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Last Updated on February 20, 2019

Achieve Career Success at Any Age: 17 Things to Keep in Mind

Achieve Career Success at Any Age: 17 Things to Keep in Mind

“Success” is defined as “the accomplishment of an aim or purpose.”

Ipso facto, as long as you have a purpose you can be a success. Being “successful” can occur at any age, from youth to the retirement home. It can be in any field of endeavor – just ask the folks doing triathlons in their late 80s. It can be as simple as running a foot race, and as complex as starting a new business, or as important as being a caregiver to the terminally ill.

Succeeding is the norm for many people. In my life, I was a high school track star, running the high hurdles despite being “vertically challenged”. I launched a successful semiconductor services company that was profitable from day one. I grew that startup into a publicly traded semiconductor company, that I ran for 37 years (36 profitably). I completed taking the company public shortly after going blind, and still led the company as its CEO for another 20 years. And now in my so-called retirement, I am writing books that are required reading in business schools.

And I’m nothing special. I just understood early on that “success” is a mindset, and that there are a few necessary tactics to being successful.

Interestingly, the same factors that tend to make you successful in one of those endeavors are the same factors that make you successful in all of them. Here are the attributes I find to be most enduring.

1. Learn to love doing the things you hate

Don’t you love to procrastinate? Sure. Everyone does. But procrastination is the #1 barrier to success, even more so than self-doubt.

We procrastinate most about the things we dislike – everything from doing the dishes to doing our taxes. But putting off the things we hate improves nothing and impregnates our minds with the dread of having to do it anyway.

When you learn to find amusement or joy in doing what you hate, you quit hating it and quit procrastinating too.

But how do you find joy in unlovable tasks? Two elements are important:

First, search for how the task adds to your overall connection. For example, many tech leaders have no love for accounting until they learn how those numbers help them to monitor the success of their operations or anticipate changes in their markets. Knowing how the unlovable fulfills the lovable is a large first step.

Secondly, find joy in the intricacy of the task itself. This is a bit Zen in nature, but focusing intently on the task at hand detaches you from other concerns. Consider focusing intently on unwelcome task as a vacation from other worries.

2. Start the day doing the “Tough Things First”

I published my first book – Tough Things First – in my late 70s. Writing a book, finding a publisher, doing speaking tours, signing what seems like millions of autographs was tough. But in 37 years of running the semiconductor company I founded and took public, I learned that the small problems largely solve themselves once the big, tough problem is completed.

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No matter what you are trying to accomplish, list what needs doing that day and put the hardest, most difficult task on the top of the list – or as I like to say, “eat the ugly frog first.” This makes you happier, more energized and about 20% more productive.

The easy way to achieve this is simply write down the ten most urgent and important things that need doing, then sort that list starting with the least enjoyable – the ugly frogs. Don’t even think about task #2 until task #1 is finished.

3. Watch your health

Good health and good success go hand-in-hand. Nobody does well when they don’t feel well, so get a good night’s rest, eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly, and don’t stress small stuff.

Many successful people I know like to exercise in the morning. By making this a priority, they build-in an activity that aids in good sleep and is known to help with stress reduction.

It is also a good time to mentally create your list of ten urgent and important tasks.

4. If you are young, think old; if you are old, think young

Youth may be wasted on the young, but old age is wasted on the elderly too. It is the intersection of wisdom and exuberance that makes really great things happen.

The young can learn the wisdom of their elders, and the old can always find something new to try. Embrace every facet of your journey, throughout your journey.

Thinking old when you are young is quite easy and starts by finding a mentor. Everyone needs a mentor, even if it is just calling “dear old dad” and asking for advice.

For entrepreneurs, you reach out to experienced business people, most of whom genuinely love helping.

For older folks, thinking young is a bit trickier. Foremost, keep your curiosity well fed. Youth is all about adventure, experience and learning, and none of that happens unless you are curious. A good way to stay curious starts with assuming you don’t know everything and unlearning old falsehoods. Start your day (after your morning exercise and ugly frog eating) challenging an assumption you are ready to speak and do so by asking a question.

5. Be a good listener

Success comes from learning, and you can’t learn when you are talking. Seek to understand before being understood, listen actively, ask questions and absorb. This will garner you all the information you need to make better decisions.

