Career Success Advice from Martin Luther King

February is Black History Month in the USA.  Over the past two weeks several people have shared some great quotes from prominent African American leaders.  Yesterday, I received an email with a quote by Dr. Martin Luther King.

“If you can’t fly, run. If you can’t run, walk. If you can’t walk, crawl. But by all means, keep moving.”

Dr. King was talking about the struggle for racial equality in this country, but his words apply to anyone interested in creating the life and career success they want and deserve.

Tweet 30 in my career advice book Success Tweets says, “Success is a journey, not a destination.  When you accomplish one goal, reach higher and set a new one.”  The idea of life and career success being a journey, not a destination, squares with Dr. King’s words.  A journey implies movement.  To create the career success you deserve you have to keep moving – even if it seems that sometimes you’re only crawling.

You’ve probably heard of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs – it’s a staple in undergraduate social psychology.  In case you haven’t, or need a refresher, here is a quick recap.

In 1943, Dr. Abraham Maslow wrote a paper called, “A Theory of Human Motivation” in which he described his ideas about what motivates human beings.  He suggested that we humans have a series of needs which we strive to meet — and that the best way to motivate someone is to appeal to the need most relevant to him or her at a given time.  He arranged these needs in a pyramid.

Physiological or survival needs like breathing, food, water and sleep are at the base of the pyramid.  Dr. Maslow suggests that until these basic survival needs are met, human beings will not be motivated by any other needs.

Safety and security needs are the next up on the pyramid.  Dr. Maslow suggests that once people feel that they will survive today, they will be motivated by the need to survive tomorrow, the next day and in the long term.

Love and belonging needs are next.  Dr. Maslow suggests that once human beings experience a reasonable level of security, their needs turn to developing friendship and family relations.

Esteem needs are next.  Once people feel secure and loved, Dr. Maslow says that they seek the gratification that comes from achievement, self respect and the respect of others.

Self-actualization needs are at the top of the pyramid.  Dr. Maslow often described self-actualization as “being all that one can be.”  And therefore, one can never be truly self-actualized.  Dr. Maslow suggests that self-actualization is the pursuit of perfection.  In other words, once you accomplish something that you previously thought of as the pinnacle, you will find that there is more that you can accomplish.

These ideas are in keeping with Tweet 30 in Success Tweets which suggests that you set new and higher goals whenever you accomplish one of your goals.  Or to paraphrase Dr. King, you need to keep moving.

That’s why I say that success is a journey, not a destination.  Successful people see themselves as works in progress.  Successful people are never finished becoming all that they can be.  Successful people keep moving.  If you want the life and career success you deserve, you need to think of yourself this way.

I’m not suggesting that you take no time to celebrate your successes and look back at them with pride.  I am saying however, that if you want to build long-term career success, you will keep moving — using your successes as springboards to bigger and better things.

Once you accomplish a goal, set new one.  Develop a plan for achieving your new goal.  Work your plan.  And then do it again.  Keep moving.  Think of yourself as someone who is “becoming” not as someone who is “complete.”

Successful people realize that there are always new challenges and opportunities.  Some of the best career advice I ever received was from an early mentor who told me to see beyond the horizon, to keep actively looking for new ways to learn, grow and succeed.

The career success coach point here is simple common sense.  Successful people follow the advice of Dr. Martin Luther King.  They keep moving forward.  They never stop learning and growing.  They follow the advice in Tweet 30 in Success Tweets.  “Success is a journey, not a destination.  When you accomplish one goal, reach higher and set a new one.”  This is the idea embodied in the concept of self-actualization; you can never be all that you can be because there will always be new challenges ahead.  Setting and achieving ever increasingly difficult goals is the best way to live a fulfilling life and to create the career success you deserve.  Keep learning, keep growing, keep achieving, keep moving, and you will succeed beyond your wildest dreams.

That’s the career advice I found in Dr. Martin Luther King’s suggestion to keep moving.  What do you think?  Please take a minute to share your thoughts with us in a comment.  As always, thanks for reading my daily thoughts on life and career success.  I appreciate you taking the time to read what I’ve written.  I hope my thoughts help you in your career success journey.


PS: If you haven’t already done so, please download a free copy of my popular career advice book Success Tweets and its companion piece Success Tweets Explained.  The first gives you 140 bits of career success advice tweet style — in 140 characters or less.  The second is a whopping 390 + pages of career advice explaining each of the common sense tweets in Success Tweets in detail.  Go to to claim your free copy.  You’ll also start receiving my daily life and career success quotes.

PPS: I opened a membership site last September.  It’s called My Corporate Climb and is devoted to helping people create career success inside large corporations.  You can find out about the membership site by going to http://www.mycorporateclimb.


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