ahead and save these job posts to an Evernote or file on your computer to come back to in the future.

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Step 2 – Identify what really matters to you

Hopefully you believe me a little more about your talents.  However, a key part of success isn’t just about doing what is comfortable, but it is about growth.  

Do you know where you eventually want to go?

Do you want to start a company?

Or do you want to climb the corporate ladder and manage a global business?

Or maybe you want to have flexibility and freedom to write your book, open your nursery, or design your fashion line?

And perhaps you just aren’t sure.  

Your destination can help guide your thinking.  You can interview people in those roles and ask them about what skills made them successful.  How did they get where they are today and what has helped them make that journey?  Then you can create your own map to your destination.  

Just don’t get caught up in the prestige of a role – things can seem glamorous, but every job has high points and low points (since if it was all fun they probably wouldn’t pay you to do it).  So be sure to ask about both the upside and downside in these interviews.

Exercise #2:

  • What is your destination in 10 or 20 years from now?  Visualize your life.  Where do you live, what do you do everyday, and who do you do it with?  Imagine you are there now and looking backwards, what have you achieved or accomplished since 2013?

  • Who are 3-5 people in your future job or career?  Reach out to them and aim to interview 1 of them – even just over email.  Here is a template to get you started:

Hello ______,

I was researching great [insert job/role here] and I came across your profile and contact information and I had to reach out.  Your success and achievements are what I am aspiring toward in my life, and I was wondering if you would be willing to answer 4 short questions for me to guide me on my path.

I know you are crazy busy, so if it is easier to jump on a phone call let me know.  My questions are below.

Thanks in advance for taking the time, please let me know if I can ever help you in any way.

Very truly yours,

Here are the questions:

1. What were the key experiences or traits that helped you achieve [insert role here]?

2. What are your 3 favorite parts about your job?

3. What are the 3 things you like least about your job?

4. Do you have any advice for a [insert your current job here] on her[or his] path become a [insert role here]?

  • What are the skills or traits on your roadmap?  And how do those translate to goals?

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Even if you don’t have a destination yet (even I am still trying to figure out what I want to do), whatever is next for you needs to push you.  You need more than just a paycheck.

You need to shine.

And no matter what you choose success is often determined by:

  • Experience – being able to apply what you learned to future endeavors

  • Your Network – who you know and how they feel about you (so you want to work with smart people going somewhere, and impress them during your interactions)

  • Hard work – nothing great ever happened without effort.

(Although Einstein said success was determined by: “If A equals success, then the formula is: A=X+Y+Z. X is work. Y is play. Z is keep your mouth shut.” so feel free to make your own definition)

So as you evaluate options, look for more. Here are some ideas:

  • The amazing people who have the success you are working to reach.

  • You get to learn a new skill, build new knowledge, and get paid in the process.

  • The chances to meet amazing people in a way that will build your network and open doors to future opportunities.

  • You gain flexibility – more time, part-time, the chance to work on other projects, etc.

  • The work you are doing to do has real meaning.  You make a difference in people’s lives and can come home with a sense of satisfaction that *you* made the world a better place.

Of course there are many others, but with every choice there is an opportunity cost of what you aren’t doing instead, so you should maximize the things that matter and will push you the most.

One technique I love for really delving into all of this is to ask yourself “Why?” 5 times.  

  1. Why do you want that promotion? More responsibility, opportunity and money.

  2. Why do you want more responsibility, opportunity and money?  I want to be respected and make great things happen.  A little more money would be nice too – I could take more vacations and buy things for people around me.  

  3. Why do you want to be respected and make things happen? I like the way I feel when I teach other people (which happens when they respect me and solicit my ideas).  I also like building things that help other people and have a positive impact on their lives.

  4. Why do you want to teach others and make a positive impact? People have done a lot for me and I like paying it forward.  I also get a great sense of accomplishment when I feel like the work I am doing translate into something positive for others.  

  5. Why do want to pay it forward and make a positive impact? Deep down I am a bit insecure so the reassurance and praise makes me feel good and gives me a purpose.  The prestige of the role of mentor also makes me feel accomplished and proud.  My core desire is to be appreciated, accepted and loved.

This exercise can help you get to the root of your goals, and maybe even open other avenues to achieve those same feelings and associations.  And then you can look at the Five Fold How to figure out how to get there.

Exercise #3

  • For at least 3 of your goals listed in the last part of exercise 2, do the 5 Why exercise.  

  • What do you discover?  Do your insights change your goals or plan?

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Step 3 – Put it into action (and my offer to help)

If you know what matters, and you know where you want to do then the last step is taking the steps you need to get there.

Since the actions required are different for each person, it is hard to write a one size fits all plan.  Therefore I am offering my services to you all for free.  If you do all the exercises in this post, and really put in some effort, I will help you.

Share your results from the exercises with me (in a Google Doc is fine) and I will do a Skype/Google Hangout session with you to talk through some strategies to put your plan into action.   

As my time is in short supply these days this I will work with the 10 best submissions I receive. To be considered please send me the documents with your notes, peer feedback, career feedback, and your answers and I will review them and get back to everyone by 5/1.

I am really excited to see the results.  Good luck, and may you accomplish everything you set out to do.

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