Opportunities come to those who invest in themselves

“Winning a career you love is a privilege, not a right. It is up to you, and only you, to create it. No one is going to save you.”

When I was in a career rut, my mom sat me down and hit me with the words above. I didn’t want to hear them. But I’m glad I listened.

At the time I was pushing 35, and had fallen into the loser’s mindset that the work I did yesterday, was deserving of today.

However, this changed when the five foot nothing, 70 year old woman, said the words above. She smacked me in the face with the reality that the fastest way to end up with nothing, was to assume the world owed me something.

I wish I could be one of the those people who says they don’t have any regrets and actually mean it. I have regrets. Loads of them. When it comes to my career, waiting too long to invest in the four areas below top the list. This is for the simple fact that once I made the decision to take my career seriously, other people began to take me seriously.

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1. Invest in a public speaking course:

“Nothing brings more opportunity into your life than speaking well in public.” — Conor Neill

Successful people come in all shapes and sizes, but the underlying characteristic in 2019 is that they are all strong communicators. This is for the simple fact that they understand the rules of work have changed.

Knowledge may indeed still hold power. However, today, “shared knowledge” is king. And if you cannot express yourself in a clear and persuasive manner, no matter how good your ideas, you will never have a seat at the table.

This may sound scary, and as a guy who stutters, I feel your fear. However, if you want to reach your goals, you will not only have to get comfortable in the spotlight, you will have to learn how to own it.

The good news is that opportunities to improve your communication are endless. Toastmasters is global and online workshops are in abundance.

However, if you want to get started today, hit pause on this article, light up your camera and grab the standard interview question “Tell me about yourself?” and start talking. The difference between “Take 1” and “Take 10” will astound you.

Just don’t forget, it’s called “Public Speaking” for a reason. So after you grow your confidence in private, make it public.

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2. Invest in a coach:

“A coach is someone who tells you what you don’t want to hear, who has you see what you don’t want to see, so you can be who you always knew you could be.” — Tom Landry

Follow around any top performer for a week and you are sure to meet their coach. This is not a coincidence. Just like in sports where every athlete has one, when it comes to carving out your career, the same logic applies.

There will be days when you can’t see the obvious. There will be days when you can’t find your fire. There will be days when can’t remember your path.

A good coach won’t magically make these days disappear. But they will minimise them, and not by providing you with the answers, but rather providing you with the tools to find them for yourself.

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3. Invest in a mastermind group:

“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” — Jim Rohn

I have said this before and I will say this again, a productivity hack does not exist that is more effective than a strong network.

Your tribe reflects how high you fly.

And if you have access to the internet, or live in a town with other human beings, you are cutting your own wings if you do not make the investment of joining a group of people who are traveling in the same direction, but taking a different path.

If you are still not convinced (and this goes for the point above regarding investing in a coach as well) at least start by enlisting an accountability partner. The only way to raise your standard is by surrounding yourself with people who already hold you to a high one.

This took me too long to learn, but the difference between a good idea and a great one is other people’s input.

So do not keep your work to yourself and definitely do not think you are good enough to go at it alone.

There will always be someone smarter, faster and stronger than you and joining a mastermind group will teach you immediately just how much smarter, faster and stronger “we” is than “me.”

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4. Invest in a journal:

“In the journal I do not just express myself more openly than I could to any person; I create myself.” — Susan Sontag

When it comes to your career, and your life for that matter, the name of the game is pattern recognition. It is not enough to collect experience and knowledge, you must also connect them. Few things speed this process up faster than becoming an avid note taker.

When it comes to persuasion few things are more effective than social proof.

So instead of laying on a thick pitch I am simply going to list out the names of people who have/had a reputation of taking notes: Musk, Gates, Curie Franklin, Jefferson, Gaga, Darwin, Einstein, Winfrey, Twain, Beethoven, Lucas, Hemingway, Rockefeller, Angelou, Newton, Marshall, Picasso, Edison.

If you too want to join the “known by only their last name club” put down your phone and pick up a notebook.

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Putting a bow on it:

Libraries are filled with advice on how to win a successful career. Mr. Internet, I wager, holds even more.

And I get it, it sounds daunting, but it is actually quite simple: invest in yourself and other people will invest in you.

Some people may be looking for the smartest, fastest and strongest people in the room.

However, if I have learned anything in my career, it is that more times than not, the person who is willing to put in the work to become smarter, faster and stronger, are the very people who win the most opportunities.

The choice is yours.

Invest wisely.

This article first appeared in The Post-grad Survival Guide  (Medium.com)

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