The Success Intersection

I had reason to consider again this week what are the conditions that most often lead to success in your chosen career path. It is quite simple.

1. You have to be good at what you do.

This doesn’t mean you have to be a superstar from day one, or that you cannot learn skills and behaviours. It just means that you have a natural capability or intellectual disposition that favours the core needs of the role. When thinking through this, you need to leave your ego and self esteem needs at the door. I have met a few people in life who claim to work as a photographer, graphic designer or other “creative / artistic” jobs. Yet, their portfolio says something different – that they are not really that good at it… I suspect their continuing pursuit of this vocation is more about their self perception need to be “arty”.

I would like to be a professional photographer too – but I know I do not have the patience and attention to detail that most successful photographers that I have met tend to have. I am a very proficient “weekend warrior” but probably would struggle to make a good income from it. I simply do not have the discipline to do the detail required to set up shots, retouch images etc. I can take a great shot, but am often disappointed when I see the final image only to find I missed something. Julia Clark has one of my framed prints that she rescued from potentially being thrown out – it arrived into work, and I opened it only to find a dust/fibre spot on the print that I missed in retouching. Great image, but the flaw was enough to trash the print.

2. You have to love what you do. Or at least enjoy it.

There is no doubt that you can do a job you don’t like that much – plenty of people are in this bucket. It is bloody hard to motivate yourself to greatness and achievement in something to you don’t enjoy doing. To succeed and be good at a job, you need to like doing it. The top performers in almost any vocation you can think of make good money – not always a fortune, but still live pretty comfortably.

If you love doing something you are always going to do that little bit extra. Invest a little bit more energy in it. Spend a bit of time getting better at it. These kind of things increase your chances of success in anything.

Aussie Jones was a great example of this rule. He was a gifted footballer, but retired before he had reached the natural end of his AFL career. He has simply stopped enjoying the commitment required to be an AFL player. He stopped loving it at that level and gave it away – he did go on to a very successful suburban footy career, but that is very different.

Sometimes people also get stuck in jobs they don’t like because they are so good at them! Management refuse to move them sideways because they are worried about the gap it would leave. This is usually a smart person in a technical role who wishes to branch out into broader commercial roles.

Classically, this often occurs when people make a change mostly based on financial incentives. The dollar signs overcome their nature into making a mistake. The sales rep who becomes a sales manager but hates leading. The brand manager who is promoted to marketing manager but wishes they still had their own brand and no whiny direct reports…

What does it all mean?

Find something to do that
1. You are good at / suited to
2. You enjoy doing…

If you love it, you will invest more into it, and if you are naturally suited to it, that investment will deliver much higher returns…

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