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7 Keys To Start Living Your Dream

7 Keys To Start Living Your Dream

At 19 I dropped out of college to go live in the Williamsburg district of Brooklyn, arguably the most fashionable neighborhood of the most fashionable city in the world in order to work on my dreams of being a music journalist and promoter. Here I am sitting on my couch, maybe everything isn’t perfect – but I still get to talk to high powered music executives all day and party with rock stars all night and I don’t need a “Real job” to support it all. One question I get asked all the time is “How did you manage to do this at such a young age?” Here are seven keys I used to unlock this kickass lifestyle!

1. You Don’t Need A Plan From The Start

When I started blogging at 14 I didn’t really have a grand vision. I knew I liked hard rock and heavy metal and was all about 80s pop. I wasn’t sure what I could ever do with that. All I knew was that it was fun to write about it on weekends. As it grew I realized that one of the best strategies in life is to throw ideas against a wall and see what sticks. This is a lesson I still use today, I regularly attend concerts or industry events with no real goal in mind beyond “meet X individual” or just “hang out with Y band and see what happens” and on a surprisingly regular basis, things turn out well.

The thing is – people like people who are, (in the words of that Bud Light commercial:) “Up for whatever happens”. If someone invites you to an after party at 2 in the morning you have to go – not just because you’ll probably have a good time and get to do cocaine with a bunch of hookers, but also because of the connections you’ll have a chance to make. If you’re willing to just go out and play it by ear mighty forces will come to your aid unexpectedly – and it will be glorious.

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2. Be Ready To Improvise

Building on that previous point is the notion that you have to know how to improvise. This goes far beyond being “up for whatever;” it means that you also have to know when to use caution when deciding a new course of action. Being able to improvise has gotten me through many a sticky situation – it helps you find your way into exciting new situations that can advance your career and give you a great story for your grandkids.

The point being – improvisation is an incredibly valuable tool and not one that is easily learned. But when you learn to apply it and use it on a regular basis then you can rest easy with the confidence that no matter what you should be able to handle the struggles of day to day life in whatever dream you want to live. No one said this would be easy, and a key aspect that many of my mentors have emphasized to me is that you need to be flexible and ready to take life as it comes if you want to get anywhere.

3. Habits Lead To Results

Now this next point is obviously far removed from improvisation but is just as important. I’ve mentioned in other articles on here that you need to place discipline over motivation, but perhaps even greater than that – you need to form habits. This is key for several reasons. First of all – it allows you to do something every day that you know that will help build towards your dream. For example, if you want to be a guitarist this might mean practicing two hours a day no matter what, if you want to be a runner then it means you go running five times a week. What I’m trying to say is I know from experience that if you do anything long enough and with enough dedication eventually you will become good at it!

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Furthermore – when other people see your habits they will be impressed with your work ethic and want to work with you. People are drawn to individuals who they see can regularly produce results – and if you prove that you can produce results (or better yet, multiple results!) every day then the more potential partners you will find. No one wants to work with someone who hasn’t proved themselves to be reliable – it is those individuals who have proved their dedication that end up getting the most offers and taking their work to brave new worlds.

4. Prove You Want It Most

Building on the idea of habits leading to results is the notion that you have to prove that you want it most. In all honesty – most people don’t know how to build habits like this and being able to makes it easier to prove you want something the most. Kanye West once spent an entire summer locked up in his apartment making beats because he wanted to succeed so badly. Hunter S Thompson would type up entire novels from his favorite authors to become a better writer. Obama would wake up at 4 in the morning to learn English. It may not seem like it at the time, but these things pay off.

The fact of the matter is that with concrete proof that you want something more than anyone else things will start to fall into place for you. There’s a difference between saying “I really want to live the rock and roll lifestyle” and “Here’s 4,000 posts I’ve made about rock and roll”. My entire vetting process for potential employees basically relies on them coming out and showing me not credentials, but rather concrete evidence of the work they’ve done. This is perhaps the hardest of these keys to pull off but it is also one of the most valuable.

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5. Remember To Be Nice To EVERYONE

I don’t think that anyone wants to be thought of as an asshole by the masses. There’s an easy way to remedy this – be kind and respectful to everyone. This doesn’t mean being weak – you should be able to set limits – but it does mean that you should always be willing to help people and guide them forward. It means that you shouldn’t call people out on social media and it means that you should be very cautious before putting out any sort of controversial opinion into the public sphere.

Am I saying you have to be politically correct? No. I literally talked about doing cocaine with hookers earlier in this article – clearly that’s not a priority. What I’m saying is that resorting to ad hominems and poorly thought out opinions is the place of the Republican party (You saw the last debate – I’m not being partisan) it’s not for someone who is trying to live their dream. So be encouraging – give advice to people getting started and try to find mentors who also ascribe to this philosophy.

