Success for regular people
Most of the successful people we admire are these larger than life characters whose power, fame, and money seem unattainable. And for many of us, it is unattainable.
As humans, we’re fascinated by the extreme—the Albert Einsteins and the Serena Williamses of the world. These people’s success is real and deserved, they definitely still had to work for it, but if anything, they are demotivating to us “average” individuals.
I didn’t grow up with any special skills. I wasn’t elevated from any crowds and praised for my unique abilities. Does that mean I can’t experience success?
I start with this distinction because this one-in-a-million version of success requires so many other things to fall into place that are hard to control: natural ability, timing, connections, chance, etc. Instead, this article focuses on success for the rest of us, which I believe is very much attainable…if you want it.
My advice for anyone seeking success is two-fold: alignment and consistent work.
Stop focusing all of your energy on your weaknesses and start pursuing alignment with your strengths.
Alignment comes from self-understanding. What are you good at? What motivates you? What environment can you thrive in?
You might have a school counselor who scratches the surface of these items when you’re young, but so few people take the time to explore this on their own. This also becomes a hairy activity because there is often a gap between what we want to be good at and what we’re actually good at.
Prioritize figuring this out and enlist whomever you need to help you get there. Your mom might tell you that you are good at everything, but you need to be more honest than that. There are so many good personality quizzes out there to help you get started (I think the enneagram is super spot-on), but the best thing is self-reflection.
Stop focusing all of your energy on your weaknesses and start pursuing alignment with your strengths. This is where you’re going to shine in a crowd. You don’t have to be good at everything to experience success.
Maintaining success requires you consistently put in the work.
I once watched a very short Ted talk on success, and the man giving the speech put up a slide with the keys to success and I remember thinking, there are like 12 keys! Who can do all of this? And it was a circle, which meant that when you got to the end, it started all over.
It was basically a slide that said: “Oh, you want to be successful? Work really hard on lots of things and don’t stop and then you can have success.” It was a little depressing, but it was also just true.
As you move up in your career, you’ll realize that maintaining success requires you consistently put in the work. There isn’t a moment where you “make it” and then it gets easy. For most people, it never gets easy! If success is what you are going for, prepare yourself to work harder than others. You’re not going to experience more success than your colleagues with the same level of effort. (Unless you’re better aligned. See point 1.) That is part of the deal.
So if you decide that you want to focus on something besides your career, that’s okay. If you decide you want to binge watch Netflix, that’s okay. You can always want success, but not always want to pursue success. You should just be realistic with what your outcome is likely to be.
Success isn’t finite. It comes and goes. Your best shot at attaining it is by seeking alignment and putting in the effort.
Except for you, LeBron.
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