There are hundreds of skills available and many alternate paths to success depending on the career you choose and the approach that works best for you. However, there is a common trait that defines successful professionals. Irrespective of backgrounds, domains or circumstances they cultivated a few good habits that they followed daily. This defined their personality and created their success. Simple routines repeated daily have a compounding effect over time and get you results you desire.
You do not have infinite will power or unlimited mental energy. Too many decisions in a short time can reduce your decision-making ability. Consider Steve Jobs who would wear a black turtleneck and blue jeans daily, thus freeing up cognitive energy for important stuff. Make small positive choices and continue for a month to have them show up in your behaviour and become habits. Multiple successful habits contribute more to success than accomplishing any single big task.
Knowledge and skills are tools that earn you an income and help you achieve career goals. Hence make it a priority to constantly expand your knowledge. To do so, first become coachable. Train yourself to not react in the face of criticism and to learn from every person you meet. Develop the habit of daily reading. Get yourself a mentor. Seize every opportunity to train on new skills. Benchmark every day against your previous self and aim to be slightly better each time.
Increase your energy
Any student of physics will tell you that energy gets work done. Hence the more energy you have, the more you get done. Increase energy levels by eating right and exercising regularly. Maximise your emotional energy by investing in family, friends and a hobby or two. Meanwhile your coachability takes care of learning and mental energy levels.
Acquire this insurance policy
Attitude is the insurance policy that gets you promoted and retained. Know that if you are a star sales person you can afford to throw a few tantrums, treat others poorly and get away with it for some time till the company has a critical need for you. You will be cast aside when the tide turns and someone else with a fantastic attitude will continue to rise.
Find purpose in a marshmallow
Seeking happiness or joy is overrated. The Stanford Marshmallow experiment proved that people who delay gratification—let go of an immediate joy or small rewards in favour of a larger reward in the future—achieve better life outcomes. It is possible to choose delayed gratification without much effort only when you have a larger purpose or meaning in your career. Create a purpose bigger than your income and it will give you the sense of urgency to progress faster.
Work on your communication with others. It doesn’t matter if you are an introvert or an extrovert. Ask questions when you do not understand something. Thank your manager for his guidance. Sell your output and yourself to your employer. Listen without judgment when someone is trying to communicate. Stay silent when you need to absorb.
Keep your buckets separate
Your life is multi-dimensional but to succeed you need to live in the moment. Keep family and work buckets separate. Don’t carry your frustrations from one to another. Similarly, distinguish between friends and colleagues and treat them differently. Do not do personal work during office time. Take ownership of your role without confusing it with individual tasks. Buckets that leak into each other lead to poor choices and outcomes.
So you have decided to work hard. Have you thought about when and where you will work hard? Look for the right openings for constant learning and growth and put your efforts to work in the right place and time when the opportunity arises.
Reach 15 min early
Practice reaching work or a meeting 15 minutes early. Not only does the extra time come handy in contingencies but also the magical 15 minutes before a commitment gets you in the right frame of mind, conveys a fabulous impression and multiplies the possibilities of chance encounters and openings that are not available to others.
Fulfil your first responsibility
You are your first responsibility. Hence prioritise your needs of visualising your future, choosing values and principles that align to that future and figuring out who you need to be to get there. Now define the actions you are going to take and convert them into habits. Once you take responsibility for helping yourself first, you are available for your own success and for others.