Advice to a Niece on Her College Graduation, Part 3

Today is Wednesday so this post is on outstanding performance.

Today’s post is a continuation of my series on advice to my niece Brett on her graduation from college. 
Outstanding performance is crucial to career and life success.  There are three keys to outstanding performance.  Become a lifelong learner.  Set and achieve high goals.  Become well organized.
Now that you’ve graduated, Brett, you might be tempted to think that you needn’t keep learning.  After all, isn’t learning what you need to know to function in the world of work the whole point of going to college?  Not really.  You just learned the basics in college. 

Your education really begins when you start working.  The half life of knowledge is getting shorter and shorter.  If you don’t keep learning, you won’t even keep up, you’ll fall behind in the knowledge that you need to become an outstanding performer.

My best suggestion for becoming a lifelong learner is simple common sense.  Read.  Read technical journals.  Read trade magazines.  Read business publications like “The Wall Street Journal”, “Business Week”, “Fortune” and “Forbes.”  If you think they’re too stodgy, read “Fast Company.”  Read your company’s annual report.  Read your competitors’ annual reports.  Read blogs about your industry.  Reading is the best way to stay up with what’s happening in business and in your industry.

There are other things you can do to keep learning.  Attend seminars.  Join the major industry groups associated with your industry.  Attend their meetings and participate.  Volunteer for committee work.  Become known locally as someone “in the know.”  Take a class at your local university.  Use your company’s tuition reimbursement program to get a free Masters degree. 

There are many ways to keep learning.  Decide which ones work for you, and then follow through.  Outstanding performers are technically competent in their field.  They stay technically competent because they are lifelong learners.

Next, set high goals.  Set goals that are S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Results Oriented and Time Bound).  Develop milestones for accomplishing your goals.  Milestones are steps along the way.  They keep you on track and they motivate you by giving you reason to celebrate when you accomplish them.

All outstanding performers set goals.  Then they meet or exceed them.  They do this day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year.  I am 58 years old, and have been in business for 20 years.  Yet I still set goals and develop milestones for myself.  It’s a habit I developed when I was first out of college.  It’s served me well over the years.

Finally Brett, get organized.  Manage your life, your time and your stress well.  Make sure that your life and work life are in a balance that works for you.  Early on, you’ll probably find that your work life balance is a little imbalanced towards work.  That’s OK.  As you begin your career, you’ll probably find that you’ll need to spend more time at work – just so you get off on the right foot. 

Don’t get overwhelmed.  This will lead to an unhealthy amount of stress in your life.  Eat well and exercise.  Don’t party too much.  If you find yourself getting too stressed, take 20 or 30 minutes and go for a walk to clear your head.  One of my first mentors told me to H.A.L.T.  By that, he meant, to not let yourself get too Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired.  This is good advice for managing stress.

Put some order in your life.  Develop a schedule and stick to it.  Create an organizing system that works for you.  Use your electronic gadgets to help you stay organized. 

Finally, don’t procrastinate.  Sometimes I find it difficult to begin big projects.  They can seem overwhelming.  That’s why I always start big projects at the end of the day.  That way, when I return to work in the morning, I feel as if I have some momentum going and the project doesn’t seem as daunting.

Brett, there are several common sense points here too.  Outstanding performance is critical to career and life success.  You can’t succeed if you’re not an outstanding performer.  You need to do three things to become an outstanding performer.  First, become a lifelong learner.  Keep learning and growing.  You will be surprised at how much even a cum laude graduate doesn’t know about business and life.  Second, set high goals – and then meet or exceed them.  Use milestones to breaking your goals into manageable chunks.  They’ll be easier to achieve this way.  Third, get organized.  This will help you manage your life, time and stress.  Figure out an organizing system that works for you and stick with it.

That’s it for today.  Thanks for reading.  Log on to my website for more common sense and to subscribe to my weekly newsletter “Common Sense.” 

I’ll see you around the web and at Alex’s Lemonade Stand.


PS: Speaking of Alex’s Lemonade Stand, my fundraising page is still open.  Please go to to read Alex’s inspiring story and to donate if you can.

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