The right way to listen is to do so actively. Concentrate on every word the other person says, ignore your internal monologue, and suppress the natural desire to form your next statement in advance.

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These 13 Powerful Listening Skills will improve your work and life.

6. Dress one level better than required

Mark Twain allegedly once joked that:

“Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence in society.”

It doesn’t matter if the occasion is a job interview, a date, a business meeting or a social gathering. People who underdress underwhelm.

Think about how you would want to perceive an interesting person at the occasion, then dress 10% better.

Even if you’re on a tight budget, here’re still some tips for you to dress for success.

7. Be wise, not smart

There are a lot of people who are smart and can critically think, but often they think toward the wrong conclusion.

To be wise is to have experience, knowledge, and good judgment. You don’t need to first acquire a life time of wisdom – you can get that on the fly from mentors. But you do need to bow toward wisdom as much, and perhaps more so, than sly pondering.

One aspect of wisdom is anticipating all the effects a decision you make may have. Take a moment before making a decision to think about everyone and everything that will be affected, not only immediately but at least once removed (the echo effect).

8. Be trustworthy

My marketing director likes to say that “an untrusted brand is an unprofitable brand”. He is right, and since you have a personal brand, you cannot be successful in life if you are not trusted.

The only way to be worthy of trust is to always do the right thing. Trustworthy people never do these 10 things.

9. Have impeccable integrity

Integrity is the process of doing the right thing even when nobody is watching. Acts of integrity get noticed, especially in our modern era where it appears to be in short supply. When you display integrity, you earn trust (see the bullet above).

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Learn here How to Succeed with Integrity in a Competitive Workplace.

10. Start early and stay late

You need not be a workaholic. Despite founding and leading a public company, I rarely worked more than 50 hours a week. But you do have to put in sufficient time to get your job done, and you need to set good examples for others.

Get going before the day demands your attention, and stay as long as necessary to wrap up loose ends.

11. Work smarter not just harder

This meme sounds trite, but it is very important.

One mistake many people make is taking on personal responsibility for everything instead of delegating. A consultant I know refuses to clean his own house because he charges $100 an hour while a maid costs $20. It is smart of him to pay his maid in order to stay focused.

Knowing when you are working too hard is the goal. Some people thrive on working day and night, but then are surprised when their marriage falls apart. You know you are working too hard when the costs – poor health, bad relationships, grumpy employees – are higher than any benefit you might be acquiring.

12. Never give up

Everyone, including me and you, will face challenges big enough that we want to quit. But quitting is failing, the opposite of success.

If your goal was good enough to start working toward, it is good enough to keep working toward, despite setbacks, despite complications.

Stick to the project until it sticks to you. Giving up is not an option and this it how to stay motivated.

13. Be happy and friendly

Nobody likes helping a grump … and everybody needs help.

And there’re more reasons why you need to make friends at work.

14. Be passionate, not eager

Passion involves having strong feelings or beliefs, while being eager means wanting something.

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We all want things yet wanting is never enough. But being passionate about something provides you fuel for the journey, the desire to start, continue and finish.

Not quite sure about your passion? Leo Babauta has got you some advice to find your passion and live a fulfilling life.

15. Have a clear vision of your purpose and mission

Success is about going somewhere, achieving a goal. But you cannot get to where you want to be unless you know where that is.

If you cannot explain your vision to someone else clearly in a few words (what we call an “elevator pitch”) and make them understand it, then you don’t have a clear view of your destination, and you won’t get many people to follow you.

If in doubt, write down your mission, then share it with someone not involved with your project or business. If they cannot understand what the mission is, then you don’t yet have it firmly defined in your own mind.

16. Be a worthy servant leader

Being successful will likely involve more than just you. It may require employees, community members, family, a congregation, or voters. You succeed only when they do, and that means you have to serve them first.

When you adopt the mindset of “what do I need to do so that they can succeed in the mission I have set forth”, you change the way you and they work together.

17. Be meek, not weak

Meekness involves being quiet and gentle, not submissive. The key is to dispose of your ego and adopt constant humility, which will get you further than sheer drive.

People may obey a hard nosed boss, but they will love and follow a humble leader.

