If you’re someone who is deeply invested in your path toward self-improvement, chances are you’ve received some pretty lousy self-help advice in your life. People love to dole out career advice that sounds easy, convenient and sexy, but you’ve probably noticed that it doesn’t actually work. On the other hand, the advice that has brought me consistent success isn’t as fun and catchy. It doesn’t ramp people up the same way.
Today I want to dispel some common career self-help myths that are leading you off track and jeopardizing your focus. And I’ll talk to you about some better ways to achieve your goals — ways that maybe aren’t as sexy, but will deliver you excellent results.
Advice You Should Ignore
You might have heard that “success is a numbers game” and that “every ‘no’ is one step closer to a ‘yes.’” Whoever gave you this advice doesn’t know a thing about what it’s like to actually hear the word “no” said to their face and experience failure on a daily basis. It’s painful. It’s something you carry around as baggage. No matter what your company might tell you, you don’t deserve a daily routine of failure. There are ways to fix this, to hear “yes” more often, instead of just relying on sheer volume.
People also like to tell you to “reach for the stars” and say that if you set massive goals, you can achieve all you’ve ever dreamed of. This advice may sound lovely, but it’s actually delusional and will set you up for failure. Just dreaming big and connecting to your purpose won’t automatically make success happen. Focusing too much on reaching for the stars can actually be a distraction from the slow, gradual day-to-day work that brings you closer to your vision.
I urge you to ignore both of these pieces of advice. The main way that I’ve achieved success has not been through calling thousands of people who only want to yell at me or setting an insane, lofty goal. It’s been by doing the basics to a high standard, and doing that consistently.
Strive for Brilliance, Achieve Competence
As much as you want to achieve unbelievable feats, the reality is that finding a niche somewhere in between brilliance and competence is the strategy most likely to lead you to success. Setting massive, idealistic goals doesn’t bring you success because success is more of a feeling than a tangible thing. If you set out to achieve what’s impossible, you’ll apply yourself only to experience constant failure. This daily beatdown will not leave you feeling successful.
We know that feeling successful breeds success. When you’re having a good time and everything’s going your way, you feel positive and optimistic, which boosts your performance. But when your day-to-day experience feels awful, it doesn’t matter how big of an opportunity you have in front of you — you’re in the wrong mindset and will probably slip up.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t dream big. Of course you should look forward to a brighter future. I just want you to be truly honest with yourself about what’s achievable. Create room for success so you can build a habit of achievement. When you create reasonable bars to jump over, you’ll enjoy the journey much more and breed a mindset of happiness and openness to success.
Set a Minimum
More often than not, we can break down what we want to achieve into smaller parts. Right now, I want you to separate something you want to accomplish into three pieces: a big golden dream, a bold but achievable goal, and a minimum performance standard (MPS). It may not seem like it, but your MPS is the most important piece you can imagine when you’re trying to achieve those bigger goals. It’s the minimum level you need to achieve to get yourself closer to your dream. Your MPS may seem insignificant at first, but remember that success comes from the compound effects of hundreds of “pretty good” days.
Apply that standard to the dozens of actions that are part of your daily routine. If you’ve decided that you need to make a certain number of outbound phone calls this week, don’t get hung up on thinking of the biggest number of phone calls humanly possible and working yourself to death to achieve that. Instead, figure out the minimum number of calls you can get away with and make sure you don’t fall below that figure.
By holding yourself to an MPS, you’re taking baby steps every day toward your goal. Once you take enough of those baby steps, you start to build momentum. This momentum drives you closer to what you want to achieve, and allows you to gradually raise your MPS as you become more motivated and realize that you can easily do better.
Don’t be fooled by the people out there telling you to ignore your failures and work blindly toward crazy dreams. By letting yourself be proud of your consistent competence and upholding a minimal performance standard, you’ll find much stronger and more sustainable success.