Raise the Bar on Your Career

“We all have the ability to be somebody greater than who we are today. For twenty-five years I thought of myself as a sales manager or general manager type. It didn’t occur to me that I could be anything else. Why should it? I had talent for that kind of work, and enjoyed success in those arenas. But once I became comfortable with the idea that I didn’t have to do sales, in fact, I could branch out into something totally different and exciting, the barrier that I had set up began tumbling down. (Take note: the barriers were those I had set up.) No, I didn’t become a rock star (because I can’t sing and I quit taking piano lessons when I was seven), or a basketball star (I’d need a tall ladder to be able to dunk), but I did become an author and a career coach. And I’ve never been happier.

Raise the bar. Decide that you’re going to be somebody, do something different, engage life in a different way, expect more of yourself. You don’t have to accept mediocrity. A great line in Richard Bach’s Illusions says, “Argue for your limitations and they’re yours.” You don’t have to be a checker in a grocer store (unless you want to be —and that’s fine, too.) Aim high—you probably won’t become a bank president next week, but if you raise that bar a bit at a time, you’ll be surprised at how high you can jump.

I tell my clients to think two levels ahead. If you’re trying to move your career forward, think not only about next week, but next year as well. Imagine you’re playing a chess game. You only move one piece at a time, but if you’re a good chess player, you’re thinking at least two moves ahead, and they’re all contingent on what your opponent does. Knight to bishop four may work unless…unless… Be prepared with a countermove. If you know the opposition (the business world) and understand the current job market, you’re prepared to make some killer moves.

Invest in self-training. If your excuse is lack of time or money, all I can say is, get the money and find the time. It’s your career and your life. If not now, when? Some training will cost money, but there’s a lot of it on the Internet that’s pretty inexpensive. Check out ask.com, type in on-line training, to see what I mean. Don’t have a computer or Internet access? Go down to the local library and use theirs. Take classes. Buy books (lots of used ones out there). If you’re sitting still, you’re actually going backward.

What are you best at? Though you’ve got to be flexible and adaptable, you want to identify your real core competency. Red Adair (is he still around ?) used to put out oil field fires, and that’s what he became known for. He could be a concert violinist for all I know; what he’s become known as is a guy who can put out oil field fires better than anyone else. Period. What can you do?

Finally, be able to work well with others. If you look at people who have been successful, you’ll find that most of them know how to go along to get along. If you’re ever going to get a GSD (Get Stuff Done) degree, working well with others is an absolute prerequisite. You’ll find out (if you haven’t already) that you sometimes need help to get stuff done. Since the best somebody to be is a somebody who can get stuff done, you darn well better know how to ask for, and offer, help. I don’t care if you drive a trash truck, paint houses, or you’re the chairman of the board, if you don’t learn to work well with others, you’ll never have the kind of success you deserve.

You’re not limited by your past experience, nor limited by your degree or lack of it; being somebody is a decision. Your decision. Take the time and energy to explore the possibilities.