If you want to be an effective leader, don’t miss out this guide:

How to Be an Effective Leader (A Step-By-Step Guide to Upgrade Your Leadership Skills)

More Resources About Career Advancement

Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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Ray Zinn

Ray Zinn is an inventor, entrepreneur, investor, angel, bestselling author and the longest serving CEO of a publicly traded company in Silicon Valley.

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Last Updated on May 15, 2019

10 Most Successful Entrepreneurs and What We Can Learn from Them

10 Most Successful Entrepreneurs and What We Can Learn from Them

Apart from making crucial decisions for their own businesses, entrepreneurs innovate and grow their ideas. Albeit there being no cookie-cutter answer that fits everyone’s experiences, taking a look at some of the most successful entrepreneurs today, you might spot some similar traits and characteristics.

Starting and nurturing a business entails a great amount of hard work and commitment. However, for aspiring entrepreneurs who are prepared to dedicate themselves to their vision, here are 10 most successful entrepreneurs you can learn from:

1. Melanie Perkins: Know Your Worth and Keep Trying

    Melanie Perkins founded Canva, a Sydney-based business valued at $1Billion having successfully raised a number of rounds of successful funding and boasting more than 10 Million users in 179 countries.[1]

    She told BBC that one of the biggest challenges she faced getting into the business was talking about her company’s accomplishments when she first got to Silicon Valley. She attributed this difficulty to a cultural difference where Australians tend to ‘talk down’ their achievements and this would slow down her fundraising progress for a few years.

    Despite hundreds of rejections, Melanie emerged three years later with a much clearer strategy and stronger investor pitch that prompted a series of fundraising rounds netting the company $82Million of funding in total.[2]

    2. Bill Gates: Keep Learning and Exploring

      If you don’t know Bill Gates, you likely know the company he founded – Microsoft.

      Bill Gates’ story is a prime example of nurturing an idea that might seem out of this world but make sense in the future. One of the most successful entrepreneurs in history did not complete his degree at Harvard University to pursue a vision that the technology would soon become the future.

      He told a white lie to Altair, saying that he had made a computer program for them, therefore pushing himself to create a system that would change modern history.

      “The most important speed issue is convincing everyone that the company’s survival depends on moving as fast as possible.”

      Gates’ success is built on self-improvement and the seeds of an idea.

      3. Elon Musk: Never Stop Innovating

        Traditional thinking suggests that in order to become a successful entrepreneur, one must focus in a single field or industry.

        Elon Musk, however, breaks that rule.

        Today, the multifaceted tech entrepreneur, investor, and engineer advocates for the diversification of skills and businesses by delving into various fields of interest.

        When done right, skills in a single domain can be carried over then applied into contrasting industries to create something new the world might need. Musk owes his accomplishments to a constant thirst for knowledge.

        Having birthed Tesla and a myriad of products across the arenas of aeronautics and software design, Musk continues to evolve as an entrepreneur and plans to innovate for the long haul.

        4. Richard Branson: Develop People First

          British entrepreneur Richard Branson founded Virgin Records in the early 1970s. Virgin Records has since grown into the Virgin Group, today responsible for over 400 companies.

          The billionaire is strongly particular about working with a team that shares his core values and aspirations.

          Branson believes that managing a business can become taxing, thus he acknowledges his employees for putting in the effort that they have.

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          A good leader knows how to raise morale for positive productivity. Utilising emotional intelligence and compassion is a game changer in seeing results within a team.

          Branson’s supports the idea of nurturing a positive work environment, with the belief that credentials must go hand-in-hand with an enthusiasm for work.

          5. Jeff Bezos: A Relentless Focus on Customer Satisfaction

            Having founded Amazon, Jeff Bezos is known to be one of America’s most successful entrepreneurs. The e-commerce pioneer fixates himself on angry customers with the belief that a business’s loopholes are found in the experiences of unsatisfied customers.

            For the 8th year in a row, customers have ranked Amazon as the number one in customer service (according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index).

            While numerous companies ignore unhappy customers, Bezos found success in learning from reviews and surveys. By focusing on customer service, Amazon shows they care, both for their customers and for rising above their competitors.

            While praise and recognition are signs that a business is accelerating, criticism is an opportunity to improve a product or a service.

