Let’s take a look at what it takes to achieve business success in general, and how you can apply these attributes to both your overall career and your current search.
We can start by defining, or clarifying, some character attributes that are often ascribed to senior level executives and successful business professionals, politicians, sports heroes and rock stars:
- Patience – although it’s generally accepted that one should be patient when pursuing a long-term goal, patience is a passive trait, it involves doing nothing while waiting for the actions of others. I’ve been accused of being patient (occasionally), but I think people are confusing this trait with tolerance, or misinterpreting my clumsy use of wei wu wei In any case, patience gets you nowhere slowly, so if that’s your goal, you’re reading the wrong blog.
- Diligence – slightly different, although both strong leaders, workaholics and ants share the trait. I do recommend diligence in all exercises (including exercise) that are designed to culminate in a clearly defined result. Executives who equate business goals with sports do real well with those types of tasks, but all things in business and life do not sit comfortably in that bundle, and some really, well, diligent folks sometimes crumble when they can’t clearly define the goal. Ants don’t have this problem, or they don’t know it. I would resist the temptation to suggest these crumbled folks seek out a professional career management team to get them back on the ill-defined track, but it appears to already be too late.
- Ambitious – considered a rebuke or insult in some cultures, this trait is often reduced in pop mythology to being conniving, ruthless or aggressive, but this is a bum rap, as you can be highly ambitious without being any of the above. Admittedly, to scramble to the top of the heap and reap the rewards, you will need to focus on your climb up the ladder or leap into the unknown (the two most common methods of advancement). But in addition to deciding what you really want (and knowing why you want it) and putting your plan into action, conventional wisdom suggests you will also need one more arrow in your corporate quiver:
- Luck – I’ve never been able to find a logical, empirical method to arrive at committed superstition, quite possibly because superstition, by definition, denies the logical and empirical. This non-belief system extends to luck as well: I have yet to hear about a senior executive, or rock star for that matter, who’s road to success was paved with luck or serendipity. Sure, there are serendipitous events that occur in all our lives, but the people who recognize unplanned opportunity, plan for the possibility they might occur, then boldly, decisively hop on the bull when they see it from across the room and ride it for all it’s worth are the ones who people see as lucky. The cliché is that they make their own luck, but that’s not really giving them credit for their accomplishment.
In order to make your own happy ending, whether it be in business, art, love or life, you need to actively envision it, passionately embrace the image, then lay out the plan, with all contingencies, by which you’re going to make it a literal dream come true. I’ve seen this happen in my own life, and have carefully studied successful people and their stories for the past fifteen years, and this has been the case every time to date. How about you?