SpongeBob and Journey aside, not many people really believe that simply believing in yourself is enough to ensure success. Right? Seriously, you aren’t sitting there, reading this, looking perplexed, thinking, “But my momma said all I had to do was believe in myself! Don’t stop believin’!! Don’t shatter my dream!”
Old people (defined as anyone who is out of school and has been working full time for more than 37 seconds) feel that they are experts on success. Those little punks in school, they have it great! 10 or 12 hours of class each week that they don’t even have to go to, 10 or 20 hours of work, and three nights a week hanging out with their friends on Wall Street! Why do you think your friends who graduated want to go back to school. Work sucks!
Students on the other hand, whether 20 years old or 20 years out of high school will say that they are working harder than ever. Pulled in a multitude of directions by instructors who don’t understand that they have personal lives. School responsibilities, work responsibilities, relationship responsibilities, group/team responsibilities, and sometimes caretaker responsibilities all exert their own gravitational force making the student feel like a nascent star in a juvenile solar system.
The problem is that advisors, administrators, the media, politicians, and doting parents have filled your head with this, “if you can dream it you can be it” crap. I’ve written in the past about my simple performance formula: Performance is the product of effort, ability, and role. In that blog I focused on Role. Let’s take a look at this formula again in terms of what it takes to be successful.
Success is hard work – People who are successful work hard. They don’t just clock in a 40 hour workweek. They don’t watch much TV, even the stuff they record. They don’t play video games for hours on end or meet their friends for Sunday Funday. Even when they are doing something relaxing, they are working. Meetings are about networking and sales; conferences are about developing new business leads; golf is about closing deals. Going to a game? You’re probably there with a client, not your kid. Reading a book? It’s probably not 50 Shades of anything.
Success is active, not passive – We can argue about hard work, which like beauty, is usually in the eye of the beholder. But a better objective measure of effort could be your activity. Look at the things you did yesterday. Make a list. How many of those activities were related to making your dreams come true? You will always have responsibilities like eating, paying the water bill and doing laundry. But if you want to be an Accountant and you don’t see activities related to getting a job as an Accountant, then you aren’t putting forth much effort. Did you work at an internship, did you do homework to master a skill, did you buy coffee for an Accountant to find out how they got their job, did you help organize a speaker for your Accounting meeting, did you look at Accountant job postings to see what skills they need and then put together a plan of action that will build those skills? Or did you go to the Periphery concert with your friends…
Success takes brains – People who are successful are smart. I’m not turning my blog into a Darwin Awards meme, but suffice to say that some part of success relies on your cognitive ability. If you had to take College Algebra two or three times to get a C, you aren’t going to be an Accountant. Matter of fact, you probably won’t do very well in any business program. It really is as simple as that. Are there other programs where you can be successful, yes there are! Go back and answer my, “What do you want to DO…” question. If what you want to do is accounting, you’re out of luck. Pick a new dream. If what you want to do is sales, there are a whole host of programs at UCF that won’t require the amount of math we do!
Success takes vision – More important than brains, though, is the ability to form a clear and precise picture of the future you want based on the realities of what you have to offer that future. I don’t mean what your car, girlfriend, or apartment will look like. I mean the skills you need, the experiences you need, the type of people you’ll need in your network, the environmental factors that you’ll work in. You have to be able to form a picture of the future and then work toward that. And that vision has to be true to what you offer it. If you are struggling in math, it does you no good to map out a degree in Finance. If you don’t really like interacting with people, stay away from sales. And for crying out loud, if you aren’t able to remain objective and deliver bad news every day, stay out of HR.
Success takes focus – As a teenager, Slash played guitar alone, in his room, 15-20 hours per day. Seriously. He was a maniac. Steve Jobs wore the same kind of shirt every day to limit the time he spent deciding what to wear and Bill Gates once estimated that if he dropped a $100 bill his time was better spent leaving it there and going to do what he was going to do rather than stopping to pick it up. Yes, there are people who seem to make it look easy. Hemmingway spent many afternoons in Sloppy Joes and Ben Franklin seemed to always have time for the ladies. But I would argue that even when they appeared to be at play, they were focused on shaping the persona that made them, them (they also were blessed with a generous portion of the “Ability” factor!)
In this case, I’m talking about Role as a passion. Role as your motivator. Role as something that gets you up everyday and makes you do what you need to do. Role as the thing that points you in the same direction day after day, regardless of what’s changing around you. You may be a single parent or a first generation student who is working to pay for school. Those are roles in themselves. But do they push you to excellence in your role as a student, or do they pull time, resources, and focus away from your role as a student? Going back to what SpongeBob said, this is where you need to have “belief.” Actually, it’s more like conviction. Scratch that, it has to be an obsession! When you have a healthy obsession, nothing can get in your way or shake you out of your role. Not kids, work, traffic, stupid teammates, or Madden.
So tell me, what do you want to DO when you grow up?