What Does Career Success Mean to You?

Napoleon Hill was one of the first career success writers. His book Think and Grow Rich is the starting point from which a whole lot of life and career success writing proceeds. The other day, I saw a quote attributed to him on line. “There is one quality which one must possess to win, and that is definiteness of purpose, the knowledge of what one wants, and a burning desire to possess it.”

I agree with this career success advice. The very first tweet in my career advice book Success Tweets says, “Define exactly what life and career success mean to you. It’s easier to hit a clear, unambiguous target.”

Career success begins with clarity of purpose and direction. As the tweet says, it’s easier to hit a clear, unambiguous target. Successful people know what they want in life. However, career success means different things to different people.

When I graduated from college in 1972, I chose to do a year of service. I became a VISTA (Volunteers In Service To America) Volunteer. I worked for a grass roots community group in North Philadelphia. I had a successful year. I wrote a proposal that was funded by the US Department of Health, Education and Welfare. We received a grant to do Sickle Cell Anemia awareness and screening in the community. The grant provided some much-needed jobs in the community. More important, we were able to identify local people who carried the Sickle Cell gene and make them aware of its consequences.

I enjoyed the experience tremendously; so much so that I took a job as a VISTA trainer, training new volunteers. I was a full time, but we used several independent training consultants and coaches to help us with our work. These folks worked out of their homes, traveling to the assignments. I liked their lifestyle. They were able to do work they loved helping people learn new skills – and they had the freedom and flexibility that came with being self-employed. Of course, they had to generate enough income to fund their lifestyle, but that appealed to the entrepreneur in me.

By the time I was 25, I knew that I wanted to become an independent coach and consultant. I knew that I needed some additional education and experience to be able to do this successfully. So I went back to school and received an MA and PhD. I worked in the Training and Development Departments of three Fortune 500 companies, moving up the ladder, taking increasingly more responsible positions. All this was in preparation for that day in March 1988 when I resigned my job and struck out on my own.

All these years later, I’m doing what I decided I wanted to do when I was 25 years-old. I’m doing some things that I didn’t imagine way back then – blogging and writing books. However, my life today is much as I imagined it in 1975. My clarity of purpose was very instrumental in helping me become the career success – and career success coach – I am today.

I have a friend who is a serial entrepreneur. He started a software business when he was 27. He built it up and sold it to a major computer manufacturer by the time he was 35. He has since started and sold four other companies. His clarity of purpose lies in the challenge of creating something new, building it into a viable, sustainable business and then moving on.

I have another friend who is a retired Executive VP of Human Resources for a Fortune 50 company. We were chatting a few days ago. She told me that when she was in college, she decided that she was going to join a good company and work her way up the ladder. She took an entry-level HR job with a company she liked. It took her over 25 years, but she eventually became the most senior HR person in that company. Her clarity of purpose and definition of success was different from mine and the serial entrepreneur’s, but she reached her goal.

My second friend told me that her son has yet a different definition of success. He is not interested in climbing the corporate ladder, or in being an entrepreneur. He wants an interesting job where he can contribute, but he doesn’t want to spend inordinate amounts of time at work. He wants to spend as much time with his family as he can. His definition of success is different from his mother’s.

I’ve just told you four stories about four different people. All four of us have achieved a measure of life and career success – in very different ways, but in keeping with our personal definitions of life and career success.

As a career success coach, I often tell my clients that there is no one correct definition of career success. There are as many definitions as there are people in this world. Your definition of career success is what’s right for you – not anyone else. I would not have been happy building and selling a number of businesses in succession, climbing a corporate ladder or working for a large company in an individual contributor position. However, as you can tell from the stories of the three people above, they were. They knew what they wanted and they went after it.

That’s why defining your clarity of purpose is so important. Your clarity of purpose provides both a foundation and launching pad for your career success. The old saying, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you won’t know when you get there,” is a cliché, but true. Getting clear on your personal definition of career success is the first step to becoming a career success.

The common sense, career success coach point here is simple. Career success begins with a clear idea of how you define success for you personally. Tweet 1 in Success Tweets says, “Define exactly what life and career success mean to you. It’s easier to hit a clear, unambiguous target.” If you haven’t already done so, I suggest you take some time and think about your clarity of purpose. How do you define life and career success for yourself? Keep that purpose and definition of career success in mind as you move forward in your life and career.

That’s my career advice on clarifying what you want out of your life and career. What do you think? Please take a minute to share your thoughts with us in a comment. And, as always, thanks for taking the time to read my daily thoughts on life and career success. I value you and I appreciate you.


PS: If you haven’t already done so, I suggest that you check out my 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 http://budurl.com/STExp to claim your free copy. You’ll also start receiving my daily life and career success quotes.

PPS: Have you seen my membership site, My Corporate Climb? It’s devoted to helping people just like you create career success inside large corporations. You can find out about it by going to http://www.mycorporateclimb.



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