            6. Mark Zuckerberg: Start Small, Think Big

              Valued at over 55 billion dollars today, Mark Zuckerberg built the first version of what would become a social networking giant in his Harvard University dorm room. As one of the world’s youngest entrepreneurs, Zuckerberg undoubtedly took countless calculated risks to get his brilliant idea to its current status with 2.38 billion active monthly users.

              “The biggest risk is not taking any risk.”

              He’s always daring to explore with a fearless mindset.

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              The young tech entrepreneur never shied away from innovating outside of the box. Soon after Facebook became a hit to users and advertisers, big corporations took interest in buying Facebook from Zuckerberg.

              However, he took the risk and decided to stay with his creation. Turning down billions of dollars offered by Yahoo CEO, Terry Semel, he envisioned turning his brainchild into something much bigger than what it already was then.

              7. Steve Jobs: Live Your Own Dreams

                Steve Jobs lived a rocky path all his life and an aspect of which is a tumultuous career.

                The founder of Apple endorsed his beliefs on the temporality of life and limitations of time. He preached about the importance of working on the very legacies people wish to leave behind, an achievement he’s undoubtedly etched into the the archives of human history.

                Never one to hide under someone’s shadow, Jobs did not live by anybody else’s principles so he formed his own. He tirelessly dedicated himself to building a unique brand of products that became the benchmark for contemporary technology.

                After his highs and lows through his brief battle with cancer, Jobs concludes with yet another lesson to takeaway from his remarkable life. “No matter how much money you have, even the richest man can’t buy time.”

                8. Warren Buffett: Balance is Essential to Success

                  Despite being the third wealthiest person in the world, Warrant Buffett sported a frugal lifestyle for most of his life.

                  After buying a house in Omaha, Nebraska for just above 31,000 dollars, he has lived there since 1958. As a leading investor and a founder at Berkshire Hathaway, Buffett believes in setting aside an amount to save and spend only on necessities.

                  With a long term goal as a top priority in mind always, treating oneself can be sustainable once in a while. He advices to save money by deciding first and foremost what aspects to scrimp on and what aspects to splurge on to ensure a happy and balanced lifestyle.

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                  9. Jack Ma: Never Give up

                    On every journey to success, everybody stumbles and arrives at roadblocks. Some more than most, like Jack Ma, who survived countless rejections and failures only to get back up and brave every storm.

                    Ma is the founder of multinational technology conglomerate Alibaba Group. Despite being rejected to Harvard after every one of his 10 applications, Ma was never defeated.

                    His grit and tenacity is a fine testament to the fact that grades do not determine a future. While qualifications on paper are important, the development of skills and an attitude is just as helpful in making a recipe for success.

                    Despite finding himself in the verge of bankruptcy in the 1990s, Jack Ma possessed the resilience to put one foot in front of the other until he finally made it. “It’s important to have patience,” he says.

                    10. Tan Min Liang: Passion Can Pay Off

                      Tan Min Liang is the founder of the leading high-performance gaming hardware, Razer. Always on the look out for new opportunities to connect and scale his business, Tan has been bold in making many of his life’s decisions.

                      Having deviated from a traditional path set by a family that consists of doctors and lawyers, Tan was to find his life’s work and passion while gaming with his older brother.

                      The idea was simple: there were so many games out there to play, however, there were hardly any gaming equipment to match this.

                      So he dropped out of law and began going a different direction, into creating solutions in the gaming industry. At the start of 2019, Tan wrote to tech luminary Elon Musk to which Musk’s reply suggested of a joint venture between two of the most successful entrepreneurs today.

                      Final Thoughts

                      In today’s cutthroat world, the road to becoming a successful entrepreneur is a long and arduous process trailed with ups and downs. A valuable lesson that a good hand of entrepreneurs would love to convey to aspiring entrepreneurs is to keep the spirit of innovation and to explore uncharted waters.

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                      Learning from experience and failure is one direction to a desired end goal. Exhibiting the same dedication and grit so many entrepreneurs have through their unexpected careers – today’s budding visionaries ought to hang on their dreams and leave room for improvement along the way.

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                      Featured photo credit: Patrick Tomasso via unsplash.com

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