On Easy Success

I met Ireneusz Osiński in Gdańsk today, just to a quick chat over a coffee (during the Solidarity Academy I was speaking at) and I came out of the meeting intrigued and slightly unsettled.

Irek (I hope if he is reading this I am OK to use the shortened version of his first name;)) lectures on the path to effective career and runs a local foundation for young talents. We had a great chat about his and my observations on the topic and I feel I need to share something. I am told that many young people in my homeland aspire to hit the gold in few months after uni just by high ambitions, faith and really strong commitment to success but not work. I listened to few of Irek’s podcasts tonight and more and more influential voices tend to agree.

What is the problem? The American Dream of opportunities in new industries? The idea that if one or two youngsters come across a good idea, code and monetise, the entire generation would follow? Well maybe, but let’s just clarify what I think are the keys to success. I’ll list them below and you let me know what you think:

1. Ambitious, confident career vision – vision as a word pre-defines the dream-like notion but also implies a bit of realistic, insightful instinct for the next thing (I, on purpose, won’t use the term ‘big thing’ as it does not have to be so big to make us happy, right?). Vision is based on intuition but also good understanding of current trends, contingency and our very own given and acquired skills and abilities.

2. Hard work and loads of rest when needed – we cannot always work hard, but we cannot truly think that the image of our success shall result in months on a beach…who will do the exciting, visionary work then? More and more positive psychology studies show (I happened to come across many of those in ‘Reality is Broken’ here) that what really makes us happy is hard and challenging work which is based on continuous feeling of self-worth and growth. And we all know that sitting on a quiet tranquil beach for a long time would probably drive an intelligent person mad, right? It’s when we get our hands dirty and our brains boiling that we feel the success – in the process! But don’t forget to rest, re-change and allow your body, mind and soul (if you believe in it) to recover.

3. Friends, mentors and trusted connections. Test your connections to know you can trust them and build on their actual potential. Question but also learn from your mentors. If you don’t have any – find them! If you think you need celebrities just stop and ask everyone for a piece of advice, write it down and look back at the list – magic, right? The best tips in my academic life came from landlords, cloakroom ladies and often my bosses, colleges, family. Most from my son actually. Don’t test your friends, but let them guide you. Accept good advice. Forget the silly stuff.

4. Focus and learning to say no – don’t over-promise, just do what you can in the best possible way. I am not saying you should just focus on one thing. Many of us wear many hats. But choose hats carefully – always ask ‘what is the actual work and commitment needed for this task/project’. Practice saying no – it’s ok to say it sometimes.

5. Smart, informed choices – measure each and every step of your career carefully. When in doubt, ask mentors and friends. Ask, research, investigate all circumstances until you are 200% that the next step is right for now and for your entire life. Educate yourself on all areas needed to make a fast smart choice too – whether it is the skill to analyse, skill to market yourself, be or run a job interview etc or whether it is something more specific for your industry.

6. Accept that you might fail and learn from it – really, be humble. It’s ok to fail. But it’s not OK to blame others, sulk for ages or simply expect others to pick up the ball if you can do so. Move to the next thing but look back, analyse – just to ensure you won’t make the same mistake again.

This and much more. What is missing off this list? Let me know!

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