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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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Published on March 25, 2019

How to Find New Growth Opportunities at Work

How to Find New Growth Opportunities at Work

Career advancement is an enticement that today’s companies use to lure job candidates. But to truly uncover growth opportunities within a company, it’s up to you to take the initiative to move up. You can’t rely on recruiter promises that your company will largely hire from within. Even assurances you heard from your direct supervisor during the interviewing process may not pan out.

But if you begin a job knowing that you’re ultimately responsible for getting yourself noticed, you will be starting one step ahead.

Accomplished entrepreneur and LinkedIn Co-Founder Reid Hoffman said,

“If you’re not moving forward, you’re moving backward.”

It’s important to recognize that taking charge of your own career advancement, and then mapping out the steps you need to succeed, is key to moving forward on your trajectory.

Make a Point of Positioning Yourself as a Rising Star

As an employee looking for growth opportunities within your current company, you have many avenues to position yourself as a rising star.

As an insider, you’re able to glean insights on company strategies and apply your expertise where it’s most needed. Scout out any skills gaps, then make a point to acquire and apply them. And, when you have creative ideas to offer, make it your mission to gain the ear of those in the organization who can put your ideas to the test.

Valiant shows of commitment and enterprise make managers perk up and take notice, keeping you ahead of both internal and external competitors.

Employ these other useful tips to let your rising star qualities shine:

1. Promote Your Successes to Your Higher-Ups

When your boss casually asks how you’re doing, use this valuable moment to position yourself as indispensable: “I’m floating on clouds because three clients have already commented on how well they like my redesign of the company website.”

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Tell your supervisors about any and all successes. Securing a new contract or signing a new customer should be a cause for celebration. Be sure to let your bosses know.

2. Cultivate Excellent Listening Skills

Listen well, and ask great questions. Realize that people love to talk about themselves.

But if you’re a superb listener, others will confide in you, and you’ll learn from what they share. You may even find out something valuable about your own prospects in the company.

If others view you as even-minded and thoughtful, they’ll respect your ideas and, in turn, listen to what you have to say.

3. Go to All Office Networking Events

Never skip the office Christmas party, your coworker’s retirement party, or any office birthday parties, wedding showers, or congratulatory parties for colleagues.

If others see you as a team player, it will help you rise in your company. These on-site parties will also help you mingle with co-workers whom you might not ordinarily have the chance to see. For special points, help organize one or two of these get-togethers.

Take the Extra Step to Show Your Value to the Company

Managers and HR staff know that it can be less risky – and a lot less costly — to promote from within. As internal staff, you likely have a good grasp of the authority structure and talent pool in the company, and know how to best navigate these networks in achieving both the company’s goals and your own.

The late Nobel-Prize winning economist, Gary Becker, coined the term “firm-specific,” which describes the unique skills required to excel in an individual organization. You, as a current employee, have likely tapped into these specific skills, while external hires may take a year or more to master their nuances.

Know that your experience within the company already provides value, then find ways to add even more value, using these tips:

4. Show Initiative

Commit yourself to whatever task you’re given, and make a point of going above and beyond.

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Position yourself so that you’re ready to take on any growth opportunities that present themselves. If you believe you have skills that have gone untapped, find a manager who will give you a chance to prove your worth.

Accept any stretch assignment that showcases your readiness for advancement. Stay late, and arrive early. Half of getting the best assignments is sticking around long enough to receive them.

5. Set Yourself Apart by Staying up on Everything There Is to Know About Your Company and Its Competitors

Subscribe to and read the online trade journals. Become an active member in your industry’s network of professionals. Go to industry conferences, and learn your competitors’ strategies.

Be the on-the-ground eyes and ears for your organization to stay on top of industry trends.

6. Go to Every Company Meeting Prepared and Ready to Learn

A lot of workers feel meetings are an utter waste of time. They’re not, though, because they provide face-time with higher-ups and those in a position to give you the growth opportunities you need.

Go with the intention of absorbing information and using it to your advantage — including the goals and work styles of your superiors. Respect the agenda, listen more than you speak, and never beleaguer a point.

Accelerate Your Career Growth Opportunities

A recent study found that the five predictors of employees with executive potential were: the right motivation, curiosity, insight, engagement, and determination. These qualities help you stand out, but it’s also important to establish a track record of success and to not appear to be over-reaching in your drive to move up in your company.

Try to see yourself from your boss’s position and evaluate your promote-ability.

Do you display a passion and commitment toward meeting the collective goals of the company? Do you have a motivating influence with team members and show insight and excellence in all your work?

These qualities will place you front and center when growth opportunities arise.

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Use these strategic tips to escalate your opportunities for growth:

7. Find a Mentor

With mentorship programs fast disappearing, this isn’t always easy. But you need to look for someone in the company who has been promoted several times and who also cares about your progress.

Maybe it’s the person who recommended you for the job. Or maybe it’s your direct supervisor. It could even be someone across the hall or in a completely different department.

Talk to her or him about growth opportunities within your company. Maybe she or he can recommend you for a promotion.

8. Map out Your Own Growth Opportunity Chart

After you’ve worked at the company for a few months, work out a realistic growth chart for your own development. This should be a reasonable, practical chart — not a pie-in-the-sky wish list of demands.

What’s reasonable? Do you think being promoted within two years is reasonable? What about raises? Try to inform your own growth chart with what you’ve heard about other workers’ raises and promotions.

Once you’ve rigorously charted a realistic path for your personal development within the company, try to talk to your mentor about it.

Keep refining your chart until it seems to work with your skills and proven talents. Then, arrange a time to discuss it with your boss.

You may want to time the discussion around the time of your performance review. Then your boss can weigh in with what he feels is reasonable, too.

9. Set Your Professional Bar High

Research shows that more than two-thirds of workers are just putting in their time. But through your active engagement in the organization and commitment to giving your best, you can provide the contrast against others giving lackluster performances.

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Cultivate the hard skills that keep you on the cutting edge of your profession, while also refining your soft skills. These are the attributes that make you better at embracing diverse perspectives, engendering trust, and harnessing the power of synergy.

Even if you have an unquestionably left-brain career — a financial analyst or biotechnical engineer, for example — you’re always better off when you can form kind, courteous, quality relationships with colleagues.

Let integrity be the cornerstone of all your interactions with clients and co-workers.

The Bottom Line

Growth opportunities are available for those willing to purposely and adeptly manage their own professional growth. As the old adage says,

“Half of life is showing up.”

The other half is sticking around so that when your boss is looking for someone to take on a more significant role, you are among the first who come to mind.

Remember, your career is your business!

More Resources About Ever-Growing

Featured photo credit: Zach Lucero via unsplash.com

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