We all fear not being successful.
After a few years getting your feet under the table, figuring out the office politics, understanding what goes where, knowing who’s who, you start to understand this work thing. You get enough time to stop worrying that you’ll never understand what everyone’s going on about and then your thoughts start to circle another thought. This thought starts as a small question but then it begins to darken your mind.
“Is this it?”
The thought that this might be the start and finish of your working life begins to dawn on you. You look around and thinking to yourself how anticipated this working thing was and how much of an anti-climax it all is. You start to wonder why on Earth you studied your whole life to be here. Where you feel 5/10 happy at best.
5/10 was fine at the start and actually you were too busy worrying about what to say, what to wear and not getting lost to worry about the bigger questions of the working world. But now you’re here, in the middle of unfulfillment, you feel, stuck.
That one question turns into the ultimate question:
“Am I ever going to be successful?”
Somewhere between the staples and the endless meetings you feel like the likelihood of making it is slim. It starts to feel pointless even contemplating being successful, you start to worry that you might not even find lukewarm happiness in work.
Where You Are — Your Thought Process
When we start it easy to become distracted with trivial things. It’s sometimes only when we start to take a step back that we realise how far away from where we want to be we actually are. When we do realise that, we feel the fledging sense of disappointment.
In creeps envy and looking to other people in similar positions as us to understand how successful they are. Of course, social media does a deceptively good job of portraying how brilliant people’s lives are which leaves you scratching your head wondering where it all went wrong.
In your head, you did everything right.
Good grades at school;
Never got in trouble.
And now, all you have to show for all that hard work is a degree that you are mildly interested in and a whole-load of unfulfillment.
Where You Want to Be — The Opposite
Instead, where you want to be is the complete opposite. You want to feel like you are on your path to greatness. You want to feel like everything you’ve done up to this point was the next step, the next building block to your ultimate ascent to success.
You want to feel like everything you’ve done so far in life is in preparation for these next years where you climb the ladder and become the success.
You want to feel like you are in a job you enjoy, you can see your future in this field and better yet, you want to feel like you are going to be something quite special when you get to the top of said field.
A Perspective On Time
“A man who dares to waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life.” Charles Darwin
There is an argument to suggest the following logic in regards to time. As long as you are not wasting time i.e. fleeting it away on pointless things, then you are exactly where you need to be. The only real tragedy when thinking about time is that we would ever consider wasting it so freely.
As long as you are spending time on the things that you enjoy or the things you believe will bring you joy, then there is no wastage.
The Irrationality of Worrying About Not Being Successful
You could spend a lifetime worrying about a lifetime of worrying. Worrying is a curious activity because it literally makes no difference whether you do it or not. Worrying doesn’t change anything.
You could sit and worry all day and you won’t change where you are or what you are doing.
Worrying serves no purpose but yet it doesn’t stop us doing it. I used to worry pretty extensively as a kid, I still do albeit a lot less. When you enter the state of worry it’s usually (at least for me) a sense of not feeling in control. So, in that mindset, I find it best to look at the things I can control.
In terms of success, there are things you can control. Depending on what you call success, you could be successful right where you are. For me, success is a job I like and feeling like I’m on the path to being good at what I do.
Now, the first step is finding a job you like, so work out which parts of your job you like and see if you can do more of those parts. The second bit is feeling like you are on the path to success. So find someone you look up to, someone that you feel is successful and ask yourself whether you are doing similar amounts of work to them.
For example, I’d just read Tim Denning’s most recent article. Funnily enough, it was on his routine. Now having looked at Tim’s schedule, it’s evident I am not putting in anywhere enough work. So I have two options: 1. Sit and worry 2. Put in more work.
Worrying tricks us into thinking you are being productive, but you are not. If you are worried about something, put a plan in place to move closer towards where you want to be.
What Does Successful Change Mean?
This first question is: what’s the need? If you become a millionaire tomorrow, you could buy everything you ever wanted, how different would life actually be? Yeah sure, you’d have a nicer car, you’d have a nicer house. But you’d still be inside your own head.
You might have fancier clothes, a smoother coffee and a more expensive haircut but are those the foundations to improve your happiness. Sometimes it’s easy to blindly fall into the trap of wanting more for the sake of wanting more. It’s harder to take a step back and understand what actually brings us happiness, and how we can do more of that.
Success doesn’t have to be in terms of money. For decades that’s how we’ve defined success but there is overwhelmed evidence to suggest that purely being wealthier doesn’t mean happier. The point here is that you might end up chasing financial success to find that that isn’t what makes a good day for you.
It’s worth asking yourself:
“If I made it tomorrow, what would I do differently?”
You might find that in many respects not much would change, in which case, you can slow down a little and just enjoy exactly where you are. You are succeeding where you are.
Prioritise and Engage with Techniques that Work
If you have a burning desire to be uber-successful there are things you can do. Whilst many articles and books are floating around the self-help scene it’s not rocket science to understand the basics of most successful people.
If you work harder than anyone else you will produce more, more of anything usually leads to quicker progress, quicker progress means climbing higher. Practising patience means that you don’t make decisions that are only beneficial in the short-term, like spending all your money on a brand new card. If you can learn to delay gratification, you can learn to master your patience, which in turn will lead you to make smarter decisions. Finally, become resilient is an obvious one. As you go further, as you work harder, you will start to come across people that won’t be a fan of your work. That’s fine. Learning to accept people’s opinions, overcome their rejection, not pander to other people’s wishes is all part of the journey.
When we are in the early stages of our career, we start to wonder whether we are good enough to make it. Whether we are smart enough, whether we’ve found the right thing. It becomes a painful ache that won’t go away and we start to seriously worry about the prospects of our life.
Being fearful is normal and perhaps unhelpful. If you can define what success is for you if you can get clear on what you want to achieve that’s the first step. Next is figuring out who in the world is at the level of success you want to be, work out what they do and imitate. Learn how they operate, figure out how they spend their time and do the same.
Obviously, there will be differences between you and your inspiration but it’s a good first step and it will make you feel like you are on the right path.
In the end, you are early in your career, you’ve got a long way ahead. If you’re worried try to rationalise your thoughts and be clear on what you want.
“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t — you’re right.” Henry Ford