6. Enjoy The Ride

This is one of the most important parts and something I used to forget. At times you may feel like you’ve hit a brick wall and you’re not going to get any bigger. But always remember to take a look around and realize “Huh, I’ve been able to do a lot to achieve my dreams” There are plateaus in everything you do, that’s how life works. The trick is to embrace those plateaus as quiet times in between the madness that so often defines day to day life. If you’re not enjoying the ride why bother? As Lemmy Kilmister of the legendary band Motorhead once said “The chase is better than the catch!”

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And I know as well as anyone that desire to succeed can be crippling. You reach those moments where you feel like everyone is against you and won’t let you reach the next level and you start to suffer. But here’s the thing – if you keep going people will respect you. If they see that even in a tight spot you kept your cool and decided to plow forward and not give up and did so with a smile on your face then they will know that you’re the real deal. In a world where you’ve to to fake it until you make it  you might as well enjoy the madness.

7. When You Get To The Top Of The Mountain – Keep Climbing

One of the most important books in my life is Timber Hawkeye’s Buddhist Boot Camp. One of the books key ideas is: “When you get to the top of the mountain – keep climbing.” I’m not being facetious when I say this is perhaps the greatest of all these keys. In my rise to living my dream every time that I thought I had reached the peak I decided to keep going, and things ended up even better than I possibly could have imagined. As far as I can tell, short of marrying Pat Benatar, there is no actual upper limit to what can be done in this world and you need to take full advantage of that as you push your way forward.

To tie into this, Jack Kerouac, in his book The Dharma Bums writes, “You can’t fall off a mountain” And this is the final message I want to leave you guys with. No matter what you do – as long as you maintain your honor and integrity it’s pretty hard to screw up badly enough that you get sent back to square one. Always keep pushing and know that with these keys you might just be able to do something great!

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via flickr.com

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Last Updated on March 14, 2019

7 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview That Will Impress the Interviewer

7 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview That Will Impress the Interviewer

Recruiters might hold thousands of interviews in their careers and a lot of them are reporting the same thing—that most candidates play it safe with the questions they ask, or have no questions to ask in a job interview at all.

For job applicants, this approach is crazy! This is a job that you’re going to dedicate a lot of hours to and that might have a huge impact on your future career. Don’t throw away the chance to figure out if the position is perfect for you.

Here are 7 killer questions to ask in a job interview that will both impress your counterpart and give you some really useful insights into whether this job will be a dream … or a nightmare.

1. What are some challenges I might come up against this role?

A lesser candidate might ask, “what does a typical day look like in this role?” While this is a perfectly reasonable question to ask in an interview, focusing on potential challenges takes you much further because it indicates that you already are visualizing yourself in the role.

It’s impressive because it shows that you are not afraid of challenges, and you are prepared to strategize a game plan upfront to make sure you succeed if you get the job.

It can also open up a conversation about how you’ve solved problems in the past which can be a reassuring exercise for both you and the hiring manager.

How it helps you:

If you ask the interviewer to describe a typical day, you may get a vibrant picture of all the lovely things you’ll get to do in this job and all the lovely people you’ll get to do them with.

Asking about potential roadblocks means you hear the other side of the story—dysfunctional teams, internal politics, difficult clients, bootstrap budgets and so on. This can help you decide if you’re up for the challenge or whether, for the sake of your sanity, you should respectfully decline the job offer.

2. What are the qualities of really successful people in this role?

Employers don’t want to hire someone who goes through the motions; they want to hire someone who will excel.

Asking this question shows that you care about success, too. How could they not hire you with a dragon-slayer attitude like that?

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How it helps you:

Interviewers hire people who are great people to work with, but the definition of “great people” differs from person to person.

Does this company hire and promote people with a specific attitude, approach, worth ethic or communication style? Are the most successful people in this role strong extroverts who love to talk and socialize when you are studious and reserved? Does the company reward those who work insane hours when you’re happiest in a more relaxed environment?

If so, then this may not be the right match for you.

Whatever the answer is, you can decide whether you have what it takes for the manager to be happy with your performance in this role. And if the interviewer has no idea what success looks like for this position, this is a sign to proceed with extreme caution.

3. From the research I did on your company, I noticed the culture really supports XYZ. Can you tell me more about that element of the culture and how it impacts this job role?

Of course, you could just ask “what is the culture like here? ” but then you would miss a great opportunity to show that you’ve done your research!

Interviewers give BIG bonus point to those who read up and pay attention, and you’ve just pointed out that (a) you’re diligent in your research (b) you care about the company culture and (c) you’re committed to finding a great cultural fit.

How it helps you:

This question is so useful because it lets you pick an element of the culture that you really care about and that will have the most impact on whether you are happy with the organization.

For example, if training and development is important to you, then you need to know what’s on offer so you don’t end up in a dead-end job with no learning opportunities.

Companies often talk a good talk, and their press releases may be full of shiny CSR initiatives and all the headline-grabbing diversity programs they’re putting in place. This is your opportunity to look under the hood and see if the company lives its values on the ground.

