Whether you are on the career ladder or a committed entrepreneur, the mind-set and skills you need for success are unlikely to be on any test you could study for. Knowing the dates for famous battles or the sequence of the British monarchy are useful memory skills, but today, you can Google them within seconds. Much, if not all, of what you studied for does not give you a competitive advantage in today’s disruptive global economy.
What your education should have taught you is to learn-to-learn. And, what is equally important is the ability to unlearn. Successful people unlearn bad or outdated mind-sets, and unlearn disruptive habits. To do this, you must take ownership. Ownership is the first of the success strategies that you didn’t study for but is a predictor of your career or business success.
Success Strategy #1 – Own it
Ownership denotes control and responsibility. Successful people take ownership of themselves, which includes what they think and what they feel. Many of us were expressly educated to not own these two must fundamental of human powers. We were told what to think and what to feel, often by well-meaning family and teachers.
If you are reading this, you are conscious, and consciousness allows you to monitor your thoughts. This is essential to success as not all thoughts are equal. You might be standing on a balcony of a tall building and notice the thought, “What would it be like to jump off?” This is clearly not a healthy thought to follow through on, and hopefully your next thought is in line with this conclusion.
You might be looking at giving a presentation to a boss, client or investor, and you catch yourself thinking, “I’m no good at this, I’m going to tank.” This kind of thought is not going to prepare you to be successful. Your consciousness could allow you to replace this thought with, “I know my stuff”, and “how can I best prepare for maximum influence?”
Owning your feelings is equally important. How many times have you said something like, “He makes me angry”, “She makes me frustrated”? This is understandable as it seems logical that someone else’s behavior is the cause your emotional response.
Certainly Hollywood movies promote this view, but it’s disempowering. Why? Because they are your emotions, and if you accept he/she or they can make you feel a particular way, you are a hostage. With some effort you can break the habit of jumping emotionally to each stimulus.
You can develop the ability to choose how you respond. Successful people more typically would experience with curiosity, “I wonder why he did that” rather than “He made me angry!”
Success Strategy #2 – Listen
You may remember studying for an oral presentation test, but never for a listening test. Hearing is easy but listening is hard, and it’s very important. When you listen, you learn. Also, if you listen effectively, when you do speak you know what your audience is thinking and feeling and can acknowledge this before making your point. A much better influence strategy than talking over people – don’t you agree?
Lack of listening leads to conflict or missed opportunities, however this is a skill that can be improved. First, set an intention to listen, and second be present. Put you ego and your internal dialogue aside. If you have practiced strategy #1 and calmly taken ownership of your emotions, this will be easier.
Success Strategy #3 – Confidence
Confidence is not arrogance, it isn’t walking into a room thinking you are better than everyone else, it’s walking in and not having to compare yourself to anyone at all!
Confidence, starts from strategies #1 and #2 and is amplified by your posture and the belief in your voice. Confidence is the ‘secret source’ of successful people.
Others will assume your competence by your confidence. Two people can be equally competent but the way they communicate confidence can vary significantly, and the one with the greater confidence wins!
Success Strategy #4 – Do it
The Nike tagline JUST DO IT, may prove to be the most prophetic advice of the century. At school and university we are usually trained to get the right answer, and so is it any wonder that we fear taking action lest we should fail? Yet failing fast has become the new modus operandi in today’s start-ups.
Waiting to get it perfect is no longer feasible or even desirable. And in life, making mistakes leads to progress and faking perfection leads to unhappiness. Taking action, getting feedback, checking assumptions, and making adjustments is the real secret to success. By having this mind-set and behavioral habit, you will develop the resilience to handle whatever comes your way.
Developing a ‘Do it’ attitude and habit requires overcoming fear and increasing your confidence. What I have described here is self-leadership, the ability to influence yourself to achieve your objectives. The self-leader does not say, “I will get good and then I will be confident”. The self-leaders say, “I will take action and build my confidence.”
Success Strategy #5 – Leverage you Impact
If your job is to dig ditches your impact is measured by the depth and length of the ditch you dig each day. The good news is that as we progress in live, we will be paid less for what we do, and more for what we influence others to do. The key to success is leverage.
A pop star is not paid once for singing a song, they are paid royalties on every time that recorded song is played. The coder who writes an app, gets paid every time it’s downloaded or subscribed to. Leaders leverage, every time they develop a member of their team, or coach them to leverage their team.
Successful people are always looking for the leverage, whether that is with finance or information.
Of course there are other strategies for success, but the purpose of this article is to encourage you to look beyond academic qualifications when you are thinking about being successful. Most effective leaders would rather hire for attitude and train the skills, rather than hire on skill and get stuck with the attitude.
So whether you are assessing yourself or considering a candidate, take a moment to ask questions and observe whether there is; ownership, listening, confidence, action and leverage.