3 Directives to Ensure the Success of Your Career

As she came closer to me on my morning walk, we exchanged smiles and nods. Clearly, she was lost.  She pulled out a map, but she had no idea where she was on that map. I pointed to the symbol for Lyndhurst, where we stood.

I used gestures and simple sentences to direct her to other walking paths, further ahead.

This Japanese lady seemed to know only two English words: Thank you.

Is there a lesson here? You bet. She was exploring without a notion of what she was heading for. She was out of her comfort zone, with no common language for asking directions. But with courage and curiosity, she was going to succeed. I just sensed that she would be spectacularly rewarded for her gumption.


Get out of your comfort zone, find your own way.

Directive #1: Get out of your comfort zone to expand your career sight lines

So you’ve been an equities trader your whole life, and now the equities business isn’t making the money it used to. I know, the world has changed. Change is a constant.

And that is why you need to do something differently, and get out of your comfort zone.

The fact that opportunities are no longer in your sight may mean that you need to find a new business model, or you need to punt. Find a new job. Discover a field that is growing, and leave the dying dogs behind.

Yes, it will be difficult to begin anew because you are going to shift from being the expert at what you already know, to being the newbie who can’t know all the angles. But the journey will get easier if you keep going.

In an article on escaping your comfort zone, I learned that one’s brain actually craves new experiences. Mine certainly does. So why not apply this to your career, and force yourself to learn something new–exploring without holding back?

Directive #2: Make a habit to fail often and fail valiantly, taking the sting out of failing

What would each of us do differently, if we were not afraid of failure?

As I was researching the background of Sara Blakely, a woman who made Forbes’ list of the richest people in the world, I learned one secret to her success.

When she was younger, her father used to ask her and her brother at the dinner table, “What have you failed at today?” He asked this same question week after week, and as his progeny came to expect it and anticipate giving an answer, the usual sting that accompanies failure became neutralized. There was no longer shame associated with failure. Instead, Sara’s definition of failure became not trying.

Nowadays, Sara Blakely is the youngest woman in the world to make the Forbes scoreboard on her own, without the help of a husband or the nest egg of an inheritance. She founded Spanx with an investment of $5,000, and from that built an empire on women’s desire for a sexy shape without the hassles of constricting undergarments.

So go ahead and fail. And then get back on your horse. Because even if you get knocked off your steed, you will be far better for the experience.

Directive #3: Practice visualizing success so your brain shifts towards your career objectives

Lauren Trecosta offered great advice to keep readers from repeating their mistakes over and over. She said, “It’s essential to visualize what you want to do in order to eliminate what you don’t want. When you tell yourself what you want, your brain immediately visualizes it and begins moving towards the objective.”

And the opposite is also true. You cannot succeed at something that you cannot visualize.

Sports memoirs provide a great illustration of visualization. The autobiography of Andre Agassi has a ton to recommend it, but woven among the remarkable tales of a lost childhood, an oppressive father, and banishment to a tennis academy where life felt utterly constricted, are many great descriptions of how a professional tennis player wins or loses a match according to his thoughts.

Repeatedly, this American icon had to slough off his doubt-ridden memory of losing to his opponent in previous matches. Instead, Andre chose to actively visualize beating the other guy. It is heart-stompingly poignant when Agassi describes games against opponents where he can even read their body language to intuit when they have lost the mental edge.

So start visualizing what it would look like for you to succeed.

Close your eyes, take time, and put your energy into “seeing” your individual success. Begin to fill in the details in your mind of how you will get there. Visualize it, and you can plan for it.

And then, you are off on your way.

Photo courtesy of Creative Commons 2.0, J_P_D.

Are you up for this? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

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  • SharonODay

    Great directives, Diane!  I’ve reinvented myself again and again, changed directions (and continents) on a dime.  And I’ve failed again and again (in fact, I have permanent bruises on my shins).  But I wouldn’t give any of it up for a million bucks.  I remember recruiters at Wharton asking where I planned to be in five years.  I’d ask them:  if they looked at where I was five year earlier, could I ever get “from there to here” by planning?  So I wasn’t all that good at visualizing long term … but guess I still have time to learn!

    • http://www.mojo40.com/ Diane Dolinsky-Pickar

      Sharon, you have that natural get-up-and-go,so whatever is working for ya, keep doing it! I would guess that in many ways, you have internalized these directives, and reinvent yourself because you see the writing on the wall

      • SharonODay

        Sometimes it was written in spray paint … sometimes in chalk.  Hence the bruised shins.  ;-)  But somehow we need to get through to people, especially entrepreneurs, that it’s okay to fail.  But fail fast … and learn.  What worries me tremendously is that schools are removing failure from the environment entirely.  What’s that going to do to the students’ ability to deal with it in real life?

        • http://www.mojo40.com/ Diane Dolinsky-Pickar

          Your comment re the importance of failing, and failing fast along with learning from that, goes beyond schools. Many families try to shield their youngsters from failure. They should be doing the opposite–pointing out the learning from the failed effort. When I ran an engineering team for my fifth grade boy, and their team’s solution was clearly the best one in terms of sophistication and use of materials, they learned what it means to not place “high” because they lost points for violating the “boundaries” in presenting their solution. Some boys were in tears; many were crushed in spirit. But it was a tremendous learning experience re following ALL the rules to the letter, in a tournament competition or ANY OTHER environment where there are rules.

          • SharonODay

             God help us.

  • http://www.counselingbreakthrough.com/ Lauren Trecosta

    This is fantastic article, Diane; motivating and with great action steps.  I am going to start integrating the question, “What did you fail at today?”  The stories are powerful ones.  Thanks for sharing! 

    • http://www.mojo40.com/ Diane Dolinsky-Pickar

      Yes, that is a perfect question for the dinnertime conversation. i am going to try it myself when my three are around… last night I had four kids at the table, and things were too giggly for a serious question.

  • http://twitter.com/PointA_PointB Catherine Morgan

    Wow, Diane. You outdid yourself. Outstanding. Sharing everywhere.

    • http://www.mojo40.com/ Diane Dolinsky-Pickar

      How do I use a keyboard to show I am blushing?

  • http://www.followgrandmapat.com/ Patcruickshank

    I really enjoyed reading your post.  Especially the info about Andre Agassi.  Very encouraging info as when we realize we do not have to be perfect, we can move ourselves forward faster.

    • http://www.mojo40.com/ Diane Dolinsky-Pickar

      Thank you, Pat. If you read his book, you will find it vastly entertaining and uplifting!

  • http://www.ad-virtualassistance.com/ Anastasiya Day

    Another brilliant article Diane.I really enjoyed reading your post too.  Great post and very encouraging!

  • Alex

    Some great advice there, Diane. 
    I would also say to be on the lookout for sites that advertise jobs in your chosen career – specifically niche sites like http://www.unijobs.com (who cater for academics) etc. These sites are specialised and effective. 
    Also, it’s the whole “The Secret” theory. Visualise it and it’ll come true. 

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