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A company that says it is committed to doing the right thing by customers should not judge success by the number of up-sells an employee makes, for instance. Look for consistency, so you aren’t in for a culture shock after you start.

4. What is the promotion path for this role, and how would my performance on that path be measured?

To be clear, you are not asking when you will get promoted. Don’t go there—it’s presumptuous, and it indicates that you think you are better than the role you have applied for.

A career-minded candidate, on the other hand, usually has a plan that she’s working towards. This question shows you have a great drive toward growth and advancement and an intention to stick with the company beyond your current state.

How it helps you:

One word: hierarchy.

All organizations have levels of work and authority—executives, upper managers, line managers, the workforce, and so on. Understanding the hierarchical structure gives you power, because you can decide if you can work within it and are capable of climbing through its ranks, or whether it will be endlessly frustrating to you.

In a traditional pyramid hierarchy, for example, the people at the bottom tend to have very little autonomy to make decisions. This gets better as you rise up through the pyramid, but even middle managers have little power to create policy; they are more concerned with enforcing the rules the top leaders make.

If having a high degree of autonomy and accountability is important to you, you may do better in a flat hierarchy where work teams can design their own way of achieving the corporate goals.

5. What’s the most important thing the successful candidate could accomplish in their first 3 months/6 months/year?

Of all the questions to ask in a job interview, this one is impressive because it shows that you identify with and want to be a successful performer, and not just an average one.

Here, you’re drilling down into what the company needs, and needs quite urgently, proving that you’re all about adding value to the organization and not just about what’s in it for you.

How it helps you:

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Most job descriptions come with 8, 10 or 12 different job responsibilities and a lot of them with be boilerplate or responsibilities that someone in HR thinks are associated with this role. This question gives you a better sense of which responsibilities are the most important—and they may not be what initially attracted you to the role.

If you like the idea of training juniors, for example, but success is judged purely on your sales figures, then is this really the job you thought you were applying for?

This question will also give you an idea of what kind of learning curve you’re expected to have and whether you’ll get any ramp-up time before getting down to business. If you’re the type of person who likes to jump right in and get things done, for instance, you may not be thrilled to hear that you’re going to spend the first three months shadowing a peer.

6. What do you like about working here?

This simple question is all about building rapport with the interviewer. People like to talk about themselves, and the interviewer will be flattered that you’re interested in her opinions.

Hopefully, you’ll find some great connection points that the two of you share. What similar things drive you head into the office each day? How will you fit into the culture?

How it helps you:

You can learn a lot from this question. Someone who genuinely enjoys his job will be able to list several things they like, and their answers will sound passionate and sincere. If not….well, you might consider that a red flag.

Since you potentially can learn a lot about the company culture from this question, it’s a good idea to figure out upfront what’s important to you. Maybe you’re looking for a hands-off boss who values independent thought and creativity? Maybe you work better in environments that move at a rapid, exciting pace?

Whatever’s important to you, listen carefully and see if you can find any common ground.

7. Based on this interview, do you have any questions or concerns about my qualifications for the role?

What a great closing question to ask in a job interview! It shows that you’re not afraid of feedback—in fact, you are inviting it. Not being able to take criticism is a red flag for employers, who need to know that you’ll act on any “coaching moments” with a good heart.

As a bonus, asking this question shows that you are really interested in the position and wish to clear up anything that may be holding the company back from hiring you.

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How it helps you:

What a devious beast this question is! On the surface, it looks straightforward, but it’s actually giving you four key pieces of information.

First, is the manager capable of giving you feedback when put on the spot like this? Some managers are scared of giving feedback, or don’t think it’s important enough to bother outside of a formal performance appraisal. Do you want to work for a boss like that? How will you improve if no one is telling you what you did wrong?

Second, can the manager give feedback in a constructive way without being too pillowy or too confrontational? It’s unfair to expect the interviewer to have figured out your preferred way of receiving feedback in the space of an interview, but if she come back with a machine-gun fire of shortcomings or one of those corporate feedback “sandwiches” (the doozy slipped between two slices of compliment), then you need to ask yourself, can you work with someone who gives feedback like that?

Third, you get to learn the things the hiring manager is concerned about before you leave the interview. This gives you the chance to make a final, tailored sales pitch so you can convince the interviewer that she should not be worried about those things.

Fourth, you get to learn the things the hiring manager is concerned about period. If turnover is keeping him up at night, then your frequent job hopping might get a lot of additional scrutiny. If he’s facing some issues with conflict or communication, then he might raise concerns regarding your performance in this area.

Listen carefully: the concerns that are being raised about you might actually be a proxy for problems in the wider organization.

Making Your Interview Work for You

Interviews are a two-way street. While it is important to differentiate yourself from every other candidate, understand that convincing the interviewer you’re the right person for the role goes hand-in-hand with figuring out if the job is the right fit for you.

Would you feel happy in a work environment where the people, priorities, culture and management style were completely at odds with the way you work? Didn’t think so!

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Featured photo credit: Amy Hirschi via unsplash.com

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