Oftentimes, expecting success and acting like you are already successful in a new endeavor can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Those who have a positive outlook in life are not immune to calamity, but they know how to get through the storms of life, conquering unfortunate situations with a sword of destiny. Maybe that sounds a little too poetic, but in principle, it’s true.
Each one of us has something unique to offer the world, but often we become so bogged down by responsibilities, that we settle for less than our best. Perhaps we feel overwhelmed by, or unfortunate in, our situations and we allow ourselves to play the victim. We begin to recite the old cliché: “I wish that I knew what I know now…when I was younger.” We become stuck in our past mistakes or failures to launch. It’s a depressing cycle.
There’s nothing wrong with choosing the life and responsibilities that we do. Many people want to get married young, start a family, and want to live the suburban life. That is totally fine. I have never had those desires at the forefront of my life, and that has given me a unique advantage in climbing my career ladder. However, I do think there’s a problem with settling.
“Settling can lead us to become stuck in our comfort zones, and we create a drudgery-filled routine in life, too scared to move beyond the known to the unknown.” -T. Hela
Those who are successful in life are those who refuse to settle, see failures as simply lessons from which to learn, and hate the phrase “comfort zone.” And those same people are the movers and shakers of this world, helping to solve various problems for humanity, mainly because they have found their niche in life and are contributing to the world through their individual genius.
When I began my own business in August of last year, I had two main goals:
1. To be overwhelmingly happy with my work (and thus not feel like I was actually “working”).
2. To make enough money to pay the bills.
However, it’s only been a recent discovery in which I noticed how my own niche and passion were helping to not only solve problems for my clients, but were extending beyond the scope of each project.
For example, when I copyedited a website for a client—my largest project last year—I not only helped my client to have better web copy, but affected every current and future visitor who would be looking at the website.
When I edited a manuscript for another client, I helped her novel’s message and storyline come across more effectively, and also affected future readers by better facilitating them to connect to a great story that will encourage them in their personal lives.
So you see, what I do for a living is much bigger than writing and editing; what I do affects many people, just like ripples in a lake.
But again I ask: Why is it so hard for many to find their “genius?” Why do people settle and become miserable in their careers, have a midlife crisis around forty, and feel like what they do doesn’t contribute much to the world?
I honestly think that it comes down to two simple things:
- Individuals don’t know themselves as well as they think.
- It’s just plain scary to take a leap of faith.
But those two things can be remedied. It’s not easy, and it certainly takes a fair amount of time to develop. Yet, it can be done.
Here’s what I recommend:
1. Get to know yourself: personality-wise and career-wise. There are some great avenues in which to do so:
- The Meyers-Briggs personality test is a great way to begin on the path of “knowing thyself.”
- Clifton Strengths Finder (2.0) is an awesome resource for finding your strengths and applying them to your career and personal life. I have often bought the book for my clients, and have had them take the test so I could better understand their habits and ways of thinking.
- Stand Out is another great way to discover dominant traits/strengths for your work life.
- No matter how few or how many traumas you’ve experienced in your life, invest some time and money into either a coach or therapist. One of my amazing friends, Sarah, has a coaching business which helps people determine their goals and move past obstacles to live a life in which they thrive.
2. Plan for both success and failure.
- As the saying goes, “Failing to plan means planning to fail.” However, keep in mind that failure is not necessarily a bad thing, especially if you’ve prepared. This is different than failing a test because you didn’t study. It means planning for the best and worst, but always hoping and striving for the best. Have realistic expectations and goals, but dream big.
- The more I study successful people, the more I hear them saying the same thing: “Overnight success is contingent upon years of planning.” Though I did take a big leap of faith into starting my own business last year, I had been developing my writing/editing skills for many years, and studied all that I could about business, goal-setting, and time management. And I’ve still not struck that whole “overnight success” thing, but give me another year or two, and I believe I will.
3. Become a People Collector.
- “It’s not what you know, but who you know.” Time and time again, this saying has proven itself on numerous occasions in my life. I quickly learned at a young age just how important it is to know the right people, and develop great relationships with them. It has advanced my career more so than having three college degrees.
4. Give back.
- Be a People Collector, yes, but also be a resource for other People Collectors. By giving of your time and talents, you’d be surprised how many favors you can call in. Before launching my business, I did a ton of pro bono work, and now it’s paying off. By doing pro bono work, I discovered that: there was a market for my skills, my skills were in high demand, and I enjoyed coaching/writing/editing/business building.
- Offer something of value to people, and offer it for free. Do you know something that other people don’t? I’m not saying to give away the bank and never charge for your intellectual property, BUT…divulge some helpful tips here and there. It will hook people, and they’ll feel more confident about hiring you for the full spectrum.
5. Don’t fear the unknown; fear regrets.
- When all else fails, sometimes you just have to take a leap of faith. You have to do something that no one else is encouraging you to do, except for that throbbing feeling in your heart. It’s that feeling pushing you to do something unexpected and risky. It’s the thread that connects all entrepreneurs: the courage to possibly look stupid and fail because you believe so strongly in your idea.
- If you find yourself miserable in your career or life circumstance, ask yourself: What’s the worst that could happen if I decide to take this risk? If you answer any range of outcomes, except for death, then consider how you would plan to overcome or avoid any of the consequences. Losing all your money, looking stupid, failing, etc. Seems to me that death is worse than all those things, if that helps to put things into perspective.
- If you have such a compelling idea to do something—an idea that won’t leave you alone, no matter what—then start drafting out the possibilities. Is it helpful to others? Will it make money and help you pay the bills? Is there a market for it? Do you possess the skills and knowledge necessary for this idea to come to fruition? And if you are missing some skills or knowledge, do you know others who could help you? If you answer yes more than no, you should probably do it.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Asking for help is NOT a weakness; it is a strength. After all, that’s the whole point of becoming a People Collector AND a resource for others. Call in some favors, buy someone a coffee for an hour of their time as they give you advice, ask an old boss or colleague for a letter of recommendation or testimonial.
- Think of all the possibilities rather than all the obstacles!
Like I said before: It’s not easy to be successful, but it’s doable. Can you imagine how different the world would be if we all found our genius niche and offered it to others? If we were all helpful AND successful? Perhaps we would have more time to give back to others and tackle humanity’s problems with real and lasting solutions.
So, my encouragement to you: Look inward first, before looking outward. What can YOU fix about YOU? How can you shape your life and career to be someone you’re proud of…someone who reaches others?
How can you help yourself, so that you can help the world?
Until next time, Keep Calm & Business On!